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7 Most Popular Pets in New Zealand: Updated in 2023

Cassandra Kyser

By Cassandra Kyser

australian sheperd dog kissing female on nose while being carried by owner

Companion animals are loved all over the world, and New Zealand is no exception. How many New Zealand homes have birds? And how many dogs live here on the islands? Get answers to those questions and more below.

For the purposes of this list, we’ve ranked popularity according to household penetration and not sheer numbers. All statistical information is the most recent data published by Companion Animals New Zealand.

The 7 Most Popular Pets in New Zealand

1. Cats

white cat with the owner
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock
Total number of cats in NZ 1.2 million
Microchipped? 49%
Average purchase price NZ$108

New Zealand loves cats! Just over 40% of households include at least one feline family member. Almost 90% of the country’s cats are spayed or neutered, which is good news because many New Zealand cats spend time outdoors. It’s tough to put a price on love, but cat owners spend an average of NZ$108 to purchase their pet.

However, half of all cat owners say they got their pets for free from a family member or friend or took in a stray. The top reasons New Zealanders acquire a cat include companionship, the desire to give a stray a home and to aid in relaxation.

2. Dogs

dachshund dog licking licking its owner
Image Credit: A Traves del Prisma, Shutterstock
Total number of dogs in NZ  851,000
Microchipped? 72%
Average purchase price NZ$440

It’s probably no surprise that dogs take the number two spot on our list. One-third of all New Zealand homes include at least one dog. The country’s three most popular dog breeds are Labrador Retrievers, New Zealand Huntaways, and Collies. The biggest reason we own dogs is simple—love. Others own dogs as a way to stay active and to provide fun for their children. Over half of all pet dogs purchased were NZ$500 or less, and many owners received their dogs from someone they knew.

3. Fish

young girl watching fish in a nano tank
Image Credit: Dikushin Dmitry, Shutterstock
Total number of fish in NZ Over 1.3 million
Microchipped? N/A
Average purchase price? N/A

Going by sheer numbers, there are more fish than any other companion animal in New Zealand. Homes that have fish have an average of eight. However, only 9% of homes report owning any fish, which makes household penetration a much distant third to dogs and cats. Many New Zealanders own fish for the aesthetic it adds to their home. Others say that it’s relaxing to watch fish swim about their tank or aquarium.

Fun fact: the average fish owner is between the ages of 35 and 44 and has children at home.

4. Birds

Girl petting her pet cockatiel bird perched on her leg showing cuteness and love
Image Credit: binoyphotofolio, Shutterstock
Total number in NZ 560,000 birds
Microchipped? N/A
Average purchase price? N/A

Most New Zealanders who own a bird own more than one. The average number per household is five. Just over 25% of New Zealanders acquired their pet birds for a practical reason—eggs. Chickens living in a garden or hen house account for almost one-third of the country’s bird population. People also say they own birds for affection and fun. More business owners and self-employed individuals own birds than any other work status.

5. Rabbits

pink eyes rabbit
Image Credit: AdinaVoicu, Pixabay
Total number of pet rabbits in NZ 121,000
Microchipped? 19%
Average purchase price? NZ$40

Rabbits come in as the fifth most popular pet in New Zealand. Many people here are lifelong rabbit lovers. Owning a rabbit in the past was a reason that 27% of people gave for obtaining their current pet. Others choose their rabbit as a source of affection and to provide their children with fun. While we don’t have data on the average purchase price, most rabbits were acquired for free. The majority of those who paid for a pet spent NZ$50 or less. Those who own rabbits have an average of two in their home.

6. Other Small Mammals

young boy playing with guinea pig
Image Credit: mgventer10, Pixabay
Total number of small animal pets in NZ 101,000
Microchipped? N/A
Average purchase price? N/A

The “other small mammals” category includes guinea pigs, rats, and mice. In addition to fun and affection, New Zealanders said they bought their small mammals to teach their children responsibility. (Friendly reminder: The adults in the home should always be the primary caregiver for any pets, even small mammals.) Homes that have small mammals have an average of three. Guinea pigs and rodents aren’t too small to capture our hearts. Over one-third of owners consider their small mammals to be a member of their family.

7. Horses

man comforting a horse in stable
Image Credit: michaeljung, shutterstock
Total number of pet horses in NZ 72,000
Microchipped? 34%
Average purchase price? NZ$1,000–NZ$3,000

Horses are the companion animal most given as a gift in New Zealand. They are also the pet most likely to have been inherited or passed along from a friend or family member. Not surprisingly, people own horses for exercise and to enter competitions. While we don’t know the average purchase price for pet horses, half obtained their horse for free. Most of those who paid for their horse spent between NZ$1,000 and NZ$3,000. Of all the pets on our list, horses rank last in sheer numbers and household penetration.

Final Thoughts

Pets hold a special place in our hearts and our homes. The companion animals with the highest household penetration in New Zealand are cats and dogs, with fish at a distant third. But in terms of sheer numbers, there are more fish than other types of pets. Most owners said they acquired their pets as a source of affection and fun.

Featured Image Credit: cottonbro studio, Pexels

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