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Story: Pets

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world, and many households have a dog or a cat. From working dogs to ‘fur babies’, pets have been part of the country’s history.

Story by Nancy Swarbrick
Main image: Adopting a puppy from the Auckland SPCA

Story Summary

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Pets, sometimes called companion animals, give people company, exercise and fun. Studies show that owning a pet can be good for your health.

New Zealand has one of the highest levels of pet ownership in the world. More than half of the country’s households have a cat, and almost a third have a dog.

Famous pets

  • Paddy the Wanderer was a stray dog who lived around Wellington’s wharves in the 1930s. Workers around the area took care of him, and when he died there were obituary notices in the local newspapers.
  • In the 1990s Rastus, a black cat, became well-known for riding on a motorbike with his owner Max Corkill. He had his own cat-sized helmet and goggles.
  • Colin’s, a cat named for the Port Taranaki worker who adopted her, made international headlines when she was accidentally taken to South Korea on a tanker.

Māori and pets

Some Māori kept animals such as kurī (Polynesian dogs) and kākā (parrots) as pets. Kurī could help with hunting, but they were also used as food.

European settlers’ animals

European settlers brought with them cats to catch mice and farm dogs to help round up sheep. Some of these animals became pets.

Protecting animals

There are laws to make sure that people treat animals with care and don’t cause them suffering. Groups such as the Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RNZSPCA) look after abandoned animals, and RNZSPCA inspectors can take animals away from people who neglect or abuse them.

When good pets go bad

When animals go wild, they can damage the environment and kill native animals. Feral (wild) cats are a particular problem.

Some dogs can be dangerous and attack people or other animals. All dogs need to be registered. Since July 2006 newly registered dogs have had a microchip injected under their skin, which allows their owners to be traced.

Pet clubs and shows

There are many clubs for owners of dogs, cats and other pets. Some clubs are for animals of particular breeds.

The New Zealand Kennel Club runs dog shows, and competitions to test obedience and agility. Cat shows are held around the country.

Pampered pets

Some spoilt pets are called ‘fur babies’, because their owners treat them as if they were children.

There are many services for pets, including grooming, animal health care, doggie dancing classes, and luxury kennels and catteries.

How to cite this page:

Nancy Swarbrick, 'Pets', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/pets (accessed 28 April 2017)

Story by Nancy Swarbrick, published 24 Nov 2008