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you don’t have to keep pets the same way as when you were a child

Most of us grew up with dogs or cats as part of our childhood. Our relationships with these animals tended to be very close and our childhood memories often involve the family pet. For many of us, this makes us all the more inclined to want to own a pet in later life, but it can also pose a problem for inner-city dwellers.

The way Australians kept pets a decade or two ago is very different from the way we keep pets now – the dogs we had in our childhood are likely to have been larger breeds that were more energetic and spent most of their time outdoors. The cats we grew up with may have been free to roam in and out of our houses and yards, and may even have been locked out of the house at night. These days we know that it’s important for everyone’s amenity and safety (and especially for the safety of our dogs and cats) that our pets should always be kept secure on our property.

The fact that many of us grew up on a typical Australian suburban quarter-acre block may have helped to perpetuate the myth that you need to have a large backyard to own a dog. In fact, research shows us that dogs and cats are spending increasing amounts of time indoors and are regarded as family members.

However, some people still seem to think that dogs need a big backyard to run around in. The truth is that even though outdoor space is an important consideration, most dogs don’t just run around the yard on their own. In fact, dogs are more likely to become bored when left alone in a large yard, rather than spending time indoors with their family and taken on frequent outings.

Our research revealed that only a few short decades ago, 39% of respondents’ family pets spent most of their time outdoors and only 23% spent most of their time indoors. In stark contrast, only 21% of respondents’ current pets spend most of their time outdoors, whilst 53% spend most of their time indoors. In fact, almost a third of all dogs spent virtually all their time indoors.

Comparison - where Pets in The City survey respondents' childhood pets and current pets spend their time

It’s all a matter of adjusting our mind-set. In large cities in Europe and America, people have been successfully keeping pets indoors for many years. Keeping dogs and cats with limited outdoor space is not only possible but can actually work very well for both humans and animals.

In the section 'The great outdoors...or not', we give you information to help you successfully manage pets in smaller spaces, along with tips for creating pet-friendly spaces.