The Study of Pet Companionship found that Australians without children placed the greatest emphasis on their pets, with 81 per cent of respondents rating their pets as crucial to their happiness.
That compares to 67 per cent of married respondents and 59 per cent who have children.
Pets provide reliable and unconditional companionship, helping to improve the psychological and physical wellbeing of their owners, according to Associate Professor Pauleen Bennett of La Trobe University School of Psychological Science.
“Australia has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world. In fact, there are more domestic pets than people,”
Associate Professor Bennett stated, referring to data which shows there are 33 million pets throughout Australia.
“With births and fertility rates declining and the proportion of single-person households increasing, they now play a significant role in companionship and social support.
“This study confirms just how important our pets are to us. Not only do they provide unconditional love and companionship, they boost our happiness. Put simply, they make us smile.”
As well as playing an important role in making us smile, the study found that younger Australians (16 to 34) relied on their pet for comfort (59 per cent).
“Children raised with pets show many benefits. Developing positive feelings about pets can contribute to a child's self-esteem and self-confidence,” said Bennett.
The study coincides with the launch of Colgate’s Smile for Change pet gallery. By going to www.facebook.com/ColgateAustralia and uploading photos of their pets, Australians can help spread some happiness through the magic of pets and put smiles on the faces of disadvantaged kids. For each photo uploaded, Colgate will donate $1 to The Smith Family to help disadvantaged children. The two cutest pet photos uploaded each week until the end of year will win a $100 Petbarn voucher.