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Home > General > 6 Most Popular Pets in New Zealand: 2024 Overview

6 Most Popular Pets in New Zealand: 2024 Overview

Group of pets posing around a border collie; dog, cat, ferret, rabbit, bird, fish, rodent

New Zealand is a nation of animal lovers, with 64% of the country’s 1.8 million households owning at least one pet 1. There are a total of just over 4.3 million pets in New Zealand—a country with a population of 5 million people 2. This means that there are nearly as many pets as people.

In terms of deciding the most popular pets, we’ve ranked pets by the percentage of households that own one or more, rather than the total number of pets. Looking at the total pet population, it is actually fish that are the most popular pet because the average fish-owning household has eight fish compared to the average cat-owning household which has 1.7 cats. Similarly, while only 6% of households own birds, these households have an average of five each, which means there are more than half as many birds in the country as dogs.


The 6 Most Popular Pets in New Zealand

1. Cats

Many domestic cats in isolation looking outside of the window and trying to run away
Image By: Pencil case, Shutterstock
Household penetration: 41%
Total number: 1.2 million

According to the number of households that own at least one, cats are the most popular pet in New Zealand. More than 1.2 million households have one, and the average cat-owning household has 1.7 of them.

More than 80% of New Zealand cats are allowed to roam outdoors as well as live indoors, and nearly 90% are desexed with nearly half (49%) having been microchipped. Cats are often said to be more independent than dogs because they don’t usually need walking and are less likely to follow their owners around the home, although there are many cats that do exactly that.

2. Dogs

Group of dogs lying down
Image by: Osetrik, Shutterstock
Household penetration: 34%
Total number: 850,000

A third of all New Zealand households have at least one dog. And those households that keep dogs have an average of 1.4 dogs each. Mutts, or dogs that are a mix of multiple breeds, are the most popular, but it is the Labrador Retriever that is the most popular purebred dog breed with more than 40,000 registered in the country.

The second most popular breed is the Huntaway, which was first bred in New Zealand. The Border Collie, New Zealand Heading Dog, and Jack Russell Terrier make up the rest of the five most popular New Zealand dog breeds. Dogs do require a lot of care and regular attention, but they are also generally considered to be one of the family. In fact, 78% of dogs are thought of as part of the family, compared to 74% of cats and just 50% of rabbits.

3. Fish

yellow and blue fish in a fish tank
Image by: Alexander AV3RKIN, Unsplash
Household penetration: 9%
Total number: 1.4 million

While fewer than one in 10 households own fish, those that do own them have a sizable school. The average fish owner has 8.1 fish, which is actually down from the average of 9.1 per household in 2011. Fish are low maintenance and easy to feed, and they can help reduce stress and anxiety in their owners. They can also be kept in a tank or aquarium indoors or in a pond outside.

4. Birds

Black-cheeked lovebirds
Image by: JuliusH, Pixabay
Household penetration: 6%
Total number: 560,000

More than half a million birds are kept by 6% of the country’s households, with just over 5 birds in the average avian household. Bird species can vary from finches, which are relatively easy to keep and normally kept as part of an outdoor aviary, to large parrots that need to be kept indoors and require a lot of physical care and mental activity.

Despite being comparatively small, birds can take up a lot of room because of the size of the cage. They can also create a bit of mess and noise. However, they make good companions, can have very pretty colors and songs, and because they don’t need walking, they can make good city and apartment dwellers for the right owner. Most birds do well when they have other avian companions.

5. Rabbits

two blue rex rabbits
Image by: SeraphP, Shutterstock
Household penetration: 2.8%
Total number: 120,000

Only 2.8% of households own rabbits, partially because they are considered a pest in New Zealand. Wild rabbits were only introduced to the country in the 19th Century, but their breeding habits mean that they have proliferated across the country. The families that don’t consider them pests and that keep them as pets have 2.4 rabbits per household, 19% of which are microchipped and over a third of which are desexed.

6. Horses

fjord horses
Image by: Šárka Jonášová, Pixabay
Household penetration: 1.6%
Total number: 72,000

Horses and ponies may be too big and wild to be kept in the house, but they can be ridden and make close companions. As such, there are more than 70,000 of them in New Zealand, and 1.6% of households own at least one.

Unsurprisingly, it is households in rural areas that are more likely to own this type of pet with 6.6% of households owning at least one compared to 0.4% of suburban households. Although riding is a common pastime with horses, less than half of the horses and ponies owned in New Zealand are used for riding or hacking out.



There are a myriad of reasons why people own pets. Those like dogs and cats that share our houses and are involved in our daily lives are true companions. Studies suggest that they help relieve stress and loneliness. While cats are the most popular pet in terms of how many households own at least one, fish are more populous thanks to the fact that they are typically kept in tanks or ponds as part of a group.

Featured Image Credit: Eric Isselee, Shutterstock

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