Pampered pets afforded human comforts need to be factored into Australia's future energy needs, a Victorian study warns.
Cats, dogs and other fur babies are increasingly being treated to air-conditioning, heating, and entertainment in the form of TVs and radios even when they're home alone. And the impact is forecast to add pressure to energy demands through to 2050.
Researchers from Monash University and RMIT have assessed the daily practices of about 300 Australian households and how they impact energy demand, finding pets were a top factor.
"If stay-at-home pets have extra heating and cooling demand during the day, this could contribute to a flattening of peak electricity demand and/or a possible increase in average daily demand," Research lead Associate Professor Yolande Strengers said.
"This scenario may not only play out amongst affluent households, but also increase the energy bills of low-income households stuck living in poor quality, thermally inefficient homes and wanting to protect the health of their pets in extreme heat or cold."
The increasing trend towards apartment-style living may exacerbate the issue given pets don't have access to cooler outdoor spaces, she added.
The research was not specifically looking at the impact of pets but dogs and cats regularly emerged as influencing factors for heating, cooling, entertainment and companionship.
Researchers subsequently developed a speculated "stay-at-home pets" future scenario to assume heating, cooling, and entertainment would be the norm by 2050.
"The example of pets is particularly pertinent because it introduces a new and unpredictable variable that hasn't been considered in previous future energy modelling," Monash University's Professor Sarah Pink said.
"While the question of how people will use energy for their pets in the future is impossible to know, evidence to date suggests that pet care will increasingly involve more technology and energy demand."