Busting the myths – how pet owners can save money on electricity bills

July 17th, 2015

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Do domestic cats and dogs really need the lights, radio and TV left on for comfort when their owners are away?


We spoke to Belrose veterinarian Dr John Thirlwell to bust some myths and set the record straight for pet owners.

cat watching tv 2 source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/johnjkehoe_photography/16268801077source: JKehoe_Photos on Flickr

According to Dr Thirlwell, owners leave lights, radio, television and heaters/coolers on for their pets out of guilt because they think their cat or dog will be lonely.

800px-Dog_tv source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dog_tv.jpgsource: Mdk572 on Wikimedia Commons

This is only necessary when pets are left alone for an extended period of time without any human interaction; for example, a couple of nights or a week.

“It is more of a routine to keep the radio or TV on… this stops the house from feeling so different when the owner is away,” advises Dr Thirlwell.

Radio and TV:

Bush Traditional AM FM DAB+ Radio TR82DABBush Traditional AM/FM DAB+ Radio TR82DAB

If you are tossing up between leaving the radio or TV on for a pet, you are better off leaving a radio on, as cats and dogs can’t focus or watch TV like we humans can.

Samsung-UA50JU6400-50-127cm-4K-Ultra-HD-Smart-LED-LCD-TV-tilt-highSamsung UA50JU6400 50″ 127cm 4K Ultra HD Smart LED LCD TV

“Mainly it is the noise from the TV than anything else that pets would benefit from,” says Dr Thirlwell. “A lot of pets can’t really make out a picture on the TV; their eyes can’t focus and watch a program.”


Leaving the lights on for pets is also unnecessary, as cats and most dogs can see in the dark.

Cats and dogs have a reflective membrane in their eye called a tapetum lucidum which reflects light.

Black-Lab-3-months-old-puppy source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Black-Lab-3-months-old-puppy.jpgsource: Jazzjohnn on Wikimedia Commons

“Their eyes bounce light back and forth so they can see things that we can’t see at night,” says Dr Thirlwell.

Interestingly, the only benefit a light might have for a dog or cat is more psychological than practical:

“There is a funny cat at the practice who won’t use his litter tray at night unless his night-light is plugged in,” recounts the veterinarian.


On hot days, some pets will benefit from air-conditioning in a home. Dogs especially cannot sweat and will pant to get rid of body heat.

Breeds with squashy faces, such as pugs or bulldogs have a much more restricted ability to shed heat through panting and will need extra assistance to cool down.

Panasonic 2.6kW Reverse Cycle Split System Inverter Air Conditioner CSCUE9PKRPanasonic 2.6kW Reverse Cycle Split System Inverter Air Conditioner CSCUE9PKR

However, the temperature of air-conditioning needs to be no colder than what would be expected for humans.

As an alternative, Dr Thirlwell recommends leaving a small wading pool outside, “so if they get too hot they can go lay in the water and cool down.”


In winter, cats and dogs do not necessarily need extra heating, especially if they have access to indoors.


If pets are outside, they must be protected from the rain or wind. “A kennel that faces away from the wind direction will be warm enough,” says Dr Thirlwell.

The only exceptions are pets with arthritis or particular breeds of dog, such as the Greyhound, who don’t cope well with the cold and will need a coat or heated bed.

Advice from Energy Australia:

For pet owners looking to save energy or cut down on their electricity bills, Energy Australia has the following advice:

“If consumers like leaving a light or an appliance like a television on for pets while they’re out, Energy Australia recommends using energy-saving light globes and the highest energy efficiency rated appliances within their budget.

“Energy-saving lighting, like compact fluorescent lamps, uses up to 80 per cent less energy than traditional pear-shaped globes, whereas light-emitting diode (LED) globes use about 90 per cent less energy.

“When leaving a TV on for a pet, consider the size, screen type and star rating of the appliance.

“The bigger the screen, the more energy it will use. LED screens are the most energy efficient types, and every additional star on the television’s efficiency rating equals a 20 per cent reduction on energy use over a year.”

Adriana has been with Appliances Online since June 2015. She loves her appliances in the kitchen and has a keen eye for anything new on the market. When Adriana’s not cooking up a storm, you will find her speaking Italian or making documentaries for her Journalism and International Studies degree. Adriana’s favourite appliance is the Cuisineart 1.5L Ice Cream Maker. In fact, you can find her recipe for Vegan Mango Ice Cream on this blog!

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