British pets

Why are the Brits so obsessed with their pets?

UK: A nation of pet lovers


Why do the Brits love their pets so dearly? The first step to answer this question is to identify the 10 most significant reasons that have informed this thought.


1. In 2015, a record number of 12m households house pets with the total pet population amounting to 58.4m.


The top three pets are indoor and outdoor fish (19.9m / 17.1m) followed by dogs (8.5m) and cats (7.4m). This means that more than half of the British population has a minimum of one pet. What’s more, Britain has one of the highest cat populations in the world.


2. In the UK there are more pets than people over 65 years of age.


3. In answering the question ‘pet or partner?’ 65 percent of British people believe that pets are more reliable, and 32 percent buy treats and gifts more often for their pets than their partner.


4. Animal posts on social media receive tonnes of feedback and attention. For example, 64 percent of Brits share online photos of their pets and nine percent admit that their pets have a Facebook page.


5. Pets are a serious expense in the UK. Spending on pets surpassed £4.6bn for the first time in 2015.


6. Nine out of 10 pet owners consider their pets as members of their family.


7. Brits don’t just run with their dogs – they talk to them, watch television with them, buy them holiday gifts and, of course, have their portraits done.


8. Approximately 19 percent of Brits buy cars with their dog in mind.


9. Research has shown that pet ownership has health benefits, including lower stress and anxiety.


10. Britain was the first in the world to consider animal welfare legislation and to start a welfare charity entirely for animals.


Love pets more than children


British dog, credit to Unsplash A man's best friend and favourite child
Unsplash / Angelina Litvin

A common stereotype about British people is that their love for their pets surpasses their love for their child.


Research conducted by the National Children’s Bureau (NCB), shows that 33 percent of adults have more affection for their animal than their children, and 40 percent said that their offspring come first.


This means that one in three adults in England love their pets than their children.


This love is demonstrated in the statement: “you can hit a child – but you can’t hit a dog’.


This controversial topic was discussed in an article in the New Statesman which argues that the British obsession with animals is unhealthy.


In other words, parents don’t have an instructive list of rules to provide outdoor space, healthy food and appropriate company for a child, like they do for a pet.


If you abandon an animal you get prosecuted, but abandon a child and you get to join “Fathers 4 Justice”.


Distressed, overweight British pets


British dog, credit Pixabay Large numbers of British pets are distressed
Pixabay / Mariabostrom0

Besides the good intentions of pet owners, often love can be so blind that it can harm the pet. Reports have confirmed that up to 10m pets in the UK suffer from physical and mental distress.


For instance, 83 percent of owners aren’t concerned with over-feeding their pet, and it seems that the 41 percent feed their animals fish and chips. This results in a large number of British cats and dogs being overweight.


Another statistic shows that 56 percents of Brits are not worried about leaving their pet home alone for long periods of time. In reality, dogs and cats should not be left alone for more than four hours.


Animal rights law in Britain


The British are known for being ‘soppy with spaniels and crazy for kittens’. Their love and compassion toward animals it is indisputable (even if it is unhealthy at times).


But cuteness aside, the legal status of animals in the UK really demonstrates this enduring love.


Britain was the first in the world to recognise animal rights.


The first animal welfare charity was established with the help of other MPs after the 1824 Act to Prevent the Cruel and Improper Treatment of Cattle by Irish MP Richard Martin was not taken seriously.


The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) was established thereafter.


The charity attracted Queen Victoria’s attention and went on to become the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).


Other associations and Acts were passed throughout the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. But, in 2006 the most significant animal welfare legislation was passed: The Animal Welfare Act.


British pet owners are now responsible for ensuring all their animals’ needs are met.



Header image: Kitsanoo; Section image: BarnImages


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