Majority Consider ‘Pets to be Family’, Finds Major Charity Poll of Pet Owners

Photo by Jérémy Stenuit on Unsplash

Blue Cross launched its Big Pet Census to find out more about the UK’s pets and the bond with our four-legged friends to mark the charity’s 125th anniversary this year.

The survey confirmed the UK is a nation of pet lovers, with the majority (95%) saying they consider their pet as part of the family, 73% saying they bought their pet something nice to show them they love them and 91% giving their pets treats.

However, the charity was also concerned by some of the findings, with the poll revealing 17% of new owners did not meet the pet before their purchase and almost a quarter (24%) saying they would buy a new pet through an online advert. For many years, Blue Cross has raised issues around the unregulated online sale of pets with some unscrupulous breeders selling underage, ill and unsocialised puppies and kittens.

Kittens Marco and Mercedes were rushed into Blue Cross’s animal hospital in Victoria, London, only two weeks after they had been bought online. Vets found six-week-old Marco weighed just 570g and was dehydrated and riddled with fleas and worms. He was immediately put on a drip but sadly the team were unable to save him. Following intensive treatment, his sister Mercedes recovered and the charity was able to find her a new home.

Some looking to buy a pet online have also been scammed out of paying a hefty deposit or full price for their pet and the ‘breeder’ then vanishes with no pet being handed over. Others have been deceived by ending up with a different pet to that advertised. The poll mirrors these concerns with the most significant concerns people had about buying a pet were the health of the animal (91%), scams (81%) and authenticity of sale (78%).

81% of respondents said they would contact their vet for advice if they were experiencing challenging behaviour with their pet and a quarter said they would initially seek help from a qualified behaviourist. Almost half (48%) said they would search for animal behaviour advice online to help with their pet’s behaviour but the charity is concerned that some may be following out of date or inappropriate advice rather than finding a reliable source like Blue Cross and other charities or finding support from a qualified animal behaviourist through the Animal Behaviour and Training Council (ABTC).

Claire Stallard, Animal Behaviourist at Blue Cross, said: “Our Pet Census really did confirm that we are a nation of pet lovers who value their pet as a much-loved member of the family.

“However, we would urge anyone looking to take on a pet to really do their research first to ensure they know the animal’s needs before taking them on and if buying through an online advert to be thorough in checking the breeder is genuine and reputable

“It’s understandable so many people say they would search online for behaviour advice but owners may not know what is good advice or what is poor or outdated advice and training techniques which could potentially make matters worse for them and their pet.

“The relationship between a pet and owner can sadly break down if the wrong advice is followed, which can result in further behavioural problems. We’d always urge people to seek the advice of their vet, a qualified behaviourist or trainer if they’re experiencing any issues with their pet’s behaviour.

“Overall, we’re delighted to see from the survey that the vast majority of pet owners are experiencing the unique bond and companionship that only pets can give us.”

Other findings include:

  • Companionship (93%) and improved mental wellbeing (85%) came out as the top benefits of having a pet
  • The most common question that owners would like to be able to ask their pet is ‘Are you happy’?
  • 91% said they give their pets treats to show their pet they love them, 86% said they let their pet on the bed/lap/sofa, while 73% said they bought their pet nice things, and 52% took their pet to their favourite place
  • 74% said their pet provided them with companionship during the Covid 19 pandemic
  • 63% said they celebrated their pet’s birthdays
  • The main concerns pet owners have when thinking about pet welfare were puppy and kitten farms (22%), poor breeding (21%), purchasing pets without adequate information about the breed (15%).
  • 32% of pet owners surveyed got their pet from a breeder and 35% had taken on their pet from a rescue charity.
  • Only 2% provide their cat with a scratching post, essential for their claw maintenance, otherwise they may seek alternatives such as furniture, carpets or walls.
  • The census also found 60% of rabbit owners reported that the animal had been sold to them individually – rabbits are naturally sociable and need companionship from at least one other rabbit as they can become lonely and depressed if kept alone.

Pet owners can find care advice for all species, how to safely take on a new pet plus top tips on making homemade treats and toys on the charity’s website

2022 is the 125th anniversary of Blue Cross, originally ‘Our Dumb Friends League’. The charity formed to help vulnerable pets and their owners and we continue this work today across our rehoming, clinical, animal behaviour, pet bereavement support and educational work. We are striving to be able to help even more pets in the future live healthy lives in happy homes. Blue Cross relies on the support and donations of pet lovers to continue our vital work, to find out more and make a donation visit


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