Pets in the doghouse: UK Household pet ownership falls to 56% in 2017, down from from 63% in 2012

November 9, 2017

While pets may be man’s best friend and ‘purr-fect’ companions, it seems that Brits are increasingly turning their backs on their furry friends. Indeed, Mintel’s UK 2017 research on Britain’s Pet Owners reveals that pet ownership has tumbled by seven percentage points in five years, with just over half (56%) of UK households now containing a pet, down from 63% in 2012*.

While pets have long held a special place in the nation’s hearts and homes, Mintel research reveals a decline in all types of ownership. Fish ownership has taken the biggest dive, down from 17% of households in 2012 to just 10% in 2017. Also, causing something of a squeak, small mammal** ownership has fallen from 10% in 2012 to 7% in 2017.

Although cats and dogs continue to battle it out as the nation’s favourite, dogs remain man’s best friend with 33% of men owning a dog, compared to 27% who own a cat. When it comes to women, cats have a lead over dogs at 32% ownership versus 29%.

Overall, it seems pet ownership is a family affair, with 73% of households with children under the age of 16 containing pets. However, ownership drops significantly among the older generation, falling to a low of 36% among the over-65s.

Emma Clifford, Associate Director of Food & Drink at Mintel, said:

“Shrinking household sizes and the trend of consumers starting their families later in life are all having a negative effect on pet ownership. Additionally, the shift towards privately rented accommodation continues to put downward pressure on pet ownership. Long-term, the growing population of over-55s present an ongoing challenge to the pet industry.”

But while pet ownership is slipping, the nation’s pet owners continue to worry about the welfare of their precious pooches as Mintel research finds that Britain’s pet owners are keen to sweat it out with their four-legged friends. More than half (52%) of dog owners say they are interested in group outdoor exercise classes for dogs and owners, rising to 63% of those aged between 25-34 who own a dog.

What is more, for those porky pooches who may have had one treat sausage too many, a third (36%) of dog owners express an interest in weight loss programmes for their pets. Acknowledging the challenges of keeping the nation’s hounds healthy, almost half (46%) of dog owners admit that it can be difficult to ensure your pet always gets as much exercise as it needs. Meanwhile, 73% of owners agree that emotional well-being is just as important as physical health for a pet’s well-being.

“Obesity is a widespread and worsening problem for both humans and pets. Weight loss and exercise regimes that work for owners and pets alike therefore seem logical. Cultivating a sense of being ‘in it together’ to improve the health of both consumers and their pets could help strengthen resolve to keep up such efforts. Such activities can further build on the associations owners have between their pets and feeling healthy themselves. In an increasingly atomised and transient population, these activities also give pet owners the chance to build their social circles, meeting other dog owners with similar health-oriented goals.” Emma adds.

Beyond the well-being of the animal, pet ownership is having a positive effect on the owner. Over half of pet owners say their pets make them feel happy (66%), loved (55%), relaxed (54%) and comforted (51%). Meanwhile 30% of dog owners say their pet makes them feel healthy.

The importance of keeping pets close at hand is confirmed by the 71% of dog owners who agree that they would take their pet everywhere with them if they could. Just under half (45%) of pet owners agree that having pets in the workplace can make it a better place to work, with only 16% actively disagreeing with the statement. Finally, when it comes to the holidays, taking pets away with them is the preferred option for dog owners, with 58% basing their choice of holiday around their pet.

“The undeniable feel-good factor linked to pet ownership can be harnessed in very compelling marketing messages. Advertising themes that centre on pets deserving the very best to thank them for the emotional benefits they bestow on their owners are likely to chime. There are also growing opportunities for products and services that have specific emotional benefits for pets.” Emma concludes.

* December 2012 – April 2017
** eg guinea pig, rabbit, mice

Press review copies of Mintel’s Britain’s Pet Owners UK 2017 Report and interviews with Emma Clifford, Associate Director of Food & Drink at Mintel, are available on request from the press office.

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