New research from data insight specialist Consumer Intelligence reveals that more than 1 in 10 people rushed out to get a new pet between the months of March and August, more than half for the first time since they were a child, or the first time ever.
In the timeless battle of dogs v cats, pooches pipped pussycats to the post – to become the most popular pets for bored Brits in lockdown. 40% of people who bought a pet between March and August got a dog, with cats trailing behind at 34%. Both outstripped other pets, with fish ‘limping/swimming’ into third place – chosen by just 13% of new pet owners.
Small rodents came in next, chosen by just 5% of those who bought a pet, with common companions guinea pigs and rabbits sharing 5th place just behind them. More unusual pet purchases included chickens, spiders and bearded dragons – and a random hedgehog that had moved in with a family in the West Midlands.
Consumer Intelligence’s research found that more than a quarter of Brits who bought pets said they were desperate to entertain children at home and got them for the kids, with 30% saying they’d always wanted one, and the long months at home was simply their chance to do it.
Half of Brits who have a new pet say the experience has been brilliant, with another 39% saying it’s been good overall, and only 12% admitting to mixed or negative experiences.
Ian Hughes, Chief Executive at Consumer Intelligence, said: “The really good news here is that pets are clearly not just for lockdown – they’ve been embedded into family life and have had a positive influence on their new owners. Our survey found 64% of people with pets found them good company, 61% said it had increased their exercise or got them out and about, and 41% said it had reduced their anxiety.
“The less good news is how expensive pets are. After the initial purchase price, nearly a third of new pet owners are now spending between £26 and £50 each month on our new four-legged, or finned, friends – with most money going on food. As we move into a recession, that’s a lot for any family to take on.
Consumer Intelligence says it found that only around half of people have insured their new pet. People seem to be aware of risk, with more worrying about illness (52%) than accidents (38%), but 41% didn’t see insurance as a necessity. One in three (32%) said they planned to insure their pet but still hadn’t got round to it, and 27% said cost was a barrier, and they just couldn’t afford it.
Ian Hughes said: “The danger is that Britain’s new wave of obviously much-loved pets are going to come with a new wave of vets bills owners could struggle to cover. With an average claim coming in at £793, and running into thousands for bigger injuries, lots of new owners simply aren’t going to be able to afford to get them the care they need, when they need it. It’s up to the insurance industry now to make sure they’re targeting Covid pet owners and supporting them to understand their cover options.”