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Household pet ownership falls to 56 percent

New research from Mintel claims that pet ownership has tumbled by seven percentage points in five years, with just over half (56 percent) of UK households now containing a pet, down from 63 percent in 2012.

Mintel’s Britain’s Pet Owners UK 2017 report finds a decline in all types of ownership. Although cats and dogs continue to battle it out as the nation’s favourite, dog ownership has slipped from 33 percent in 2012 to 31 percent in 2017. Meanwhile, cat ownership has fallen from 31 percent to 29 percent over the same five year period.

33 percent of men were found to own a dog, compared to 27 percent who own a cat. When it comes to women, cats have a lead over dogs at 32 percent ownership versus 29 percent.

But it is fish ownership which has taken the biggest dive, down from 17 percent of households in 2012 to just 10 percent in 2017. Also, causing something of a squeak, small mammal ownership (including Guinea pigs, rabbits and mice) has fallen from 10 percent in 2012 to 7 percent in 2017.

Overall, it seems pet ownership is a family affair, with 73 percent 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 percent among the over-65s.

Rented accommodation

Emma Clifford, associate director of food and 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 parents value time with furry family members. Mintel research finds that Britain’s pet owners are keen to sweat it out with their four-legged friends. More than half (52 percent) of dog owners say they are interested in group outdoor exercise classes for dogs and owners, rising to 63 percent of those aged between 25-34 who own a dog.

Pet obesity

What is more, a third (36 percent) 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 percent) of dog owners admit that it can be difficult to ensure your pet always gets as much exercise as it needs. Meanwhile, 73 percent of owners agree that emotional well-being is just as important as physical health for a pet’s well-being.

Emma adds: “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.”

‘Feel good factor’

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 percent), loved (55 percent), relaxed (54 percent) and comforted (51 percent). Meanwhile, 30 percent of dog owners say their pet makes them feel healthy.

The importance of keeping pets close at hand is confirmed by the 71 percent of dog owners who agree that they would take their pet everywhere with them if they could. Just under half (45 percent) of pet owners agree that having pets in the workplace can make it a better place to work, with only 16 percent 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 percent 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.

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