Largely driven by Gen Z and Millennials, 59% of new owners are aged 16-34 and 56% of new pet owners have children at home. Although 74% claim their pet has helped their mental health through the pandemic, the study “raises pet welfare concerns”, according to the PFMA.
The association now estimates that 17 million households are responsible for a pet’s welfare. It found that 38% of new owners claimed that having a new pet was like having a new baby while 17% of families with children admitted that training was “more challenging than expected”. Some 5% have already had to give up a pet, with this figure increasing to 11% among families.
Although just 15% of owners had a pet-friendly office environment, only 10% were concerned about returning to work and spending less time with their pet, the PFMA found. This figure rises among younger generations with 15% of 16-34 year olds concerned about spending less time with their pet in the future however.
Nicole Paley, PFMA deputy CEO, said: “Our research confirms the belief that many more people are benefitting from pet ownership and we are reassured by the mental health findings. However, it is clear that we need to consider the welfare of these new pets. As our survey highlights, introducing a pet to a household in Covid times can have repercussions or create some unexpected difficulties.
She added: “We must work together with the pet care sector to ensure the 3.2 million households with new pets get the support they need. This is in terms of access to educational material, training and adequate flexible working from home or pets in the office policies.”
RSPCA pet welfare expert Dr Samantha Gaines said: “As these figures demonstrate, a huge number of people have added a new pet to their family during lockdown while other pet owners have made the most of spending more time at home during the pandemic to enjoy the company of their pets.
“Many of our pets are now used to having us around all the time while others have never known any different so we have real concerns that life post-lockdown, both in terms of a new routine and spending time alone, could be really difficult for them to adjust to which is why it’s so important that owners start to prepare them now. In the absence of this preparation, pets could be facing their own crisis.”
Paley added: “It’s never too late to ask for help with your new pet and with the right support in place, families can continue to enjoy the company of their pets and the benefits of the incredible bond we have with our animals, for years to come. We work closely with those in the pet industry to ensure that new pet owners can access good information to help them become and remain responsible pet owners.”