Over one in 10 people either became pet owners, or considered becoming one during the nationwide lockdown, according to the latest research from Compare the Market.
The majority of people began looking for pets before restrictions were enforced, however, with 16% of potential owners looking for pets in the run up to the nationwide lockdown.
Young people were “particularly” likely to look for a pet during this period, with 18% of 18-24 year olds adopting or considering adopting a cat, while 23% did the same for dogs.
When asked why they were thinking about getting a pet, 30% of respondents said they were “influenced by the prospect of being stuck at home” during lockdown, while 19% thought a pet would help ease pandemic-related anxiety.
An additional 35% said that a pet would make them feel less lonely during the period, while 33% wanted a pet to encourage them to increase their daily exercise.
Around 30% of those who adopted or purchased a pet paid the full amount online or in cash in advance, potentially leaving themselves “vulnerable to fraudsters who have been seeking to exploit the increase in people looking to purchase or adopt pets”.
Meanwhile, 38% of owners or potential owners said they came across pet-related scams during their search for a pet, while 28% said that they had seen adverts for pets which they believed to be fake.
A further 10% either responded to an advert for a pet which they later found out to be fake, or provided payment for a pet which never arrived, with this figure rising to 21% amongst young people.
Research form Compare the Market found that 32% of those who considered adopting or purchasing a cat or dog failed to make prior background checks to ensure that the pet was coming from a legitimate breeder.
Some 23% of respondents were worried about their ability to look after a pet once they start returning to work amid lockdown easing, while 27% were worried about their ability to afford a pet after the lockdown.
In addition, only six in ten have bought insurance for their new pet, leaving them vulnerable to unexpected medical bills.
Mubina Pirmohamed, head of pet insurance at comparethemarket.com said: “The coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly contributed to stress levels for many households across the UK, and a pet can be a great way to keep your family’s spirits high or to ease anxiety.
“However, we urge those looking to adopt or buy pets to be aware of scams and ensure they complete thorough background checks on those claiming to be selling animals online.”
He added: “It is also important to consider the long-term financial cost of owning a pet, especially in the current circumstances in which many families are feeling the financial squeeze. Looking after a dog’s basic needs can cost up to £13,000 over its lifetime.
“On top of this, if your pet gets sick, the average pet insurance claim will set you back by £750.”