We may have long been a nation of cat and dog lovers, but the extent to which we’ve become besotted by our pets has never been more pronounced than it is at present. Shockingly however, the more we over-love our pets, the more we could actually be putting them in harm’s way.
That’s according to a comprehensive new study of 10,000 cat and dog owners from pet insurers MORE TH>N which paints the fullest picture of the state of the nation’s relationship with their pets to date. The results feature in the MORE TH>N Future of Pet Ownership Report which includes a foreword from TV vet Joe Inglis.
While four in five (78%) owners see their cat or dog as being a part of the family, over half of those polled (54%) even went as far to say their pet is more beneficial to their life and wellbeing than other humans, illustrating just how ingrained in our lives they have become.
So what are some of the positive ways pets are affecting people’s everyday lives?
Over a third of Britons (37%) say pets inject a sense of humour into their day-to-day lives
Almost half (45%) say they help reduce stress
Over a third (34%) say they make them feel needed by offering a sense of companionship
Two in five owners (41%) say having a pet keeps them fit and healthy
One in 10 (13%) admitted that owning a dog or cat makes them more sociable through the organising of play dates and the sharing of photos online
The new research has been released as part of the launch of the MORE TH>N Future of Pet Ownership Report which assesses the state of the nations' pets - including their health and wellbeing, role in society and human attitudes to their animals, following a survey of more than 10,000 cat and dog owners.
The report however explores a tendency among those who see their dog or cat as more beneficial to their lives than humans as often being guilty of over-humanising and indulging their pet, which can have real implications for the overall wellbeing of an animal, in a trend experts are calling ‘killing them with kindness’.
So what are some of the ways we can be seen to be over-humanising our pets?
The report states that over over nearly six million pets are given treats as part of their daily diet, including crisps, cake, leftovers of human food, cheese, chips and takeaways. This however is leading to overweight animals, with the MORE TH>N survey revealing that 30% of dog owners and 18% of cat owners think their pet is overweight, which can have negative repercussions for their long-term health.
The research also showed that behaviour is another area of concern, with a lack of socialisation of cats and dogs at an early age leading to aggressive traits towards both other animal and humans.
Research from the RSPCA revealed that while 93% of dog owners agree dogs should be trained how to behave from an early age, just 39% of owners have actually ever attended training classes with their pooch. Rather, the trend of owners spoiling their pet and failing to teach them basic boundaries, as opposed to teaching them core social skills and manners, results in them becoming poorly controlled and poorly socialised with other dogs.
This trend appears to be taking its toll, with the research also revealing that 41% of pet owners know someone who had given up a pet, with bad or destructive behaviour also cited as the reason in almost half of cases.
Dr Julia Wrathall, Chief Scientific Officer, RSPCA, who contributed to the report, commented: "We could significantly improve the welfare of our pets in future by taking the trouble to see the world from their perspective. If we understood how our dogs and cats think, what experiences they do and don't enjoy (which may be very different from our own preferences), and why they behave in the way they do in response to different situations, we would be better able to meet their mental needs and to resolve unwanted behaviour by addressing the cause, not the symptom.”
Moore concludes: “The MORE TH>N Future of Pet Ownership Report aims to shed light on this paradox by providing a detailed assessment of the state of the nation’s pets based on a range of factors. It sets out to help owners educate themselves on what is best for their cat and dog – putting their pet’s interest first to ensure they live long, happy and healthy lives.