PFMA releases latest Pet Population Data – 3.2m UK homes have a pandemic pet with 38% admitting it’s just like having a new baby

Today, the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA) releases its annual pet population data[i], confirming that 3.2 million households in the UK have acquired a pet since the start of the pandemic[ii]. Largely driven by Gen Z and Millennials, two thirds (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.

There are now 34 million pets in the UK including 12 million cats and 12 million dogs, 3.2 million small mammals such as guinea pigs and hamsters, 3 million birds and 1.5 million reptiles.  There are also 5 million aquaria.  This equates to 17 million households responsible for a pet’s welfare. Notably, over a third (38%) of new owners claimed that having a new pet was like having a new baby and almost a fifth (17%) of families with children admitted that training was more challenging than expected.  Sadly, 5% have already had to give up a pet and this figure increased to 11% among families.

Nicole Paley, PFMA deputy CEO, comments: “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.” 

“We also looked in more detail at the future concerns of new pet owners.  Perhaps worryingly, although just 15% have a pet-friendly office environment, only 10% were concerned about returning to work and spending less time with their pet. This figure rises among younger generations with 15% of 16-34 year olds concerned about spending less time with their pet in the future.   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.”

Battersea’s Canine Behaviourist and Training Manager Janine Pemberthy comments: “As many of us eagerly prepare to start spending more time outside our home again, whether it be to go into the office, visit friends or head to the pub, it is vital that we ensure our pets are also prepared for this big lifestyle change. There’s a whole generation of new dogs that don’t yet understand that lockdown life isn’t the norm, and as a result we believe there may be some key areas that owners will need to work on with their dog, such as separation anxiety and meeting new people and other dogs, before we all return to ‘normal’ life. To help with this preparation, Battersea is hosting a series of virtual training classes focusing on specific areas of training for puppies and young adult dogs, and we encourage all members of the family to take part. Rescues like Battersea are here to help owners long before they need to make the difficult decision to give up their pet and we’d urge anyone struggling to care for their dog to get in touch.”

Dr Gaines adds: “Throughout the pandemic, members of the Canine and Feline Sector Group worked together to produce a variety of resources for pet owners. The RSPCA, Battersea, PFMA and other welfare organisations hope to continue this collaborative work so that owners have access to advice from the UK’s best loved charities and experts helping them prepare their pets and to avoid any unnecessary anxiety once our lives start to return to normal.”

Nicole concludes: “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.   For top tips, owners should visit and for more pet data please visit” 

published by PR

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