Online news media reports that a £500m investor plans to cash in on the cats and dogs boom. What boom? The coronavirus cat and dog boom. It’s bizarre and frankly disturbing if it takes a pandemic to provoke people who’ve not had a pet cat or dog before to dive in and adopt one just because they are stuck at home in isolation during the several lockdowns in the UK.
A survey of over 5,000 UK citizens by the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA) concludes that a total of 3.2 million households adopted a pet – normally a companion cat or dog – since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Dogs are pandemic favourites.
The total number of pet-owning homes in the UK is an estimated 17 million.
It appears that the people in the age bracket 16-34 are driving the surge.
People buying a companion cat or dog for the first time are parents. People under the age of 35 account for 59% of the new companion animal owners.
Often this is impulse adoptions without real preparation and consideration as to the long term responsibilities and consequences. There already are, and there will be more going forwards, relinquishments of these animals both to shelters but more likely through sales online on social media because the animals were bought at a high price. Prices of purebred dogs are inflated because of demand. This is not good for animal welfare. The distorted market has lead to an substantial increase in thefts as well by organised crime.
The survey found that more than a third of new owners said it was like having a new baby. Twenty percent said that it was challenging training their new family member. Most often dogs have been the preferred choice. There is an almost obsessive craze in adopting French bulldogs. And I’ve seen lots of small dachshunds in the parks. These are clearly new owners.
The shelters such as Battersea Dogs & Cats Home are concerned about animal welfare. When the pandemic is over, and it is drawing to a close mercifully (God willing), it is expected that a substantial percentage of these new owners will get rid of their animals because they had misguided expectations about the long term demands.
It seems to me that a lot of the time the adoptions have been for the short term; to allow people to get through the lockdowns. It’s been like buying a pill. If that assessment is correct it is not the way to adopt a cat or dog.
It is the old adage: you adopt a companion animal for the lifetime of the animal. That means you stop and think before you do it. And you do you sums: you have to budget for it both in terms of money and time. Time is the biggest cost.
Pets are great but there are great obligations and responsibilities too. Your freedom is curtailed. That is perhaps the biggest change in lifestyle that many new owners will discover.
There are an estimated 12 million cats and the same number of dogs in the UK as at 2021. There are also 3.2 small mammals such as hamsters, 3 million birds and 1.5 million reptiles.
I can remember an estimate of 8 million cats not long ago (2018).