Pet ownership reaches new high but many owners end up having to give up their pets

Cat with owner reading

The UK’s pet population has grown to a record 35 million after a boom in pet ownership during the pandemic, but there are concerns over the number of owners giving up their pet.

The latest figures from the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA) reveal that 17.4 million households (62%) now own a pet. This includes 13 million dogs and 12 million cats, as well as birds, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, tortoises and other animals.

As many as 4.7 million households (17%) in the UK have acquired a new pet since the start of the pandemic, with more than half of these pets joining families with children.

Dog and lady working

Sadly, however, 3.4 million households (12%) have given up a pet over the last year.

Among young owners (aged 16-24) who said they had to give up a pet, the main reason was a change in living arrangements, cited by 34%. Another 23% said that financial obstacles were to blame and 22% identified a change in working arrangements, while behavioural concerns were a reason for 13% of those who relinquished a pet in this age group. For those slightly older, in the 25-34 age group, work (41%) and living arrangements (39%) were the main issues.

The PFMA is working with industry body the Canine & Feline Sector Group and animal welfare charities to identify what more the pet care sector can do to support owners and prevent them from having to give up their pets.

“At the PFMA, we believe there is a need to boost the provision of pet-friendly policies at work and in rental accommodation,” said Nicole Paley, deputy CEO of the PFMA. “There are some excellent campaigns focused on this.

“We also need to ensure that potential pet owners are aware of the full implications of pet ownership and the significant responsibility that comes with a new family member. It is widely acknowledged that household bills will be increasing over coming months, and this puts an extra financial strain on many families.”

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