Are the UK’s cats and dogs being spoilt rotten?

The UK is a nation of animal lovers, but is our increasing tendency to treat our furry friends as members of the family having unintended consequences?

For many of us, it’s love at first sight when we first meet our pets-to-be.

I was a practicing vet for many years and unfortunately had to resist providing a home to the many waifs and strays that crossed my path (we always made sure they had someone to care for them!) but, when it came to returning from Australia there was no chance that Tahlia, our terrier was staying behind.

We moved back to the UK and flew Tahlia across once we were established – despite costing more than our flights put together (and more) plus the inevitable acclimatisation (!) it was worth it without question. She now accompanies us on trips throughout the UK and Europe and is probably the best travelled dog you will meet.

MORE TH>N future of pet ownership report

Find out how 10,000 cat and dog owners in the UK feel about their pets

So it’s not that surprising to me that when we asked over 10,000 cat and dog owners what they thought of their pets that nearly 80% described them as family members and over half said their pets made them happier, more relaxed and offered them real companionship.

The MORE TH>N Future of Pet Ownership Report (PDF) is a fascinating read and looks at the issues pets face in the UK today. 

We may be a nation of animal lovers but our willingness to embrace our furry friends as part of the family has led to there being more overweight pets than ever before as we treat and spoil them too much. Pets who are overweight are not only prone to more illnesses but if they become ill or injured take longer to recover – not good for the pet nor from an insurer’s point of view claims as costs can be higher.

The pet industry needs to work together to improve the wellbeing of pets

We talked to a number of leading pet charities who are at the sharp end of pet ownership and the two key trends they are seeing are disturbing. As healthcare costs and pet insurance premiums continue to rise, the charities are seeing more and more sick animals being given up for adoption as owners cannot or will not pay for their medical treatment. 

They are also reporting a lack of training and socialisation of pets being undertaken by their owners. This lack of understanding about pets training needs and welfare has meant more aggressive and dysfunctional pets are being given up to the charities – which are costing them more in time and resources to retrain the animals so they are suitable for home adoption.

Everyone in the pet industry – vets, insurers and pet charities – needs to work together more closely to improve the lives, health and wellbeing of pets. Education is key.

Andrew Moore Director of pet claims

From the RSCPA’s compassionate classroom, which teaches young children that animals are sentient beings with their own needs, to the RSA Vet Referral Network which we created to help manage claims costs, through to PitPat – our foray into using telematics style technology to encourage and ultimately incentivise owners to keep their dogs active, fit and healthy – we each have a role to play.

 

Play video
Andrew Moore explains why studies like the Future of Pet Ownership report are so important

We have created four calls-to-action from this report:

  • Getting pet health and wellbeing added to the National Curriculum;
  • Encouraging pet owners to keep their pets at a healthy weight;
  • Working together to improve the health and wellbeing of pets; and
  • Exploring incentives-based insurance to encourage owners to keep their pets fit and healthy.

Later this year I will be inviting the relevant industry bodies and MPs to join us in a roundtable to discuss how we can start to make a real difference to our pets health and wellbeing and look forward to reporting back to you on our progress.