Celebrating the UK’s most popular pets!

Did you know that 87% of people agree that having a pet makes them mentally healthier? And with more people working from home during the pandemic, 60% of households now own a pet!

April is National Pet Month, and here at Howden we love animals –  so it’s a great opportunity (and excuse) to talk all things pets. We’re going to run through the UK’s most popular pets, and some may surprise you.

And the winner is…

Unsurprisingly, the UK’s most popular pet are dogs, with a whopping 34% of households owning at least one. Out of the estimated 34 million pets in the UK, 13 million of them are dogs, – Labrador Retriever’s the most common, with 61,559 being registered in 2021 alone, which increased 54.2% in just one year. This coincides with the share of households that own a pet increasing from 45% to 59% during the pandemic.

The second most popular pet are cats. There were 11 million cats in British households in 2023, so a lot more than you think (and not far taking the top spot off of dogs)! In London however, cats are the most popular pet with 61% of pet owners in the capital having a cat, compared to only 50% having a dog. In 2018, 51% of cats owned in the UK were Moggies (your typical mixed breed cat), with the British Shorthair, Ragdoll and Siberian also popular options.

Fish (both indoor and outdoor) and indoor birds are next on the list. There is estimated around five million indoor fish tanks in the UK, so we can only imagine how many pet fish are in the UK as another four million of us in the UK have an outdoor fish pond –that’s a lot of fish! Surprisingly, there are 1.6 millions indoor birds being kept as pets in the UK, with the budgie being the most popular breed, which isn’t so surprising.

Hopping onto bunnies now (sorry), there are around one million rabbits in the UK, located in 2.8% of UK households. Rabbits are very popular with children, and some adults too due to them not requiring a lot of space, and their quiet and intelligent nature. Popular breeds include the Angora, British Giant and the English Lop.

Hamsters closely follow rabbits with 1.5% of household owning the cute rodent. Sticking with the rodent family, Guinea pigs are a little further down the list with 1% of UK households owning one, with most households owning more than one as they tend to get lonely on their own, especially if as most of do work during the day.

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The UK’s more unusual pets?

Imagine if you could collect your breakfast from your back garden? Well 1.3% of UK households own domestic fowls, including chickens and roosters, meaning a lot of us must be enjoying free eggs for breakfast! Most domestic fowl owners own several chickens, very few own just one or two, which isn’t surprising considering one household can own up to 50 chickens without having to register them with the DEFRA (Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs).

Another surprising fact is that more households in the UK own a tortoise or turtle compared to other popular animals including guinea pigs and horses! Why is that surprising you may ask? Tortoises are one of the most expensive pets to purchase, they can cost owners over £27,000, however with an average life span of 80-150 years we guess you get your moneys worth. It is known that 1.8% of households in the UK own a tortoise or turtle including different types such as the leopard tortoise and red-footed tortoise.

Galloping onto our next ‘pet’, and it’s the horse. 1.1% of UK households own a horse or pony, but there are considered to only be 600,000 horses and ponies owned as pets in the UK. Breeds include Shetland, Highland and English Thoroughbred and many more. Even though horses and ponies have a long life span, it can be considered that they are so far down the list due to the large space needed to own a horse (or to keep them in an offsite stables). Not only that but horses are expensive to care for and, as they are highly social animals, need to be around other horses.

Last on the list, is the not so surprising snake. Are we surprised they are so far down the list? Not at all. However 1.4% of UK households own a snake, this is perhaps due to their low-maintenance care. You can legally keep a snake in the UK and they are easy to find in your local pet store, however when considering to purchase a snake consider that they require specialist equipment to keep them healthy.

The rising cost of vet fees

Whatever pet you do own, it’s important to ensure they are correctly insured as vet costs have risen astronomically over the past year. In fact, the Competition and Markets Authority said vet fees were rising faster than other goods and services during the cost-of-living crisis, with the findings also supported by Which? Caring for a pet can create financial pressure, so if you are considering a pet, it’s important to do your research to ensure the care is affordable.

And, as we’re a company of dog lovers, several of our branches will be running the ever popular ‘Pet Pawtraits’, where you can head down to your local branch and get free professional photos taken of your pet! So why not pop down to your local branch and get involved.

Find your local branch here, give them a call or simply pop in to find out what they have planned. 

Sources: Hepper, Petplan, Scotsman, BBC.