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Wednesday, 2 October, 2002, 20:02 GMT 21:02 UK
Owners 'spend 3.5bn on pets'
Dogs on show at Crufts Dog Show 2002
Dogs: Could lose position as man's best friend
Pet owners are spending nearly 3.5bn a year on their animals, according to researchers.

The figure has gone up by almost 25% in five years, says consumer analysts Mintel, which has presented a report on its pet findings.

Researchers found most of the money spent goes on pet food, accessories and services such as grooming.

Alexander Armstrong from the sitcom Beast about a vet
There has been an increased take-up in pet insurance

The report also found that the total number of cats and dogs in the UK had declined from 14.2 million to 13.6m in 2001.

Cat ownership had actually increased but the number of people owning a dog had gone down over a 10-year period.

Spending phenomenon

This appeared to reflect a widespread perception that cats were more low-maintenance pets than dogs, who required daily exercising.

Mintel predicted the single-person pet owners category would rise over the next four years, but with more owning cats than dogs.

The market for pet foods, products and services has surged, with sales rising by nearly a quarter from 1996 to 2001.

Cat ownership seems likely to continue to increase, as these independent animals are easier to look after for people living on their own or leading a busy life

Dominique Allport, Mintel

The report highlighted the "humanising" of pets - lavished with luxuries and in some cases substituting for children.

It described a spending phenomenon of people living alone, or without children, who buy only the best premium pet foods for their favourite friends.

Birthday presents

Mintel found there was a growing trend towards higher-priced food products.

More than a fifth of the 1,006 pet owners questioned admitted to buying Christmas and birthday presents for their furry friends.

The survey found the most spoiled pets were in Yorkshire and the North East.

The trend towards buying both "added-value" and single-serve pet foods have upped the figures, say Mintel.

People are buying easy-open foil servings, rather than keeping half tins of pet food in the fridge.

There has also been an upsurge in products catering for specific genres such as puppies, kittens and pregnant pets.

'Work harder'

Rising vets' fees and more sophisticated veterinary services have prompted a higher uptake of pet insurance - some 22% of British owners now take out insurance.

In addition, vets fees have risen at a faster rate of inflation boosted by the cost of better and more technical equipment.

"Pet manufacturers and pet retailers will have to work harder in future to maintain growth momentum in the pet care and pet food retailing sector," said report author Dominique Allport.

"Cat ownership seems likely to continue to increase, as these independent animals are easier to look after for people living on their own or leading a busy life," he added.

Tell us about your pet spending habits and whether you prefer cats, dogs, or a different pet.

Have your say

Premium dog food? My Staffie terrier eats only the finest organic meat and dresses in a coat and collar from Burberry!
Mark Hillary, London, UK

We have six cats. They are our friends

K. Simms, USA
We have six cats. They are our friends. They talk to us and have a great sense of humour. Because they never meow we decided to teach them how. So we tried giving them lessons. The six of them get all comfortable at the beginning and then they watch us while we meow. By their expressions they seems to think we should give them treats for providing such great entertainment.
K. Simms, USA

The prospect of walking a dog twice a day fills me with dread. Our two cats sleep all day and go out at night, popping in and out for food and fuss as they see fit! The single serve pouches are an easy non-mess option and you can get the food from pouch to plate faster than a tin - all important when you have hungry cats nipping your ankles at breakfast time!
Toby Isbister, England

I have managed to collect 18 ex-abandoned cats! These are the ones I have not managed to re-home. They are a registered colony which only entitles me to free neutering/spaying. I buy the premium dry food and cut it (at weekends only) with tinned. They spend most of their time outside but about 14 sleep inside in Winter. Vets give me good rates but they cost me a fortune and I pay it all myself! Help!
Mary Heys, Italy

I would buy food for the dogs before myself

S Forrest, Scotland, UK
We have four dogs, they are my hobby and our family and they get the lot - of course they get presents at Christmas and birthdays (we even have an Adoption Day for the two rescues). I would buy food for the dogs before myself if necessary. Why not pamper them? They give unconditional love which is a lot more than people do. And they are company, and entertainment, they guard the house... what more could you want??
S Forrest, Scotland, UK

We find that anything horse-related carries a massively over-inflated price tag. Veterinary fees have become so unrealistic we are contemplating giving them up which will be a sad loss to us and one less customer for our vet of course. We recently called the vet in to look at a foal, vet drove 10 miles, looked at foal for 5 minutes, no treatment or drugs needed, bill 95! Value of foal 50. Our cat had to be put to sleep recently, bill of 83! How vets can justify those charges is beyond me.
Drew, England

Having a cat is great unless you have a partner who constantly worries about them. Having to try and get my cats in before I go to work everyday is not what I can low maintenance! I have spent many a night trawling the neighbourhood with a torch shouting "Timmy, Timmy!" Low maintenance indeed!
Jason Hulott, UK

He gets and gives his own Christmas cards

Linda Davies, UK
Definitely prefer dogs. They are more personable, want your active attention more and are not as self-sufficient as cats. They also make better guardians of the house and deter election canvassers! My dog is insured - my last one wasn't and I ended up with a vet bill for 800!

Apart from that - he is not lavished with presents - as a lurcher he is happy to play with a mouldy old football or chase other dogs (!), so quite low maintenance. Biggest expense is electricity for the washing machine - trying to keep up with dog-haired bed covers and muddy towels. But Christmas is another thing - he's part of the family, not only will I be getting him a present, so will my partner, so will my 86 year old mother and various other friends. He also gets (and gives) his own Christmas cards.
Linda Davies, UK

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The BBC's Robert Hall in Exeter
"Britain's reputation of being a nation of pet lovers is as strong as ever"
See also:

18 Jul 02 | Animals
27 Aug 02 | Health
25 Sep 02 | Health
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