Number of people keeping pets has slumped - and rising house prices may be to blame

Pets are not as popular as they once were

Pet ownership has slumped by more than 10 per cent in just five years - and rising house prices may be to blame.

Experts say the move to rented accommodation triggered by runaway house prices - and the resultant delay in starting families - is preventing people from keeping animals.

Figures show the number of people who keep pets has fallen by more than 11 per cent in just five years - with fish ownership taking the biggest dive.

Almost two-thirds of households in Britain (63 per cent) owned a pet in 2012 but that has fallen to just over half (56 per cent) now, according to research by consumer analysts Mintel.

Fish ownership has dived from one in six households (17 per cent) in 2012 to just one in 10 (10 per cent) today.

But we still maintain our reputation as a nation of animal overs with almost three-quarters of households with children under the age of 16 (73 per cent) owning pets.

However, only just over a third (36 per cent) of senior citizens, people over the age of 65, own one.

Overall, the figures show that dog ownership has slipped from 33 per cent in 2012 to 31 per cent now, while cat ownership has fallen from 31 per cent to 29 per cent over the same five year period.

But dogs remain man's best friend in Britain with 33 per cent of men owning a dog, compared to 27 per cent who own a cat, while women are more likely to be cat owners (32 per cent) than dog lovers (29 per cent).

The number of households keeping small mammals - such as guinea pigs, rabbits or mice - has also declined, from 10 per cent in 2012 to seven per cent today.

Emma Clifford, of Mintel, said: "Shrinking household sizes and the trend of consumers starting their families later in life are all having a negative effect on pet ownership.

"Additionally, the shift towards privately rented accommodation continues to put downward pressure on pet ownership.

"Long-term, the growing population of over-55s present an ongoing challenge to the pet industry."

More than half of dog owners (52 per cent) say they are interested in group outdoor exercise classes for pet pooches and their owners, rising to 63 per cent of those aged between 25 and 34.

More than a third of dog owners (36 per cent) expressed an interest in weight loss programmes for their pets.

Almost half of dog owners (46 per cent) said that it can be difficult to ensure their pet always gets as much exercise as it needs, while almost three out of four (73 per cent) agreed that a pet's emotional well-being is just as important as its physical health.

Ms Clifford said: "Obesity is a widespread and worsening problem for both humans and pets.

"Weight loss and exercise regimes that work for owners and pets alike therefore seem logical.

"Cultivating a sense of being 'in it together' to improve the health of both consumers and their pets could help strengthen resolve to keep up such efforts.

"Such activities can further build on the associations owners have between their pets and feeling healthy themselves.

"In an increasingly atomised and transient population, these activities also give pet owners the chance to build their social circles, meeting other dog owners with similar health-oriented goals."

But most owners say their pets make them feel happy (66 per cent), loved (55 per cent), relaxed (54 per cent) and comforted (51 per cent), while 30 per cent of dog owners say their pet makes them feel healthy.

Just under half of pet owners (45 per cent) agree that having pets in the workplace can make it a better working environment, with only 16 per cent disagreeing with the statement.

And more than half of dog owners (58 per cent) even base their choice of holiday around their pet.

Ms Clifford added: "The undeniable feel-good factor linked to pet ownership can be harnessed in very compelling marketing messages.

"Advertising themes that centre on pets deserving the very best to thank them for the emotional benefits they bestow on their owners are likely to chime.

"There are also growing opportunities for products and services that have specific emotional benefits for pets."

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