Buying pets on a whim, with no research, could be causing mental and physical misery for millions of companion animals, warns PDSA

26 September 2018

Social media and ‘Insta-famous’ pets fuelling animal welfare crisis

A new report from PDSA has revealed that 5.2 million (around one in four) UK pet owners undertook no research at all before taking on their pet, fuelling needless suffering to millions of animals.

Findings from the 2018 PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report have revealed that this lack of research and preparation can leave well-intentioned owners ill-equipped to meet their pets’ welfare needs. The Report also showed that, while 74% of owners feel informed about all of a pet’s 5 Welfare Needs** – the basic requirements to lead happy, healthy lives – worryingly, only around 1 in 8 people (13%) surveyed could correctly identify all five from a list.

Without proper research, potential pet owners may rely on an unrealistic portrayal of pets in films and across social media. This can result in impulse-buying of pets without understanding how to look after them, leading to needless suffering to millions of animals.

In response, we have launched an easy online tool ( which helps measure the health and happiness of the nation’s pets based around their 5 Welfare Needs. It offers personalised advice to owners about how they can make simple adjustments to benefit their pet’s wellbeing.

“Owners undoubtedly love their pets and want to do the best by them. However, failure to do the right research beforehand means that owners aren’t fully equipped to do that. The results of our PAW Report reveal problems with lonely, overweight and stressed pets across the UK”, says PDSA Vet Olivia Anderson-Nathan.

“Unfortunately, it seems that some owners are also taking on pets off the back of trends; maybe they’ve seen a certain type of pet in a film or on social media. Whilst this is done with all good intentions, it’s worrying if it’s done without any research or consideration of an animal’s health and happiness. A prime example of this is the recent trend for flat-faced dogs such as Pugs or French Bulldogs – tragically many take them on not realising the serious health conditions that they can suffer from due to the shape of their faces.

“Most of us wouldn’t dream of buying a new car or booking a holiday without researching all of the options and the costs involved,” Olivia said, “but too often, little thought is going into the time, commitment and money involved in raising a happy and healthy pet throughout their lifetime.”

British Veterinary Association President, John Fishwick, said: “Anyone who owns or cares for animals knows that choosing a pet to join your family is a big decision. It’s vitally important to get the relationship off to the right start by ensuring you pick the best species and breed for your particular circumstances.

“Vets and vet nurses are always happy to share up-to-date information and tailored advice with prospective pet owners. We’d encourage anyone who’s thinking of getting a new pet to take advantage of the wealth of knowledge available at their local practice.”

Doggy owner #FAILS

Despite the average person finding the time to spend an entire day scrolling social media every week***, owners aren’t prioritising the same time for their pooches. The 2018 PAW Report found: 

  • 1 million dogs (24%) are routinely left alone for five hours or more on a typical weekday****.
  • 4 million dogs (16%) are walked less than once a day and 89,000 (1%) aren’t walked at all.

The reason for Grumpy Cat’s #sadface

Cats face an equally troubling time as many owners fail to provide for their welfare needs.

  • Despite being naturally solitary animals, 4.8 million cats (43%) live with at least one other cat, with 2.1 million (19%) living with another cat or cats that they don’t get along with.
  • The 2018 PAW Report found that owners aren’t providing enough resources per cat in their household (such as feeding bowls, litter trays and scratching posts), a known cause of chronic stress.

Our vets believe these issues are leaving us with a nation of chronically stressed-out cats, which can trigger problems such as urinary diseases, cat fights and behavioural issues.

Why bunnies are really thinking #WTF (What the fluff?)

The 2018 PAW Report also highlighted results suggesting that bunnies are still one of the most misunderstood of all UK pets

  • Despite being incredibly social animals 540,000 rabbits (54%) live alone, and often in inadequate living conditions, which can cause immense suffering.
  • Nearly all (98%) of vets and vet nurses surveyed agreed that hutches that are smaller than the minimum recommended size should be banned from sale*****.
  • 200,000 rabbits (20%) are still fed muesli-type diets as part of their main food******. This is a cause for concern as selective feeding of muesli diets can lead to serious health problems, including overgrown teeth and digestive issues.

Find out how well you’re providing for your pet’s 5 Welfare Needs, improve your ownership skills and get advice for keeping your pet healthy and happy by visiting:

Key PAW Report stats:

  • 2 million (24%) UK pet owners undertook no research at all before taking on their pet
  • 4 million owners (16%) would consider getting a puppy from a puppy farm and 4.3 million (21%) from a seller who approached them
  • 1 million dogs (24%) are routinely left alone for five hours or more on a typical weekday
  • 8 million cats (43%) live in multi-cat households, with 2.1 million (19%) live with another cat or cats that they don’t get along with
  • 200,000 rabbits (20%) are fed an diet of muesli diet as part of their main food which can lead to health problems due to selective feeding
  • 540,000 rabbits (54%) live alone despite needing a rabbit companion to be happy and healthy

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was for the pet owners’ survey was 4,639 dog, cat and rabbit owners aged 18+ who live in the UK. Fieldwork was undertaken between 9 and 19 January 2018.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of the population by pet species (cat, dog or rabbit owners) and the owner’s gender, age and region.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 590 veterinary professionals. Fieldwork was undertaken between 8th January and 5th February 2018.  The survey was carried out online through an open link. The figures have not been weighted.

It's time for The Big Pet Quiz 2018!

Fun, quick and informative, our quiz will get you thinking about what's best for your pet and how to keep them happy and healthy.

Big Pet Quiz