Millions of cats and dogs facing the January blues

17 January 2019

Many of us are left with January blues due to the cold weather, dark nights and post-Christmas cash-shortage. Now, our vets are warning that millions of UK pets face an equally tough time, suffering from loneliness, chronic stress and obesity.

Findings from our latest PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report reveal that many owners are failing to meet their pets' welfare needs, which could be leading to immense misery. The study found a shocking 2.1 million dogs (24%) are left alone for five hours or more on a typical weekday, while 1.4 million dogs (16%) are walked less than once a day.

PDSA Vet, Olivia Anderson-Nathan, said: "Pets face another year of long hours spent home alone, with too little exercise. As our busy routines resume after the festive break, we know that millions of dogs will be left for longer than the recommended four hours, leaving them mentally unstimulated and bored. It's no surprise that problem behaviour can develop if they're left home alone for so long.

"Too much time indoors without enough exercise leads to health problems on a much larger scale, such as obesity", adds Olivia. "Worryingly, our Report found that 89,000 dogs (1%) aren't walked at all! Vet professionals report that 46% of dogs, 34% of cats and 30% of rabbits that they see in their practice every week are overweight or have obesity."

Current scientific studies suggest that around 40% of all UK cats and dogs are now overweight or have obesity, leaving our pets at risk of a long list of weight-related health risks, like diabetes and arthritis.”

Cats have an equally ‘blue’ time ahead, with the PAW Report revealing that 4.8 million cats (43%) live in a house with more than one cat, 2.1 million (19%) living with another cat or cats that they don’t get along with.

“Cats are naturally solitary creatures and, for many, living with other cats can be a source of chronic stress and lead to the onset of problems such as cat fights and behavioural issues like house soiling. Cats also don’t have enough ‘resources’ – to live in harmony, each cat in a household should be given their own food and water bowls, toys, beds, scratching posts and litter trays to be happy and stress-free and then there needs to be one spare on top of this. Dot these around the house so each cat can have their own space.”

By contrast, rabbits are incredibly social animals who need another bunny companion to be happy and healthy. Despite this, a massive 540,000 rabbits (54%) live alone. Their living conditions may be causing immense suffering too with 28% of rabbit owners (280,000 rabbits) revealing that their rabbit lives in inadequate housing.

“Rabbits are often the most misunderstood pets, and very sadly, thousands are not facing only a ‘Blue Monday’, they’re facing an unhappy life. Too many rabbits live alone, in hutches which are far too small for their needs. They need a spacious hutch or living area to jump about, with a large outdoor run where they can play, hop and stretch.”

If you’re worried your pet might be feeling blue, free pet health advice can also be found on our website: For advice on keeping your pet happy and health, book an appointment with your vet or vet nurse.