It seems there’s less wow in bow-wow these days as dog ownership takes a tumble in U.K. households. It’s not only pooches, however. New research from Mintel reveals that pet ownership has declined by seven percentage points in five years, with just over half (56%) of U.K. households now containing a pet, down from 63% in 2012.
The undeniable feel-good factor linked to pet ownership can be harnessed in very compelling marketing messages. There are also growing opportunities for products and services that have specific emotional benefits for pets.
Although cats and dogs continue to battle it out as the nation’s favorite, dog ownership has slipped from 33% in 2012 to 31% in 2017. Meanwhile, cat ownership has fallen from 31% to 29% over the same five-year period. Despite declining ownership, dogs remain man’s best friend with 33% of men owning a dog, compared to 27% who own a cat. When it comes to women, cats have a lead over dogs at 32% ownership versus 29%, according to the firm’s Britain’s Pet Owners UK 2017 report
But it is fish ownership that’s taken the biggest dive, down from 17% of households in 2012 to just 10% in 2017. Small mammal ownership has also fallen from 10% in 2012 to 7% in 2017, the report states.
Marketers can reverse this trend, such as tapping into research that shows owners are keen on exercising together with their pooches. Downward dog, anyone?
There’s plenty of emotional benefits that come with pet ownership, as well. These can include campaigns that reach out to the elderly population.
Overall, it seems pet ownership is a family affair, with 73% of households with children under the age of 16 containing pets. However, ownership drops significantly among the older generation, falling to a low of 36% among the over-65s.
“Shrinking household sizes and the trend of consumers starting their families later in life are all having a negative effect on pet ownership,” says Emma Clifford, associate director of food and drink at Mintel.
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, Clifford says.
But while pet ownership is slipping, the nation’s pet owners continue to worry about the welfare of their pooches as Mintel research finds that Britain’s pet owners are keen to sweat it out with their four-legged friends. More than half (52%) of dog owners say they are interested in group outdoor exercise classes for dogs and owners, rising to 63% of those aged between 25-34 who own a dog, according to Mintel.
What is more, for those porky pooches who may have had one treat sausage too many, a third (36%) of dog owners express an interest in weight loss programs for their pets, reports Mintel.
Acknowledging the challenges of keeping the nation’s hounds healthy, almost half (46%) of dog owners admit that it can be difficult to ensure your pet always gets as much exercise as it needs. Meanwhile, 73% of owners agree that emotional well-being is just as important as physical health for a pet’s well-being.
“Obesity is a widespread and worsening problem for both humans and pets,” Clifford says. “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.”
These activities also give pet owners the chance to build their social circles, meeting other dog owners with similar health-oriented goals, she explains.
Beyond well being
Beyond the well being of the animal, pet ownership is having a positive effect on the owner. Over half of pet owners say their pets make them feel happy (66%), loved (55%), relaxed (54%), and comforted (51%). Meanwhile, 30% of dog owners say their pet makes them feel healthy, according to Mintel.
The importance of keeping pets close at hand is confirmed by the 71% of dog owners who agree that they would take their pet everywhere with them if they could. Just under half (45%) of pet owners agree that having pets in the workplace can make it a better place to work, with only 16% actively disagreeing with the statement. Finally, when it comes to the holidays, taking pets away with them is the preferred option for dog owners, with 58% basing their choice of holiday around their pet.
“The undeniable feel-good factor linked to pet ownership can be harnessed in very compelling marketing messages,” Clifford says. “Advertising themes that center 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, she explains.