Owners Still Prioritise Pets Despite Financial Squeeze, but Some are Struggling

A new survey commissioned by NOAH shows the cost-of-living crisis is impacting on some dog and cat owners’ ability to continue to afford to care for their pets. NOAH’s survey, conducted by Kantar in December 2022, shows people are still generally positive about pet ownership, but some groups are more likely to find caring for them a struggle.

Speaking at the Kisaco Animal Health, Nutrition and Technical Innovation meeting in London, NOAH Chief Executive Dawn Howard explained: “The impact is greater for younger pet owners, those who describe themselves as having been highly affected by the cost-of-living crisis and those who may have additional responsibilities like a member of their household having a vulnerable immune system.

“As well as the squeeze on our finances, there have also been changes to people’s lifestyles, as many people are spending more time out of the home post-pandemic lockdowns (for example, returning to a fixed place of work), and challenges still exist around finding pet-friendly rental accommodation. We know that the younger age group are more likely to have become pet owners during the Covid pandemic.

“In spite of these challenges, we were very pleased to see that ensuring pets get veterinary treatment remains a priority: vet visits are important to all ages of pet owners, but pet insurance and health plans tend to decrease in priority for older age respondents and pets. Indeed, when people were asked to prioritise their spending, visits to the vet were ranked third, at 79%, only after energy and food – and above rent/mortgage,” she said.

In line with this, the survey looked at where people had been cutting back their spending. Only 7% said they had cut back on veterinary visits (9% on pet health plans and 10% on pet insurance). This was low in the list to face cuts, with buying clothes top at 56%. Not surprisingly, those who consistently struggle with finances were more likely to have been forced to cut spending on their pets’ health.

Despite this commitment to looking after our pets, Dawn Howard pointed to some potential concerns for the future health of our pets. She explained: “Whilst people continue to prioritise their pets, prevention of disease could be impacted. As a specific example, our survey showed people’s financial situation had a significant impact on vaccination in the past year. Those struggling most with the cost-of-living crisis and those who struggle to afford the things they want were, not unsurprisingly, the least likely to have had their pet vaccinated in the past 12 months (only 47%, compared to 73% of those saying they are financially comfortable). Cat owners are twice as likely as dog owners not to vaccinate, and older pets are significantly less likely to be vaccinated.”

“Those pet owners in our survey that state they may struggle to look after their pets also agree their pets support their mental health and that they don’t know what they would do without their pet.” she added.

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