• More than a pet
03/04/2012 17:22

Just what the dogtor ordered

Research reveals how millions of Brits confide in their pets before their partners.

A lady with her pet cat (© John-Francis Bourke, Photodisc, Getty Images)

If you're upset, excited or worries about something and there's no one around to chat to, what do you do?

Well, they say a problem shared is a problem halved, and when there's something on your mind it's normally friends and family who are called on first to lend a sympathetic ear. However, it would seem that for over five million (59 per cent) people in the UK today1, cats and dogs are their very first confidant.

Although their trusty companions may not understand a single word, new research conducted by MORE TH>N Pet Insurance2 has discovered that 87 per cent (9.1 million) of all cat and dog owners will talk at length to their pets when no one else is around. And surprisingly, one in four admit they even spend more time talking to their pets than they do their partners. Perhaps because they can't argue back, or maybe because their partners are often the topic of conversation! In fact, relationships, work, relatives and money matters make up the top topics of deep and meaningful conversations people feel they can only share with their pets.

Forget a BBF it seems a BMoM (Best Mutt or Moggy) is who people are turning to, even with their deepest secrets, to rehearse for job interviews and to practice their wedding vows. We know what you're thinking, if only pets could talk.

The research shows that so many Brits are choosing to get by with a little help from their furry friends because they don't always have the confidence to share their innermost thoughts and worries with other people - for fear they will be judged, embarrassed or cause arguments if they do so. By speaking aloud in front of a pet first, they can organise their thoughts and work out exactly what they want to say.
However, for 5.1 million (56 per cent) cat and dog owners, having a canine counsellor or a feline therapist is less about seeking solace or mentally preparing for a difficult conversation, and more a simple way of relaxing, clearing the mind and washing away the day's stresses.

A man and his dog (© George Doyle, Stockbyte, Getty Images)

According to leading relationship psychologist Corinne Sweet: "It's a well-known psychological fact that talking to our pets can relieve stress, anxiety, loneliness and a wide range of other uncomfortable feelings. Pets don't judge, talk back or complain. Instead they listen well, have open minds and faces and enable their owners to freely unburden themselves. We should not underestimate the roles pets play in our lives - no wonder they are man's, and woman's, best friends."

Janet Connor, Managing Director for MORE TH>N, commented: "While pets might not be able to speak or have the foggiest what's being said to them, they are looked upon as faithful companions whose loyalty and affection is unwavering. So it's no surprise that Brits will happily chatter away in the same way they would to a friend or family member. What's clear from these results, however, is that the majority of Brits don't see their pets as substitutes for people, but more as silent friends who they can turn to when they need to organise their thoughts or de-stress after a hard day."

"Responsible pet ownership isn't just about making sure an animal is fed well and exercised regularly - it's about creating and strengthening this bond. Talking to your pet might seem bizarre, but as the research shows, it can do wonders for your health, and your four-legged friend certainly won't mind the attention either."

1. Key data used to calculate figures:
- According to TNS (2011) there are an estimated 5,730,560 dog owners and 4,688,640 cat owners in the UK (a total of 10,419,200).
2. Research conducted by OnePoll for MORE TH>N Home Insurance in May 2012. 2,000 cat and dog owners were surveyed.

All statistical inferences made with confidence intervals set at 95 per cent based on a sample size of 2,000 following a normal distribution (according to The Central Limit Theorem).

pet poll

Where does your dog or cat sleep?

Thanks for being one of the first people to vote. Results will be available soon. Check for results

    24 %
    In my bed, where else?
    1,477 votes
    54 %
    In the house, in his/her own bed
    3,289 votes
    22 %
    Outdoors in a kennel
    1,373 votes

Total Responses: 6,139
Not scientifically valid. Results are updated every minute.