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20 UK Pet Ownership Statistics in 2024: General & Regional Facts

Written by: Matt Jackson

Last Updated on May 16, 2024 by Dogster Team

UK Pet Ownership Facts and Statistics

20 UK Pet Ownership Statistics in 2024: General & Regional Facts

Note: This article’s statistics come from third-party sources and do not represent the opinions of this website.

Pets are our companions, friends, and members of the family, at least according to the most recent surveys. They are so important that most owners say they care more about the welfare of their pets than they do themselves. Despite this, the number of households owning at least one pet dropped from 62% in 2022 to 57% in 2023, likely as a result of changing work conditions and the cost-of-living crisis hitting a lot of households hard.

Despite that, there are still more than 36 million pets in the UK, excluding aquatic animals: a population that is made up primarily of dogs and cats, respectively, but with a good smattering of other species of animals.

Below, we have included 20 statistics relating to the UK and its pet population, including details of the most popular pets and the reasons why we keep them.

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The 20 Pet Ownership Statistics in the UK

  1. There are 36 million pets in the UK, excluding aquatic animals.
  2. 62% of households owned pets in 2022, but this dropped to 57% in 2023.
  3. 95% of owners see their pets as part of the family.
  4. 59% of pet owners care more about their pet’s welfare than their own.
  5. 81% of owners believe it is more expensive to look after their pets now than it was a year ago.
  6. 1 in 8 pet owners say they have regretted owning a pet at some point.
  7. There are 13.5 million dogs in the UK.
  8. 31% of households own dogs.
  9. 51% of owners have dogs because they make them happy.
  10. 72% of dogs are neutered.
  11. 58% of UK dogs are considered purebred.
  12. The most common pet dog breed is the Labrador Retriever.
  13. There are 12.5 million cats in the UK.
  14. 26% of households own cats.
  15. The British Shorthair is the most common cat breed in the UK followed by the Ragdoll and Maine Coon.
  16. 1.5 million cats are not microchipped.
  17. 20% of cat owners say their cat has gone missing at some point.
  18. There are approximately 5 million fish tanks in the UK.
  19. Around a million rabbits are kept as pets in the UK.
  20. 1.4% of UK households own snakes.

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Total Pet Population

1. There are 36 million pets in the UK, excluding aquatic animals.

(UK Pet Food)

Although dogs and cats are the most popular and populous pet types in the UK, they only account for around 26 million of 36 million animals. Indoor birds and domestic fowl account for 2.8 million of the population with other popular species including rabbits (1 million), tortoises and turtles (700,000), horses and ponies (700,000), and guinea pigs (700,000).

Red,Shiba,Inu,Dog,And,Red,Cat,Lying,On,Gray
Image Credit: Egrigorovich_Shutterstock

2. 62% of households owned pets in 2022, but this dropped to 57% in 2023.

(Statista 1)

2021 and 2022 saw the number of households owning pets rise dramatically, as people took on new animals to help them through COVID-19 and because they had more spare time for walking and caring for their pets. However, 2023 saw lockdowns end, many people returning to work in the office or other on-site locations, and it brought a cost-of-living crisis fuelled by rising oil prices.

This combination saw the percentage of households with pets drop from 62% in 2022, which was a record high, to 57% in 2023.  Although the figure has dropped, it is still higher than pre-Covid. Only 41% of households kept pets in 2020.


3. 95% of owners see their pets as part of the family.

(Blue Cross)

It isn’t surprising to learn that owners typically view their pets as part of the family, rather than as possession. A massive 95% of respondents in one survey said they consider pets as part of the family. 44% of respondents said their pet was their best friend.

cat-and-dog-with-their-owner
Image Credit: Chendongshan, Shutterstock

4. 59% of pet owners care more about their pet’s welfare than their own.

(Johnsons Vet)

When it comes to pet care attitudes, nearly 60% of owners say they care more about the welfare of their pets than themselves. Welfare includes feeding good quality food and ensuring that the pet is well-exercised and healthy. Just 14% of survey respondents said they would prioritise their own welfare.


5. 81% of owners believe it is more expensive to look after their pets now than it was a year ago.

(RSPCA)

A cost-of-living crisis is defined as a time when the cost of essential items increases more quickly than average wages increase. As well as taking into account food and items for people, the figures also look at pet food essentials.

The recent cost of living crisis, caused by a combination of Covid and global incidents, has led to some 81% of pet owners stating that it is more expensive to look after their pets now compared to a year ago.

man buying dog food at the store
Image Credit: BearFotos, Shutterstock

6. 1 in 8 pet owners say they have regretted owning a pet at some point.

(RSPCA)

We all have moments when our pets fall out of favour with us somewhat. Whether they have chewed the hallway carpet or suffer other behavioural problems, there are challenges in the lives of most pets.

For most, those challenges are short-term, but 1 in 8 pet owners say they have regretted owning pets at some point in their lives.

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Dog Statistics

7. There are 13.5 million dogs in the UK.

(UK Pet Food)

Dogs are the most popular pet in the UK with a population of 13.5 million companion dogs. This represents a 1.5 million increase compared to the year before, even though fewer households now own pets.

Three Golden Retriever Dogs stand in the door on the porch ready to go play outside
Image Credit: Tara Lynn and Co, Shutterstock

8. 31% of households own dogs.

(Statista 2)

13.5 million dogs are kept in 36% of the country’s households. Reasons for keeping dogs include companionship and company, but they can also help with mental and emotional wellbeing, while regularly exercising a dog can also help maintain good physical health.


9. 51% of owners have dogs because they make them happy.

(Statista 2)

The primary reason for keeping them is that they make their owners happy. 51% of owners said this was the reason they have dogs. 47% said their dogs provide them with love and affection, and 35% said they provide companionship.

 

man hugging chocolate labrador dog at the park
Image Credit: Sergey Nivens, Shutterstock

10. 72% of dogs are neutered.

(NCBI)

While keeping dogs is linked to happiness and can provide companionship for owners, there is an overpopulation problem. Despite this, only 72% of dogs are neutered. Females are far more likely to be neutered than males with neutering rates of 76% and 69% respectively.


11. 58% of UK dogs are considered purebred.

(NCBI)

When it comes to preferred breeds, the mutt is the most common type. Mutts are not purebred dogs and combine two or more, typically unknown, breeds in their lineage.

While hybrid and designer breeds, such as the Cockapoo, have become more popular, 58% of UK dogs are purebred, which means they are recognised as being of one single breed. Hybrids are not yet recognized as purebred, although some may become recognized breeds after generations of successful breeding.

woman cuddling with her pet australian shepherd
Image Credit: LightField Studios, Shutterstock

12. The most common pet dog breed is the Labrador Retriever.

(NCBI)

Although mutts are most common, when it comes to the most popular purebred dogs, the Labrador Retriever remains at the top of the list. The Retriever is considered a good choice of breed for most owners. It gets along with people and other animals, is intelligent, and it is eager to please its owners.

However, it can suffer separation anxiety if left alone for extended periods. The next most popular breeds are Cocker Spaniels, Cockapoos, Jack Russell Terriers, and Border Collies.

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Cats

13. There are 12.5 million cats in the UK.

(UK Pet Food)

Although dogs are the most popular pet species, cats run them a close second. Nationally, there is a population of 12.5 million companion felines. Cats are sometimes preferred because they are said to be lower maintenance, as they don’t need walking.

However, cats do need mental stimulation and they still need daily care to ensure they are fit and healthy. This population is 1.5 million higher than it was the year before.

woman-playing-with-her-british-shorthair-cat
Image Credit: PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek, Shutterstock

14. 26% of households own cats.

(Statista 2)

More than a quarter of households in the UK own at least one cat. It is more common for cat-owning households to keep multiple cats. People commonly keep two or more cats because they offer company for one another, and costs are not necessarily twice as high compared to owning a single cat.


15. The British Shorthair is the most common cat breed in the UK followed by the Ragdoll and Maine Coon.

(GCCF)

The moggy, or mixed breed cat, is the most commonly kept in the UK but the British Shorthair is the most popular purebred, followed by the Ragdoll and then the Maine Coon. The British Shorthair is an affectionate and loving cat, but it can take time to warm up to strangers.

The Ragdoll is so called because it collapses into its human’s arms or on their lap like a ragdoll. And the Maine Coon is known for being a giant of a breed but is a loving and loyal cat.

Portrait of lying gray cat with orange eyes close-up
Image Credit: lara-sh, Shutterstock

16. 1.5 million cats are not microchipped.

(Veterinary Practice)

New laws in 2024 require that all cats be microchipped, or owners can face financial penalties and may even have their cats taken away from them. Despite this, there are still believed to be 1.5 million cats in the UK that are not microchipped.

Microchipping pets helps increase the likelihood that a lost cat is returned to its owner, making it beneficial for the cat, the owner, and the rescues and shelters that are filled to breaking point, already.


17. 20% of cat owners say their cat has gone missing at some point.

(Veterinary Practice)

One in five cat owners report that their cats have gone missing at some point. While a lot of cats do return after a few days, this isn’t always the case, and more than a quarter of owners say their cats regularly go missing for 2–4 days.

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Other Animals

18. There are approximately 5 million fish tanks in the UK.

(Howden Insurance)

Fish are not included in the pet population count because it is impossible to calculate exactly how many fish there are. While some people do keep individual fish in tanks, others have schools of dozens of fish.

However, it is estimated that there are 5 million fish tanks in homes across the country, which gives some idea of how popular pet fish have become. Although the tanks need cleaning and the fish need feeding regularly, fish are low maintenance and they still bring a lot of joy to their owners, especially thanks to the wide array of colours and types of fish that can be kept.


19. Around a million rabbits are kept as pets in the UK.

(Howden Insurance)

Rabbits remain popular pets, and it is estimated that around one million are kept in the UK. This includes rabbits kept in indoor hutches, as well as those that are kept primarily outdoors. Rabbits require more attention than most prospective owners believe, which leads to many former pet rabbits being relinquished to charities.

Potential owners need to do their research and make sure they have the time and resources to look after a pet rabbit.

Close-up of cute little red bunny
Image Credit: Olga Smolina SL, Shutterstock

20. 1.4% of UK households own snakes.

(Howden Insurance)

Although still an unusual pet species, snakes are becoming increasingly popular in the UK, where it is believed that 1.4% of all households now keep at least one snake.

Non-venomous snakes can be kept without the need for any kind of licence, and they can make fascinating pets, but they have very specific requirements when it comes to temperature, humidity, UV, and other environmental conditions.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What are the most popular pet names in the UK?

The most popular name for dogs in the UK is Luna, which is especially popular for German Shepherds, Cocker Spaniels, and Staffies. Other popular dog names include Bella, Milo, Willow, and Poppy.

The most popular cat names are strikingly similar, with the most popular male names being Milo, Charlie, and Loki and the most popular female names being Luna, Bella, and Poppie. (Daily Mail)(Vetsend)


Are there any restrictions on how many pets owners can keep?

There is no national legal limit regarding the number of pets you can keep. However, animal welfare laws dictate that owners must be able to keep all of their animals healthy.

Therefore, if pets are found to be ill or are not receiving the level of care they require, it could be deemed an animal welfare issue and it could lead to having to surrender the animals and potentially even being prosecuted under animal welfare laws.


Do dogs need to be microchipped?

It has been compulsory that all dogs aged over eight weeks must be microchipped. Owners who are found to have an unchipped dog could face financial penalties or worse.


Do you need a licence to keep a snake?

Non-venomous snakes do not require a licence and can be kept as pets in the UK. However, venomous snakes may require a license. Potential owners should apply through their local council and will have to show experience and suitability to keep these exotic, potentially dangerous pets.

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Conclusion

The UK loves its pets, from dogs to snakes and everything in between. The country has a population of 36 million pets, which doesn’t include aquatic pets, so the figure is likely much higher.

Dogs are the most popular species, followed by cats, and when it comes to both species, mixed breeds or crosses are the most popular breeds. The most popular pedigree dog breed is the Labrador Retriever, while the most popular cat breed is the British Shorthair, showing the nation loves its loving pets, which is further highlighted by the fact that companionship and happiness are the main reasons UK pet owners chose their animals.


Featured Image Credit: trofalenaRV, Shutterstock

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