Northern Ireland is a nation of pet lovers with 6 in 10 people owning at least one pet. The most popular choice is overwhelmingly dogs, with men much more likely to opt for ‘Mans Best Friend’ than a friendly feline.
Despite dogs being the popular choice there has actually been a recent 25% increase in the number of men owning cats. One opinion as to why this increase has occurred is the influence of social media. Cats Protection’s Social Media Manager, Gemma Croker, said: ‘Cats have always been on social media but we have definitely noticed more men openly expressing their love for their feline friends. We now see more male celebrities talking about their cats such as The Vamps’ James McVey (cat Mickey), Ed Sheeran (Graham) and Russell Brand (Morrissey). It is possible that this trend may have triggered an increase in popularity for cats among the general male population’.
There are numerous benefits of having a pet, from exercise and companionship to improving your social skills and making you more attractive.
In 2014, Match.com and PetSmart surveyed about 2,300 single pet owners to get their opinions on all things animal. One of the most interesting findings was that the women in the survey thought that men with adopted pets were most attractive, and that dogs were the “hottest” pet to own. Analysis of these findings indicate that because ‘humans are a cooperative-breeding species,’ a man’s treatment of a pet can signal how engaged and influential they will be with raising children or taking care of their partner.
Exercise is one of the greatest side effects of owning a pet. The requirement to walk your dog for example, forces you into a daily routine of light exercise and spending time outdoors which can improve both physical and mental health. Additionally, most dog walkers frequently meet other dog walkers on their rambles which offers the opportunity to socialise and speak to new people.
The companionship offered by pets can have emotional and mental benefits particularly to those living on their own. Data from both the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency highlights that between 2011 and 2016 the numbers of one- and two-person households have increased, seeing more consumers living alone, or couples without children. Thus, pets can be seen as a good alternative source of companionship. This is also an option for older people who are suffering from loneliness and feel capable of taking care of a pet.
When you’re going through something unpleasant the saying goes ‘its a dogs life’ but with the increase of treating pets like family members a ‘dogs life’ doesn’t seem all that bad. In a survey of Northern Ireland pet owners over 3/4 admitted that they treat their pets like members of the family with 75% feeling it was important to buy pets gifts to celebrate special occasions like Christmas. This treatment is more likely to occur with cats and dogs who offer more in terms of companionship and reciprocal attention than other pets. Cats and dogs therefore form stronger bonds with their owners and provide the sort of well being derived from relationships with friends and family members. Pets are considered to be members of the family to the extent that when a pet dies, a growing number of owners are hosting funeral services, etc to memorialise their pets. There are also a number of pet graveyards and crematoriums which have opened throughout Northern Ireland offering a wide range of services.
Do you have a pet? What benefits are there to owning a pet? Do you treat your pet as part of the family? Join or start the conversation below.