Parting couples ditch bricks and mortar for their pampered pooches

Article date: 23 September 2005

According to research released today, animalloving Brits admit they’re more likely to argue over thecustody of a much-loved dog during a relationship breakdown thanthe ownership of the house.

The study of more than 2,000 adults,conducted by leading insurer, Norwich Union revealed that seven inten of us would choose our dog over ownership of the house in theevent of leaving our partner – 71% versus 65%.

Though dogs top the list as thenation’s most valued household possession, other pets arenot far behind. Over two thirds (68%) of respondents reveal theywould make a case for custody of a cat, nearly double the amountof those who said they would want to retain the car (37%). And astaggering 57% admitted they would fight for the fish tank.

The findings also reveal pets are becoming amore complex part of relationship dynamics. Over a third of youngwomen attempt to make partners jealous by going behind their backto win the favour of a pampered pet. More alarmingly, one in fiveof those approaching child rearing years (16-24) use the purchaseof an animal to vet a partners potential parenting skills.

Leading pet behavioural expert, Carrie Evans,commented on the findings: “A household pet can function asa third person in a relationship, a role which enables them tomanipulate the behaviour of both parties and disrupt the balance.This has been evident during TV reality show Big Brother with thehousemates forming close bonds with the resident chickens.

“While a third of respondents admitpets and their upkeep can be a cause of arguments it’ssurprising that almost a quarter of those questioned are preparedto commit to a pet by the time they move in with a partner, if notearlier.”

With the number of divorces on the increase -rising from 166,737 divorces in 2003, to 167,116 in 2004*, NorwichUnion would suggest the owners of the 15 million pets in the UKthink about the future provisions of their pets by consideringcreating a “pet-nuptial” agreement.

Over a quarter of respondents said they wouldsign a “pet-nuptial” to outline the roles andresponsibilities of pet ownership and prevent the potentialheartache involved during an acrimonious split. Making custodydecisions puts extra strain on parting couples demanding visitingrights, with over half (52%) willing to spend time with anestranged ex purely to visit a beloved pet.

And it’s not just the couple who can beaffected. Paul Fowle at Norwich Union explains: “When arelationship breaks down it can be a difficult time for everyoneconcerned – and this includes the family pet. If you findyour pet is pining it may be because they are missing one of theirowners. Your vet may recommend a consultation with an animalbehavioural specialist. Check if, like ours, your insurance willcover this treatment.”

Even celebrity couples have not escaped thebitter battle of custody arrangements. Recent disputes includeAmanda Holden’s and Les Dennis’s fight for their“surrogate children,” West Highland Terriers Nobby andFudge. Football legend George Best also took on his ex wife Alexfor the parental ownership of Irish Setters Rua and Red.

For more details of our ‘Cats andDogs’ pet insurance customers should contact Norwich UnionDirect on 0800 107 0497 or visit the website at


For further information pleasecontact:
Claire Culshaw or Jasmine Agbulos at LexisPublic Relations on 0207 908 6488 or email or or SallyLeeman at Norwich Union on 01603 684225/07800 699670 or

Notes to editors:

Research commissioned by Tickbox, September2005. Over 2,000 people were questioned in the survey

Key Statistics

  • 85% of us consider a pet to be a family member
  • one in five 16-24 year olds use a pet to vet partners potentialparenting skills
  • 1/3 of respondents admit pets and their upkeep can be a cause ofarguments
  • over half of us would be willing to spend time with an estrangedex purely to visit a pet

*Source: National Statistics 2004

Norwich Union Direct ‘Cats andDogs’ Insurance is introduced by Norwich Union InsuranceServices Limited. The insurance is sold, underwritten andadministered by Allianz Cornhill Insurance PLC.

About Norwich UnionInsurance

  • Norwich Union is the UK's largest insurer with a market shareof around 14 per cent
  • With a focus on insurance for individuals and smallbusinesses, Norwich Union insures:
    • One in five households
    • One in seven motor vehicles
    • Around 800,000 businesses

  • Norwich Union products are available through a variety ofdistribution channels including brokers, corporate partners suchas banks and building societies and Norwich Union Direct.
  • Aviva, Norwich Union’s parent company, recentlyannounced its acquisition of the RAC. The acquisition bringstogether the RAC's powerful brand and customer base with theexpertise and leading position in motor insurance of Norwich UnionInsurance.
  • Norwich Union's news releases and a selection of images areavailable on the Aviva internet press centre at
  • An ISDN facility is available for studio quality broadcast.Call the press office on 01603 682264

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