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Pros and cons of owning a pet

Things to think about if you’re looking to buy a pet

Companionship, responsibility and mess

A pet can truly be a member of the family, so the decision to get a dog, cat or other animal is a big one. Before you bring home a furry friend, take a look at our list of considerations to make sure you've thought through the pros and cons of pet ownership.

Benefits of owning a pet

1. Pets are good for your health

There are lots of studies to indicate that pet owners are healthier than people who don't own pets. Specifically, it's thought that owning a pet is linked to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, two of the causes of heart attacks 1. Cat owners in particular are 30% less likely to have a heart attack and 40% less likely to suffer a stroke 2.

2. There are mental health benefits too

Pet ownership has been linked to reduced stress and anxiety, and according to an American Psychological Association study, pet owners have greater self-esteem and tend to be less fearful, lonely and pre-occupied than non-owners 3.

3. You could get more exercise

A recent study showed that dog owners walk or run 56 minutes more per day, on average, than non-owners 4. Of course, you're unlikely to see the same benefit with all pets.

4. Pets are a great way to meet people

Dogs, especially, present a lot of opportunities to meet other dog lovers, whether at dog parks, training classes, or just out and about. And with other pets, there are lots of online groups you can join to chat to fellow owners.

5. Pets offer companionship

For many people, the company of animals is just as fulfilling as the company of people. A recent survey showed that 95% of UK pet owners believe owning a pet provides invaluable companionship 5.

6. They could offer protection

Some pets, particularly dogs, can give you a greater feeling of safety, offering protection for you and your home. It's widely believed that burglars are less likely to target houses occupied by a dog 6.

Drawbacks of owning a pet

Before bringing an animal into your home, you should be sure you understand the responsibilities involved and are prepared to take them on.

1. Getting a pet is a big commitment

How big a commitment depends on your choice of pet. Dogs, for example, require much more of their owners than small pets, like hamsters and guinea pigs, as they need training and walking, and can't be left alone for hours at a time.

2. Pets can be messy

Again, how messy varies for different animals, but all pets demand a degree of cleaning up. Whether it's a cage, hutch, tank or litter tray, or picking up after your dog in the street, this is one of the less appealing aspects of pet ownership.

3. They could damage your house or belongings

Scratching furniture, digging up the flowerbeds, chewing through cables, burying valuables: you'll be surprised by all of the ways a young pet can cause trouble around the house. Of course, many grow out of it or can be trained, but you should expect a few hiccups along the way.

4. Sometimes they can cause physical harm

While most pet owners never experience this, it's important to be aware that some animals can be aggressive. You or your children could be scratched or bitten. Even docile pets could cause a degree of harm, by exposing you and your family to allergies you weren't aware of, or occasionally, parasites.

5. Pets can be expensive

From the cost of buying a pet, to a lifelong food bill, vaccinations and unexpected medical costs, pets can turn out to be a lot more expensive than you'd planned. 34% of UK pet owners agree that vet fees are more than they expected them to be 5 Of course, with pet insurance you can keep some costs down. Our platinum insurance will cover vet's fees for up to £6,500 a year.

6. Saying goodbye can be heartbreaking

The loss of a loved companion, though inevitable, is a profoundly difficult experience. Sickness or injury can also be distressing. While Pet Insurance can't ease this pain, it can help with the costs, so there are no added worries at these times.

Which pet should you get?

If you’ve reached the decision that a pet is just the thing for you or your family that’s not the end of the process. The next challenge is figuring out exactly what pet is going to be right for your lifestyle and goals.

The most common pets in the UK are dogs (owned by 24% of people), cats (owned by 17% of people) and indoor fish (owned by 8% of people) 7. The benefits and drawbacks vary for each, for instance, fish aren't a great way to meet people, but are less likely to damage your home. Which you choose largely depends on the level of responsibility you're willing to take on, and what you hope to get in return.

To help you decide, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • How much time are you able to spend at home?
  • How much inside and outdoor space do you have?
  • How frequently do you like to exercise and be outdoors?
  • What's your budget?
  • What are you hoping to get out of owning a pet?
  • What level of responsibility are you ready for?

Before committing to getting a pet, read our cat owner's guide and dog owner's guide for more information on owning a pet. 

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