A quarter of Brits turning to furry friends for companionship and mental health support

New research from Sainsbury’s Bank revealed how 24% of UK adults have welcomed a new pet into their home since March 2020 or plan to do so before Easter 2021.

Almost half of those who have got a new pet or plan to get once, cite companionship and mental health support as the main reason. Furthermore, 44% say their mental health has improved since introducing a pet into their lives.

Alongside a boost in spirits, 22% say their physical health has improved as they exercise more with their pet, and 20% have made new friends in their neighbourhood.

Dogs come out on top as the pet of choice, with 60% of new pet owners opting for canines compared to 32% who chose cats, and 5% picking a rabbit.

Sainsbury’s Bank data further illustrates the boom in new pets, with a 32% increase in the number of pet insurance policies sold during the UK’s first lockdown (April-June 2020), compared to the start of the year.

The financial commitment

While pet ownership brings a wealth of benefits, there are important financial commitments to consider. The research found adopting or buying a new pet costs £448 on average (£557 for dogs and £273 for cats).

When it comes to budgeting for upkeep, including vet fees, food, bedding and toys, over a quarter (28%) of adults who have bought or adopted pets since the first lockdown have found the cost of keeping their pet more expensive than expected.

The cost of keeping a dog was underestimated compared to cats – with 34% of new dog owners reporting that their new canine companions were more expensive than expected, compared to 19% of new cat owners.

Jason King, Customer Director at Sainsbury’s Bank, said: “Britain is a nation of pet lovers, with many people seeking furry companionship during lockdown, but it’s important to understand the financial implications from the outset, and ensure you pick the right pet and breed for your lifestyle. You should make sure you’re shopping around to find the most comprehensive pet insurance you can, at the right price for you, to help cover any unexpected vet bills your new four-legged family member may incur.”

TV Vet Dr Scott Miller gives his top tips on a happy life with your new pet

Dr Scott Miller said: “Understanding that different breeds or species of animals have very different needs is key to ensuring a happy, healthy and long-lasting relationship. Taking an honest look at your own personal circumstances, including financial limitations, environmental factors, personal fitness and time restraints before purchasing or adopting an animal is key in making a responsible decision on the right pet for you.

“When chosen carefully, a pet offers unconditional love and boundless joy, helping to brighten moods, reduce loneliness, encourage exercise and stimulate conversation and relationships with fellow pet enthusiasts, all which has a positive impact on our mental and physical health.”

  1. When purchasing a pet, always meet the parents.  This will help you understand the size and nature your puppy will develop into, where it’s been brought up and ensure you are purchasing from a reputable breeder. Or consider a rescue pet, one whose personality is well understood by its carers and really needs a new start in life.
  2. Be honest with yourself – if you are a couch potato or a fitness fanatic, there are different breeds of dogs that will suit you best.  A dog may encourage you to exercise more which will undoubtedly have a positive impact on your physical and mental wellbeing.
  3. Owning an animal can be expensive. It is not just the purchase price you must consider but also the ongoing costs of feeding, vet bills, bedding, accessories and care when you’re away.  It’s incredibly important to consider pet insurance when getting a new animal, to help cover the cost of veterinary care and ensuring you can afford to give your new pet the best possible treatment when they need it most.
  4. Your house will become their home. If you don’t have outside space, have lots of stairs, live in a noisy area or have young children, there may be many pets which are simply unsuitable for you. Being a responsible pet parent means appreciating sometimes we can’t have the pet of our dreams right now, but there may be other smaller breeds or different species of animal which can happily thrive in your current home.
  5. Got the time? With the pandemic meaning many people are working from home with a greater work/life balance, animal lovers see an opportunity to finally have the pet of their dreams.  It is always important to appreciate that dogs can live to an average of 12 years, cats 17 years and rabbits 10 years, so contemplate the time a pet needs to truly thrive, and if you can offer it in the future when things eventually return to normal.


The Sainsbury’s Bank Pawfect Pet Tool is ideal for anyone looking to welcome a new furry friend into their life. By answering just eight quick and easy questions you can find the right pet for you.