Millions of people in the UK may be completely reliant on their pets for companionship this Christmas, according to research from vet charity PDSA.
Off the back of findings from the annual PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report, PDSA is warning that the financial impact of the Covid-19 crisis in the UK means that the enormous benefits pets bring to the owners is being put at risk.
The owners of 1.2 million UK pets stated they were more likely to apply for veterinary care from charities during lockdown, if they became eligible for help.
The PAW report, produced in conjunction with YouGov, which has tracked pet wellbeing in the UK for the last decade, found that the owners of 2.8 million UK pets live in a single-person household.
Despite relaxing social distancing restrictions over the festive season, many of these owners often elderly and vulnerable people, remain at risk of facing an isolated and lonely Christmas with only their pet for company.
PDSA’s research also found that 54% of dog owners and 45% of cat owners said their pet had been a lifeline for them during the pandemic. The owners of 118 million UK pets said that owning a pet makes them feel less lonely and the same number said owning a pet makes them mentally healthier.
For many of the hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people who rely on PDSA, their pet may be their only and much-needed company. Sadly, if people cannot afford treatment for their beloved pet, PDSA is often the only emergency service available to help those in desperate need.
Pets will still get poorly and need emergency treatment over Christmas. As the financial crisis is caused by the Covid-19 pandemic deepens, PDSA will be there to treat pets who are fundamental to helping safeguard the UKs most vulnerable people against chronic loneliness and social isolation.
Despite the love owners have for their pets, 5% of pet owners in the UK (around 970,000 pets) said that if they were not able to afford vet bills during lockdown, they would have considered rehoming their pet, and 3% of pet owners said that they would have considered having their pet put to sleep if they were not able to afford vet bills during lockdown.
PDSA is continuing to appeal to animal lovers for help in supporting its Pet Care Crisis Emergency Appeal, which seeks to raise vital funds enabling the charity to continuing caring for the pets whose owners now find themselves unable to pay for vet treatment.
PDSA Senior Vet, Sean Wensley, said: PDSA’s latest PAW Report findings highlight the vital role that pets play in helping to counteract the effects of loneliness for millions of people in the UK. With many areas of the UK still in high alert over Christmas, pets will be a lifeline for so many people.
“We know that pets make many owners feel mentally healthier, but the PAW Report findings also demonstrate how vulnerable many pet owners are when their financial circumstances change and their pet needs emergency treatment. And this situation is only worsening as the economy continues to struggle.
“PDSA is the safety net there to support the UK’s most vulnerable pets and their owners who love them dearly. The wellbeing of hundreds of thousands depend on our ability to help during times of crisis.”