LONDON — UK Pet Food, formerly the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association, released its annual report, detailing the latest in pet ownership and how the cost of living is impacting pet parents.

According to the report, 16.2 million (57%) of UK households reported owning a pet in January 2023, accounting for about 38 million pets total throughout the country. Though the number of pets has risen 9% from 35 million in 2022, UK Pet Food reported a decrease in the proportion of households owning a pet.

The top 10 pets owned in 2023 include:

  • Dogs at 12 million
  • Cats at 11 million
  • Rabbits at 1.5 million
  • Indoor birds at 1.3 million
  • Guinea pigs at 1 million
  • Domestic fowl at 1 million
  • Hamsters at 900,000
  • Tortoises and turtles at 900,000
  • Lizards at 800,00
  • Snakes at 700,000

According to the association, dog and cat populations decreased a combined 6%, while smaller pet ownership has risen. Pet relinquishment has also risen; 13% of pet parents (about 3.7 million households) claimed they had relinquished a pet in 2022. Twenty-eight percent of Gen Z pet owners between the ages of 16 to 24 admitted to having relinquished a pet last year. Of the pets relinquished, 47% were dogs, 36% cats, 12% indoor birds, 8% rabbits, 6% Guinea pigs and 7% other pets.

“World events have had a massive impact on lifestyles over the last few years,” said Nicole Paley, deputy chief executive officer of communications and animal welfare at UK Pet Food. “Throughout the pandemic, we saw an increase in people adding a pet to their family as they sought the amazing companionship a pet can bring. Today, owners are clearly impacted by the cost of living and sadly relinquishment figures are high.

“The small pet population is on the up suggesting that people believe they are more manageable and less expensive to keep,” Paley added. “Although pets bring huge joy to a household, they also come with a huge responsibility and it is so important to understand the care and cost implications — whatever the size of your pet.”

Following rising costs of living, 30% of Gen Z owners claim that they have been forced to “rethink” their pet ownership.

“Startlingly, we discovered that only 29% of people considered the cost when they got a pet,” Paley said. “Almost one fifth (18%) admitted that a pet was more expensive than they had considered. This figure rises to 23% among the youngest owners, and families are also impacted with 15% of those with children finding it tough.”

According to UK Pet Food, a majority of pet parents report they would do anything for their pet, with making changes in their pet’s care and relinquishment planned as an absolute last resort. Despite this, the association detailed that about 20% of pet owners had to make cuts on pet food, insurance and veterinary visits because of the rising costs of living, with 25% of younger pet parents reporting a reduction in pet spending.

“There is a need to raise awareness amongst potential owners on the financial responsibilities of pet ownership — whilst supporting all the amazing owners who are struggling. In times of crisis, many pet owners do not have a choice,” Paley said.

Keep up with the latest pet food trends on our Trends page.