Millions of people in the UK may be completely reliant on their pets for companionship this Christmas, according to research from vet charity the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA).
The charity is warning that the financial impact of the COVID-19 crisis in the UK means that the enormous benefits pets bring to their 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 charity’s PAW Report, produced in conjunction with YouGov, which has tracked pet wellbeing in the UK for the last decade, found that the owners of 2.8m UK pets live in a single-person household.
Despite some relaxing of 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.
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.”