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What we spend on our pets?

Winifred Robinson | 11:12 AM, Wednesday, 14 December 2011

William the dog

I am not a doggy person but I now have a dog - thanks to my son Tony aged 12 whose pester power stretched to a six year war of attrition. He won.

So now we have William a golden Labrador. I'm deeply in love with him of course. My resistance lasted for only 12 hours or so, until I came down the first morning and was greeted by his full body wag. It's irresistible and my reaction was a bit like that scene in the Snow Queen when the cruel child's heart begins to melt.

William has opened the door to a whole new world of expense - vets bills, insurance, accessories, toys and treats. I decided to take a look at the pet industry for You and Yours and wasn't surprised to find that it's worth more than £4 billion pounds a year. To put that into context, we spend more on our pets in the UK than we do on bakery - cakes, bread, biscuits that sort of thing.

The industry is having a good recession: sales growing slowly but steadily in value year on year. We're shifting from wet to dry pet food for convenience and in the downturn moving to cheaper brands. One area of surprise growth though is pet treats - up five percent this year on last year with 150 new products introduced in the UK alone.

It seems that treating our pets with small things - doggie chocolate drops, chews and toys - is boosting our morale and buoying up the industry. The treats are healthy - the chocolate drops are made with carob because human-type chocolate is poisonous to dogs. Other treats include dental chews.

It seems the demographic is going the pet's way. We are having our children later now and many couples get a pet first instead, we have fewer children and treat our animals like one of the family, more of us live alone and rely for company on pets.

In the industry they talk about the 'humanisation of pets'. You'll notice it everywhere once you start to look - with Christmas toys, stockings, even advent calendars for dogs and cats. I've discussed it with William and he's in favour of being treated like a human some of the time. He'd like to sit in a chair but just don't ask him to swap his meaty bone for a doggie dental chew.

Winifred Robinson presents You and Yours on BBC Radio 4

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    A great radio feature on pets although it seemed strange that the lady who started a kennels didn't like sending dogs to kennels herself (so aside from the dogs going to her home, it seemed the same kind of thing). As for those that send their dogs away with a suitcase and toothbrush - I remain unconvinced. We have found amongst friends and other dog walkers that many dog owners don't like to use kennels any more (I wonder if this is a growing trend with the 'humanisation' of pets) and this can be a problem at Christmas time if going away (relatives generally prefer we don't turn up with pets as well as everything else!). Last summer we had a similar issue and used a free pet sitting service which might be helpful, www.trustedhousesitters.com where you can choose your own pet sitter and most of them don't charge, particularly good when all the other costs of looking after dogs are escalating. We found a retired police handler and his wife to look after our labradors which worked well - they were happy to have a break at our cottage Cornwall in return. Anyway, merry Christmas, and now off to the pet shop to buy some turkey dog treats.

 

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