As the average child bearing age rises and marriage declines, women are turning to pets to hone their parenting skills, creating a phenomenon of pet parenting angst and WACs (Women with animal companions).

A new breed of mother is sweeping the nation as the average child bearing age rises and marriage declines. Women are turning to pets to hone their parenting skills, creating a phenomenon of pet parenting angst and WACs (Women with animal companions) along the way.

84% of women between the ages of 25 and 34 go to their pet for companionshipNew research from pet insurance provider Petplan has found that 84% of women between the ages of 25 and 34 go to their pet for companionship. Given this is prime child-rearing age, this raises questions about whether women are filling a gap by parenting pets.

More than 10,000 pet owners were surveyed and the results reveal “pet parenting” as a growing trend. Just like working parents, owners worry about leaving their pet alone when at work, and 75% of those experiencing “parenting angst” are women. So much so that they make a concerted effort to make sure their pet is not left alone for more than five hours a day – employing dog walkers and cat sitters to stem their concern (approaching 1 in 7).

When an 8 hour working day is the national norm and the average parent only spends 49 minutes a day with their children, this demonstrates considerable pet commitment.

Familiar compensation behaviour also applies to pet parents, and not just WACs. Both men and women are compensating for their separation guilt by feeding their pets human food treats with 82% of those surveyed admitting to feeding food such as cheese, crisps and cake. This diet change could account for why 17% of those surveyed admitted to being told their pet is overweight, a statistic following the growing trend of child obesity levels.

Dr Deborah Wells, an expert in the study of the psychology of the pet-human relationship, said: “Dogs and cats can offer their owners many of the benefits frequently provided by children, including companionship, entertainment and happiness. For some Initial results of the Petplan Pet Census reveal owners, notably women, pets can provide a useful training ground in ‘motherhood’, in some cases helping to shape important decisions on whether or not children are to be a part of their future. For others, pets can serve as a child substitute, offering people who choose not to have, or cannot conceive, children, an outlet for emotional attachment and nurturing behaviour.”

Women not only look to their furry friend for companionship but also treat them like they would a child, with nearly 70% buying them birthday and Christmas presents, 28% adapting their homes for their pet and 20% changing their holiday destinations to allow their pet to come along too.  

Petplan marketing manager Alison Andrew said: “This pet parenting theme is one of the most significant trends to come out of Petplan’s biggest body of research to date – the Petplan Pet Census – which looks into the realities of pet ownership. We see the amazing lengths that owners go to for their pets every day and the level of worry that goes with it.

“We want to use this research to truly understand modern pet ownership in the UK so that we can better provide help and guidance for our nation of pet lovers.”

This research forms part of the Petplan Pet Census that aims to be the largest body of pet research ever undertaken to document the picture of pet ownership in Britain. To be part of the Census, visit www.petraitgallery.co.uk/census

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