Pet death as traumatic as losing a relative or friend

04 March 2011

With one of the biggest events in the pet calendar, Crufts, just around the corner new research from The Co-operative Pet Insurance has revealed that nearly a third (30%)* of animal owners believe that the death of a pet can be as traumatic as losing a relative or friend.

Over a quarter of those polled believe that the death of their pet was as difficult emotionally as the death of a family member (28%), with over a third (34%) feeling the experience was on a level with the experience of the loss of a friend. A fifth (20%) of respondents equated the feeling at the time as comparable to the loss of an acquaintance or work colleague. And one in twenty (6%) of owners even admitted they found coming to terms with the death of their pet even more difficult than the death of family members or friends.

The survey also highlights that a dog really is man’s best friend, with dog owners most affected by the death of a pet, perhaps due to the strong bonds formed between dogs and their owners.

The research also uncovers that almost a half of pet owners who have suffered a bereavement of their pet mourned for over two months (44%), with 16% of those surveyed still mourning for their former animal companion over a year later.

The findings also show that pet owners have differing responses to the loss of their animal. Almost a third of owners (30%) who have suffered bereavement have quickly bought a new pet, primarily due to a love of animals and a need for companionship. However nearly three quarters of owners (70%) have been unable to take a new pet into their home immediately after bereavement, for a variety of reasons including the fact that they feel that their original pet can never be replaced (31%), or that the hurt is still too raw (32%)

Lee Mooney, Head of Pet Insurance at The Co-operative Insurance, said: “In today’s society, pets often have a central role in the household and our research clearly shows that their loss can have a significant effect on owners.

"People increasingly lean on their animals for emotional support, with animals providing a constant presence in the home, helping to alleviate anxiety and loneliness.

“The health of a pet is therefore extremely important and it is vital that people ensure that they have adequate pet insurance in place to ensure their pets are protected throughout the year, and to help provide peace of mind against any unforeseen veterinary costs” .

Dr Roger Mugford, Animal Psychologist, said: “The results of this study provide us with a telling insight into the depth of emotions which owners develop towards their pet. Other studies show that in the event of a house fire, saving the pet is the most important priority. Social workers, doctors and Government need to appreciate that pet keeping is not some frivolous leisure pursuit; rather it is an important part of our culture.

"With modern life being increasingly faster paced, with work commitments often taking precedent, we are living increasingly insular lives with only a small social circle of friends and a lessening sense of community. Therefore there has been a societal shift and pets are often both an emotional and physical crutch for their human owners, whereas historically animals were primarily used in the work environment.

“There seems to be a fundamental need for animal companionship, which works because our pets do not answer back, do not criticise, they make us laugh and give us unconditional love - pets are great anxiety relievers and without them, many people feel lost.

"The relationship between pets and their people is essentially the same as that between a parent and a child and the generosity and kindness of people towards their animals seems to grow and grow with each generation of pet keepers."


Notes to Editors

*Research conducted by questioning 3.000 UK dog and cat owners. Research carried out in January 2011.

About Dr. Roger Mugford

Dr. Roger Mugford (BSc, PhD) is the UK's leading animal behaviourist and expert witness in animal related legal issues. He founded the Animal Behaviour Centre in 1979 and later created the Company of Animals, which develops and produces products which improve the wellbeing of pets.


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About The Co-operative Financial Services

The Co-operative Financial Services (CFS) is part of The Co-operative Group, which is the world’s largest consumer co-operative with around five million members, over £14 billion turnover, and core business interests in financial services, food, travel, pharmacy and funeral care. The Co-operative Group has over 5,000 retail trading outlets.

Following the merger with Britannia Building Society on 1 August 2009, the new organisation is one of the largest and well diversified mutual businesses operating in both retail and corporate markets.

As part of The Co-operative Group, the new business is characterised by its unique ethical and member reward policies and very high levels of customer advocacy.

The combined business has £70 billion in assets, 12,000 staff and nine million customers. It has over 300 high street branches, 20 corporate banking centres and a major presence in Leek , London, Manchester, Plymouth, Skelmersdale and Stockport.

It is the only mutual organisation that enables its members to earn financial rewards for the products they hold, as well as giving them the opportunity to have a say in how the business is run.