Pets for cuddles, and confiding in
Millions of dog and cat owners prefer cuddling their pets to their children or loved ones when feeling down, a new survey has claimed.
And a quarter (24%) treat their animals more like a child, according to the findings of the poll.
The study of 1,124 pet owners was carried out by Opinion Matters last month on behalf of www.mysocialpetwork.co.uk.
One in five owners said they rearranged their social plans because of their pets and one in 10 had taken their animals along to special occasions such as christenings and weddings, it found.
A further 7% of owners had cancelled a date to be with their pets, while 4% admitted taking sick leave from work to spend time with them.
But some owners seek more than just companionship, with 50% saying they would rather hug their pet than a child, parent or sibling when feeling down and 15% saying they can "talk to" and "confide in" their animals.
Owners also said they like to share their pets' lives on social networking sites, with one in five regularly using Facebook and Twitter to post pictures, videos and comments.
TV vet and pet expert Emma Milne said: "It is no secret that we are a nation of pet lovers but it is overwhelming to see just how far people in the UK go to make their animals an integral part of their day-to-day life.
"As a vet and animal welfare spokesperson, it is extremely heartening to see the lengths that people go to ensuring that our pets are well cared-for and looked-after.
"Everyone must be aware of the responsibility they are taking on when they choose to own any pet - whether that be a dog, cat, guinea pig or fish - and the results of the census shows that the majority of pet owners in the UK are doing a fantastic job in providing their pet a healthy and happy life by putting their pets first."