Six ways to stop your pampered pet taking a huge bite out of your budget
Do you leave the TV and heating on for your dog or cat? Chris Packham explains to Luke Rix-Standing how we can keep them cosy while being mindful of costs
Everyone knows there are overheads to owning pets, but does that have to include increasing your energy bills?
Nearly three-quarters of British pet owners say they sometimes leave the heating on for their animals when they go out - and many keep their homes as warm for their pets as they would for themselves.
A survey by energy company E.ON found that a third of pet owners also leave a light on for their beloved pooch or cat, and around a quarter treat their pampered pets to some TV and radio while home alone (their favourite channels are apparently BBC1 and Radio 2).
Nearly half of the animal-lovers surveyed admit that spoiling their pets causes conflict in their home - and these habits can certainly use up a lot of extra energy too. So, what's the solution?
E.ON has teamed up with naturalist, TV presenter and all-round pet lover Chris Packham to offer his top tips on keeping beloved animals safe and comfortable - without wasting energy.
"As a nation of animal lovers, keeping our pets happy is a top priority for many Brits," says Packham. "And making sure your home is snug is one quick way to do so. With some small, simple changes, you can save money, lessen your impact on the planet and keep your all-important pet happy."
Here, Packham shares six top tips for keeping pets cosy while being mindful of those energy bills...
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1. A well-positioned bed
"Think about where you put your pet's bed. You don't need so much heating if your pet has a cosy place of their own.
"Heat rises, so unless you've got underfloor heating, the floor is cooler and a more susceptible to draughts.
"Get down to your pet's level - on your knees - and it might feel like a whole different place in the house.
"How does it feel? Is it draughty or cosy?
"Choose an appropriate bed and make sure it's in an appropriate place - not in a draught and not in the sun when it's beating through the window and might fry them.
"Just think about the reasonable, simple things."
2. A designated pet room
"You don't need to heat the whole house to keep your pet warm.
"If you're out all day, pick a snug room that's easy to clean if you've got a pet that moults. Make sure it's not too hot or too cold - keep a radiator on in their cosy corner - perhaps with access to the outside of the house if you've got cats and cat flaps. And make sure there's food and water within reach, of course.
"Personally, I would never justify heating my entire house to keep one small dog happy - that's insane. Even if I'm in the house, we usually have just one room heated. Put a pet bed in there - I can sit there and work - and it cuts cost to the wallet and to the planet."
3. Tech up, power down
"Take advantage of modern technology. Smart meters let you see where the power is going and what you are paying for it.
"I've got one and they're remarkably accurate. They do retrain you - they virtually shout at you if you put the washing machine and the spin dryer on at the same time.
"A smart thermostat allows you to control the temperature all over your house and monitor your heating wherever you are using your smartphone.
"So, if you've got a pet in one room, you can heat only that room at exactly the right temperature. You can programme it too and it uses GPS to sense where you are, so when you're nearly home it can warm up the rest of the house as you arrive.
"We use modern technology in so many ways, but for energy management in the home, I don't think the uptake is rapid enough.
"Over the course of the year, you can easily save about £200 on your bill."
4. Is the TV for you or them?
"Does a pet really need the TV? I think you have to look at it on a case-by-case basis. I get sent lots of videos of cats watching Springwatch and dogs watching other dogs on television. None of my poodles have ever watched TV and it's easy to see whether your pet is responding or not.
"If they aren't, turn it off and let them get some peace and quiet."
5. A good hot dinner
"During winter, on cold days, food straight out of the fridge won't be very appetising.
"Warm your pet's meals up to ensure the food is at room temperature before feeding. This uses a bit of energy, but nothing like as much as heating the whole house."
6. Proper care versus pampering
"Work out the line between a well cared-for pet and a spoilt pet.
"You may have a roughty-toughty outdoorsy dog that leaps in freezing rivers and mud, but when you take them home, a cold, wet dog is not going to be happy.
"I got my dog a raincoat - they're inexpensive items.
"Always imagine how you would feel in their paws."
Chris is working with E.ON Energy to help people keep their pets warm and cosy, while being energy-efficient (eonenergy.com)