Companions in Life: An Overview of the Most Popular Pets in UK

most popular pet

Pets are a big deal in the UK. I am a Brit and have always had pets growing up. Without question, more than the average. Growing up, all my friends had pets of some description, and my family did too.

I got my first pet when I was just a toddler, a hamster – as is the traditional way to start an animal lover journey. Since then, I’ve had cats, dogs, and rabbits.

Now, as a homeowner and father, I share my house with six guinea pigs, a cockerpoo puppy, and a tank full of tropical fish, frogs, shrimp, and snails. There is even talk of getting a lizard, such as a gecko or something similar.

Animals are amazing creatures, and pets really do make a house a home. The following collection of statistics regarding the most popular pets in the UK will certainly be eye-opening.

Top 10 Most Exciting Stats

UK Pets

In the UK, 12 million dogs reside in 31% of households, showing a decrease of 1 million from the previous year. Meanwhile, cat numbers have fallen to 11 million, down from 12 million in 2022, yet they remain in 26% of homes as the second most popular pet, as per UK Pet Food data.

Below are five amazing statistics about UK pets and pet owners.

As Per the Latest Stats of 2023, a Total of 38 Million Pets Live in UK Households

common pets

The UK boasts over 38 million household pets. The UK has a population of just 66 million, which means there are two household pets for every five people in the population!

57% of UK Households Own a Pet

most commonly owned pets

The results of a 2023 survey of pet owners by the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA) show that 16.2 million, which is approximately 57% of all UK homes, own a pet of some description.

Unsurprisingly, cats and dogs are the most popular pet choices. However, 26% of the British population owns fish.

Sadly, the survey did not discern between different types, but merely indoor tanks and outdoor ponds.

The Percentage of UK Households Owning a Pet Has Decreased from 62% in 2022 to 57% in 2023

most popular pet

In 2022, a report published by 1001CarpetCare revealed that UK pet ownership increased by 5% over the last three years, which now in 2023 has decreased.

One of the driving reasons behind this is likely the COVID-19 pandemic. With everybody confined to their homes, the idea of getting a pet for the company and, to be honest, something to do appealed to many.

Almost 53% of UK Adults Own a Pet

most popular pets in uk

This report takes the viewpoint of adults owning a pet rather than UK households owning a pet as a collective.

According to PFMA, 3.2 Million People in the UK Added a Four-Legged Pet to Their Family during the Pandemic

most popular pets

An article published by the BBC confirms that during the recent COVID-19 lockdown, 3.2 million British people bought a pet. Among new pet owners, 59% of them were aged less than 34 or under.

The article also confirms that the sudden surge in new pet owners led to shortages of core pet products such as pet food.

Animals Commonly Kept as Pets

Below are five interesting statistics about the animals that are the most popular pets.

1.4% of the UK Population Owns a Snake

most popular pet in the uk

A UKPetFood survey from 2023 found that approximately 1.4% of the British population owns a snake. Snakes account for almost 0.7 million pets in the UK.

Corn snakes are often the most popular first reptile pet, while Garter snakes are also relatively popular pets in British homes.

1 Million Domestic Fowls Are Kept as Pets in the UK

most popular pets uk

The pet food survey report suggested there are 1 million pet domestic fowls in the UK. An article published by NationalPetMonth revealed that chickens are becoming increasingly popular pets in the UK. As a result, there are now 750,000 recognized chicken keeps in the UK.

An ongoing scheme is in place that sees 60,000 ex-commercial chickens rescued from slaughter annually. These chickens are rehomed by members of the public who care for them until the end of their days.

If you’re looking for an interesting pet that differs from the norm but might also lay eggs for breakfast each week, then consider adopting a few rescued chickens.

The Bearded Lizard Is the Most Popular Pet Lizard in the UK

popular pets

1.6% of UK households have a pet lizard, among which bearded lizards are the most popular ones. According to a post on ReptileCenter, the Bearded Dragon is the most popular pet lizard in the UK. Reptiles like lizards are rapidly moving up the popularity ranks in the UK.

In fact, lizards are currently the eighth most popular pet across the British Isles.

As more pet owners choose to take on the responsibility of owning legal exotic pets such as lizards, they will become far more commonplace within family homes.

1.8% of the Households Own Guinea Pigs

uk most commonly owned pet

Figures revealed that 1.8% of UK homes own guinea pigs. That equated to just over 1 million guinea pigs.

Guinea pigs are common pets but can be somewhat difficult, especially given that they do not deal well with being alone. Guinea pigs require responsible ownership and should always be housed in pairs and, ideally, in same-sex groups.

The big disparity between the total number and overall household percentages is because guineas need to live in at least pairs, meaning there will always be more guinea pigs spread over fewer homes.

2.1% of UK Households Own Hamsters

most common pet

The same article also alluded to how the hamster has also become a popular pet. Approximately 2.1% of homes have a hamster as a pet. While there is a large percentage of homes with hamsters, there are actually only 900,000 pet hamsters.

What Are the Most Popular Pets

Below are nine mind-bending statistics related to the most popular pets in the UK.

most owned pets in uk

According to a post written by the UK pet food association PFMA, dogs are the most popular pets across the United Kingdom. There are approximately 10 million homes that have at least one dog. That is more than a third of all UK houses.

Many British people take their dog ownership very seriously. People will admit their dog has its own personality and treat them as a friend and part of the family. Companionship is one of the leading reasons why British people love dogs so much.

The Total Dog Population as Pets in the UK Is 12 Million

what is the most popular pet in the uk

As per PFMA’s report of 2023, there are 12 million dogs kept as pets across the UK. Dogs are the number one pet owners choose to bring into their homes. Cats are second on the list, while rabbits are the third most popular pet.

Interestingly, dogs account for 31% of households with a pet, while cats are found in 26% of British homes, and rabbits, in third place, are found in just 2.8% of households across the UK.

Strangely, the survey did not count fish in the listing but simply added them separately as either indoor or outdoor fish. However, fish would account for almost 26% of all UK homes and be placed second in any top ten pet lists.

Labrador Retriever Is the Most Common Pet (12%) Canine in the UK

most common pets

According to the leading UK pet insurance company PetPlan, the Labrador retriever is the most common dog breed kept as pets.

The Labrador retriever accounts for 12% of all pet dogs across the UK. The main reason behind the popularity of Labradors is their relaxed and easy-going nature.

61% of the Pet Owners in London Own a Cat

most popular pets in the world

The same PetPlan report revealed that 61% of pet owners in London own a cat. Furthermore, London is the only major area in the United Kingdom who have a higher preference for cats than dogs.

The heavy favoring of cats over dogs is possible due to the busy lifestyle and the fact that many cats are indoor cats or house cats.

26% of Households Own a Cat

most popular pet in the world

An article reported that cats account for 26% of UK pets. Cats are the second most popular pet after dogs. This means that 1 in 4 homes have at least one cat.

In 2022, 28% of UK households owned a cat, which increased by 3% since 2016 and 2% since 2020. But now, in 2023, it has again decreased by 2%.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which saw people going through lockdown, and for many, getting a pet served as a distraction and comfort during lonely times.

The Number of Pet Cats in the UK Is 11 Million

uk dog ownership

The same report confirmed that there are approximately 11 million cats kept as pets in the UK.

One interesting statistic that can be seen in the report is that while there are just 1 million fewer cats than dogs, it accounts for a 6% difference in the number of households.

From this, we can deduce that more homes are more likely to have multiple cats than dogs, which makes sense when you think about the difference in keeping the two species.

Rabbits Are Owned by 2.8% of the Households

the most popular pet in the world

The same report also confirmed that 2.8% of all UK homes have rabbits. There are a total of 1.5 million rabbits kept as pets in the UK.

Across the UK, rabbits are considered the classic starter pets, the ideal creature for young animal lovers to learn the points of responsible ownership. As a child, I had several rabbits, and they served to heighten my love of animals.

2.3% of the Households Own Indoor Birds

One final fact that is revealed by the same report is that almost 2.3% of UK homes have birds as a pet. In fact, indoor birds are the third most popular pet in the UK.

pet ownership statistics uk

The term indoor bird is somewhat ambiguous as it can cover everything from the standard canary to more exotic pets such as parrots or tropical corvids.

There Are 7 Million Indoor Fish in the UK

In a paper published by UKPetFood, it was revealed that there are over 7 million pet fish across the UK. This relates solely to indoor fish and accounts for around 15% of UK homes.

most loved animals

Strangely, this would place fish third on the top ten pets in the UK list, yet, for some reason, aquarium fish are not entered.

This is possibly due to the diverse species and breeds of fish, although the same could be argued for indoor birds.

most owned pets in uk

Pets as Family for Pet Owners

Below are six interesting facts about how pet owners consider pets as part of the family.

In 2020, 90% of UK Owners Felt Improvement in Their Mental Health Due to a Pet’s Presence

what are the most popular pets

An article published in the newspaper The Scotsman during the 2020 Covid lockdown confirmed that 90% of pet owners said that their pet had helped their mental health.

The lockdown was tough for a lot of people, and pet ownership became a saving grace for them as they battled loneliness and the adverse effects of prolonged isolation.

10–20% of UK Pet Owners Arrange Their Lives around Their Pets

most common pet uk

Between 10-20%1 of pet owners would willingly arrange their day-to-day lives around their pets’ needs.

Pets in the UK are often treated more like children than animals. The most popular pets are the ones that have a real sense of character and personality, yet to think that around 10-20% of people actually adjust their lives to suit their pets is crazy.

Surprisingly, 20% of Rabbit Owners (More than Cats and Dog Owners) Have Fit Their Lives around Their Pets

20% of Rabbit Owners & dogs in the uk

While many may assume this relates largely to dogs, you will be surprised to learn that animals most commonly the center of their owner’s worlds are Rabbits. Rabbit owners take pet ownership to the next level, as 1 in 5 admit they shape their lives around their pets.

most popular pets in uk

A UK Census Revealed 49% of the Owners Consider Pets Part of Their Family

The same PetPlan2 report further revealed that 49% of pet owners felt that their pets were part of the family.

This means that almost every other pet owner tries their best to fit their lives around their pets.

what is the most popular pet

However, they understand that pets require responsible ownership, and that means doing what is necessary even if their pet doesn’t agree. Just like with children.

37% of UK Owners Prioritize Their Pet Needs over Their Own

most popular pet in uk

PetPlan also revealed that over 1 in 3 pet owners placed their pets’ needs above their own. This extends to creating very specific housing for their pets and, in some cases, even dedicating entire rooms in their home to their pets.

15% of the Owners Think Their Pets Are the Most Important Part of Their Lives

The final and most alarming statistic from the same report is that 15% of pet-owning Brits feel that their pets are the most important thing in their lives and would do anything for them.

what is the most popular pet in the world

When pushed, this 15% explained that nothing was too much for their pets. No cost too high or extravagance too large.

It would be interesting to see the analytics behind this number and see how many had children living at home or who had already left.

uk most commonly owned pet

FAQs about Pets in the UK

Below are four frequently asked questions about pets in the UK.

What Are the Most Popular Cat Breeds?

The most popular cat breed in the UK is the British shorthair. Interestingly, the British shorthair has the longest history of record for cat breeds in the UK.

The top three most popular types of cat breeds are listed below:

  • British shorthairs
  • Bengal
  • Siamese cats

Which Pets Are the Most Inquisitive Animals?

Cats are, without a doubt, the most inquisitive animals that people own as pets. Siamese cats are often considered the most inquisitive and highly intelligent cat breeds. Siamese cats are strong-willed, and certainly, each has its own personality.

This also explains why they are the third most popular pet among cat breeds.

Should All Pets Be Kept in Same-Sex Groups?

No, not all animals need to be kept in same-sex groups. Certain animals, such as guinea pigs, are advised to be kept in single-sex groups.

However, when looking at cat or dog ownership, there are no strict requirements. In fact, in some animals, a male and female pairing can cause fewer problems than two of the same sex.

Just make sure you have them all spayed or neutered to prevent any unwanted litters.

What Are the Ten Most Popular Pets in the UK?

Below are the ten most popular pets in the UK.

  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Indoor bird species
  • Domestic fowl
  • Rabbits
  • Guinea pigs
  • Pigeons
  • Hamsters
  • Horses and Ponies
  • Tortoises and turtles

Wrap Up

These statistics on the most popular pets show that UK pets are spoiled. Owning a pet in the UK is about more than just having some great display animals that look nice and are largely ignored. Rather, pets play a huge role in our lives.

Whether it’s bringing home a puppy or feeding at least one cat from the neighborhood every mealtime, we Brits are crazy about animals.

It’s still surprising that the third most popular pet is indoor birds, and it really shocked me that domestic fowl are also included in the top ten.

However, when you look at the percentages, once you leave out cats and dogs, the numbers are very close together.


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Alexander Laybourne
Alex started writing from the moment he could hold a pen. What began as a way to pass time soon became a compulsion. It took several decades before Alex was able to leave the corporate world behind and embark on a real writing journey. Now, Alex writes full-time, and when he’s not working on an article, he’s knee-deep in writing fiction. An animal lover, Alex’s family, have all been involved in various animal welfare charities. His father works for a large national Cat charity in the UK, and Alex has regularly taken part in fundraising events for them through the years. Alex shares his life with his wife (to-be), children and stepchildren, a herd of guinea pigs, and numerous tropical fish, frogs and snails. The most recent addition to the family, Willow, a cockapoo puppy, has settled straight into family life and now controls who sits where on the sofa.

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