Celebrities help UK dogs steal a march over cats

Mon Apr 4, 2011 8:40am EDT
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LONDON (Reuters) - The number of British households with dogs has overtaken those with cats, according to a survey, with smaller breeds becoming more popular, possibly because of their association with celebrities.

"The popularity of small and very small dogs is often perceived as a fashion trend, influenced by celebrity "handbag' dogs," said the survey by Mintel.

Another factor could be the appeal of canine couture with top designers including Vivienne Westwood and Ben de Lisi creating dog outfits, it added.

Other reasons for the increase could be the cost of keeping a larger dog, and the space required to do so.

"Smaller dogs are typically more suited to smaller living spaces, require less exercise, cost less to feed, insure and medicate, have longer lifespans and are arguably better suited to indoor lifestyles and traveling," Mintel said.

"Therefore for many pet owners it is how pets can fit into their lifestyle as opposed to the other way around."

In terms of absolute numbers, there are more cats than dogs in Britain, at 8.6 million and 8.3 million respectively, because of the tendency of cat owners to have more than one, according to figures from the Pet Food Manufacturers' Association.

But nearly a quarter of UK households (22.9 percent) had a dog last year, a rise of 2.1 percent in the last five years, and a whisker ahead of cats, at 22.7 percent.

The survey said owners are continuing to pamper their pets, despite the recession and noted that one third of dogs and a quarter of cats are considered overweight.

(Reporting by Stephen Addison; Editing by Paul Casciato)

<p>A man walks his dog past beach huts, in Brighton southern England March 7, 2011. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor</p>