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Yappy dogs, moody cats… why lockdown owners are full of ‘pet regret’

Animal behaviourists and charities are warning of a surge in lockdown pet regret as owners struggle to cope with pets bought during the last year.

“We have a lot of new, very inexperienced owners – people who either haven’t had pets before or had them in childhood,” said Linda Cantle from Wood Green, The Animals Charity. She said Wood Green’s free pet behaviour helpline now receives 66% more calls each month, on average, than it did last June.

“They expect pets are going to come into their lives and it will be wonderful and they’ll all live happily ever after. But the reality is it can be difficult.”

A survey of more than 2,000 pet owners by insurer Petplan found that nearly half (46%) of people aged 18 to 34 regret their decision to get a pet during lockdown, and a third (32%) of people aged 35 to 54 feel the same. The most regretted pet was a rabbit.

“Rabbits are often seen as a starter pet,” said Cantle. “But actually rabbits aren’t particularly sociable with children, for example – generally, they don’t like being picked up.” They will show this by scooting away in fear or kicking out with their powerful legs. “That results in people not wanting to handle or even care for them.”

Rabbits are high-maintenance pets, who defecate 200 to 300 times a day – and need both a companion and a large run or they’ll start to get depressed, Cantle said. “A depressed rabbit will become very quiet, eat less and generally spend lots of time in their sleeping area, hiding.” Twice as many rabbit owners have called on the charity for advice and assistance this year, compared with last year.

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