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Pet Owners Spending £78 million More on Energy Bills

23 November 2015

UK - Worried pet owners spend £78 million extra a year on gas and electricity when they turn on the heating and TVs or radios because of concerns their cats and dogs will feel cold, stressed or alone while they are not at home.

Research by the Energy Saving Trust shows two in five (43 per cent) pet owners admit to leaving the heating on during the day to keep their pets warm, while a quarter (26 per cent) turn on the radio and more than one in ten (15 per cent) leave the TV on to keep them company.

More than half (53 per cent) of dog owners, worried their pet will feel cold when they’re not around, decide to leave the heating on when they go out – compared to 47 per cent of cat owners. But leaving the heating on all day for your pet could add up to £140 a year to your energy bills.

Philip Sellwood, Chief Executive at Energy Saving Trust, said: “We do understand Brits love their pets so we’re not about to start asking people to switch things off. We just want to make sure that everyone is aware of the facts so they can heat their home comfortably and affordably.

“These creature comforts do come with a cost and heating represents the greater portion of this expense. On average we spend more than half of our energy bills on heating, so to spend more money when we are not there for pets that have fur coats is not essential.

“We are urging householders to programme their heating to reduce energy use and save money. Smart thermostats provide the option to control the temperature at home while you’re not there using a smartphone app, so if plans change and you will be home later than expected you needn’t waste any money on heating.”

Rosie Barclay, chairwoman of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors, said: “Our pets have different needs when it comes to staying warm and comfortable, but people are often tempted to humanise their pets, thinking they enjoy the same things us.

“Dogs and cats by and large are designed for the outdoors and don’t necessarily need the heating left on for them. It’s far better to let the temperature reduce gradually when you head off to work, then gradually increase when you get back. You can do this quite easily by programming your heating.

“Even something like leaving the television on when you go out can actually trigger separation anxiety and stress for your pet. This is because our pets are clever and associate switching on the TV or radio as an indication they are about to be left on their own and not receive your attention. It’s far better to leave your pet with a play toy with a treat hidden inside, or even hide some treats around the house, for example in a cardboard box full of scrunched up paper.

“But if that’s not an option you could give them a t-shirt you slept in and it will have your smell on it. This will likely give them far more comfort than any programme on television or the radio.”

She added: “If owners are worried about their pets’ behaviour when left alone, they can contact their vet who if necessary will refer them to a qualified animal behaviourist.”

Ross Allan, spokesperson for British Small Animal Veterinary Association, says: “As pet owners we have a legal responsibility to ensure our pet’s welfare needs are met, so the condition of their living environment is vitally important. If you have any questions about what’s best for your pet, talk to your vet; he or she will help you to make sure your companion stays comfy, whilst not hiking up your energy bills unnecessarily.”

He added it was important to understand that most animals shouldn’t be left alone for extended periods of time, dogs in particular.

Almost half (46 per cent) of people surveyed have a favourite channel for their pet to watch, with the BBC (14 per cent) and ITV (13 per cent) channels ranking high in the nation’s favourites – and now their pet’s too.

The research also found that 22 per cent of dog owners admit they regularly leave on the TV while 38 per cent switch on the radio to keep their pet company. Of those who leave a TV on for their pet, 71 per cent choose to leave on a large, high-energy consumption appliance with 44 per cent leaving it on for between one and four hours a day.

More than a third of pet owners (38 per cent) and 53 per cent of dog owners admit to even leaving the lights on for their pets when they are out. In the UK the electricity used to keep pets entertained is enough to light 56,000 homes for a full year.

 

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