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Irish pet owners step away from social media for a better life with their pets

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  • Irish people still unaware of the health benefits of pets:
  • Three quarters (76%) of Irish adults don’t know that dogs can detect cancer
  • One third of adults (34%) don’t know that dogs can alert owners to seizures
  • Half of  pet owners (51%) say pets have a positive effect on their mental health
  • Pets are helping Irish people switch off: 
  • Over two thirds (68%) of 16-24 year olds shun social media saying pets give them a better social life
  • Nearly three quarters (72%) don’t believe that social media could replace the companionship of their pet
  • The need for companionship is strongest among Irish adults; 
  • No room at the inn – 14% of Irish people don’t have pets as their landlords forbid it; 
  • Lack of space in the capital city results in a quarter of Dubliners (24%) not having a pet because they don’t have a garden.

Ireland is a nation of pet lovers but many of us still don’t realise the benefits of owning a pet, some of which can be lifesaving. A recent ‘Better with Pets’ meta-research review and a survey commissioned by Purina, Nestlé’s pet food company, reveal the benefits pets bring to society.

The survey revealed that  over three quarters of the survey group (76%) said they didn’t know that dogs can detect the early signs of cancer, whilst one third (34%) of Irish adults surveyed remain unaware that dogs can alert their owners to potential seizures. One fifth (20%) of Irish people don’t realise dogs can help autistic children. 

Over two thirds (70%) of Irish pet owners say that owning a pet has improved their health and wellbeing; with four in ten (43%) of the nation’s pet owners saying that their pet makes them feel happier and improves their mood.

Companionship (71%) for Irish pet owners is the overwhelming reason those surveyed have a pet; followed by the need to make their home and family  feel more safe and secure (27%), with the urge to make themselves and their children happy and more active (27% and 20% respectively). 

The urge for companionship doesn’t wane as Irish people get older, with over half (51%) of adult respondents admitting they would like their pet to be able to come with them to a care home or hospice.

The survey also reveals that pets can have another big impact on society – including making us step away from social media,  hearteningly, over seven in ten (72%) of Irish pet owners don’t believe that social media could replace the companionship they have with a pet. 

Pet owners admit that  owning  a pet(s) is better for their social life than social media networks (71%) with the digital generations preferring their pets – 68% of 16-24 year olds prefer time away from social media with their pet, this rises even to three quarters (77%) of the 25-34 year old millennial category.

Professor Daniel Mills, professor of veterinary behavioural medicine at the University of Lincoln, who spoke at Purina’s first ever Better with Pets European Forum recently said that pet ownership can help save healthcare systems millions of euros per year (e.g.  NHS £2.5 billion a year). 

In Ireland, the consensus among the adult population is that they believe  having a pet has impacted their spending on healthcare costs – as many as one quarter (24%) believe that owning a pet has helped save them up to €500 per year.

Animal assisted activities and therapy (AAT), where animals are involved as a way of improving social, emotional and cognitive function, and supporting recovery and rehabilitation, can play an important role in this cost saving. In fact, over four in ten  (43%) Irish people recognise the benefits of pets in therapy and recovery with 43% of respondents revealed that they would consider AAT,  but less than 1% (0.3%) surveyed have taken part in any form of AAT in the past.

“While these numbers are not perfect, there is definitely something there that the public health and pet care community needs to pay attention to. The benefits of responsible pet ownership are clear. I’ve seen pets have dramatic effects on autistic children. It is important that we understand the subtleties and nuances of how people and pets work together - this is vitally important for the well-being of both, and has the potential to make a massive difference to public health.  However, it is crucial that the research industry is given an opportunity to analyse this further and not have their evidence ignored as being at an early stage,” says Professor Mills.

Top five benefits that pets bring to Irish society that the general public are unaware of:

1. 81% didn’t believe or didn’t know that dogs can be trained to load a dishwasher.

2. Half (51%) of Irish adults didn’t know that the job satisfaction can be higher when you bring your dog to work.

3. 24% were unaware that pets can decrease the risk of childhood anxiety and boost a child’s confidence.

4. Almost half (48%) of Irish adults did not know that pets can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

5. One third of adults (34%) cite that they didn’t know dogs can be trained to alert their owner before they have a seizure.

Although more than two thirds  own or have owned a pet in the past (70%) and are reaping the many benefits, many of us would like to share our homes with a four-legged friend but can’t.

Over one quarter (28%) of Irish people don’t own a pet because they can’t take it to work or their working hours would prevent them for caring for the pet properly; almost one fifth of Irish people (18%) would consider owning a cat or dog if they could take it to work.  

The lack of garden space in the capital is preventing some people from having a pet - 24% of Dubliners surveyed don’t have a pet because they don’t have a garden.

The difficulties of getting on the property ladder also provide a barrier to pet ownership too - more than one in ten (14%) live in accommodation where the landlord doesn’t permit a pet.  If barriers were removed, 40% of people would get a pet and reap the rewards.

Liesbeth Megens, Country Manager,  Purina Ireland  comments:

“We believe that society is stronger and healthier when pets are welcomed into it. It seems though that people don’t truly realise the many benefits of pet ownership and pet’s positive role on people and society can often be undervalued and a number of factors are affecting pets and pet owners more than ever.

"At Purina, we have recently launched a series of commitments which we believe will  help to create a world where people and pets can be better together”. 

Purina has announced its own ‘Purina in Society Commitments’ - the company’s ten initiatives to help create a world where people and pets can be better together, which is the first of its kind in the industry. 

These ten commitments are measurable actions, which include promoting responsible pet ownership; pet adoption; pets in the workplace, and leading the way in pet health research.

Get involved in the conversation at #Wearebetterwithpets. For more information, please visit


Notes to the editors:

1. To see a summary of Purina’s ‘Better with Pets’ meta-research review paper, which compiles the health benefits that pets bring to society from existing scientific evidence, please contact [email protected]

2. The survey for USP Content on behalf of Purina was carried out between: 4th March 2016 and 9th March 2016
Sample: 724 adults from the Republic of Ireland, with 164 cat owners and 232 dog owners, and 414 adults who don’t own a cat or a dog

3. The full list of Purina’s PinS commitments are as follows:

1. Lead the industry in pet nutrition and health research;
2. Deliver accessible product information and pet care advice;
3. Remove artificial colours from our products;
4. Create job opportunities for young people below 30 years at Nestlé Purina in Europe;
5. Implement responsible sourcing;
6. Improve the environmental performance of our packaging;
7. Promote pet adoption through collaboration and partnerships;
8. Help reduce the risk of pet obesity through collaborative prevention programmes;
9. Promote pets in the workplace;

About Purina

PURINA® is committed to helping pets live longer, happier and healthier lives through proper nutrition and care. For over 85 years, Purina has been one of the pioneers in providing safe, palatable and nutritious products made to the highest standards of quality and safety.

The Purina brand portfolio includes many of the UK’s best known and best-loved pet foods including Felix®, Bakers®, Purina ONE ®, Bonio®, Gourmet®, Go-Cat®, Pro Plan®, Beta® and Winalot®.

For more information visit