Millions of dog and cat owners prefer cuddling their pets to their children or loved ones when feeling down, a new survey claims.
A quarter (24 per cent) treat their animals more like a child, according to the findings of the poll.
The study of 1,124 pet owners was carried out last month on behalf of www.mysocialpetwork.co.uk.
One in five owners said they rearranged their social plans because of their pets and one in 10 had taken their animals along to christenings and weddings, it found.
A further seven per cent of owners had cancelled a date to be with their pets, while four per cent admitted taking sick leave from work to spend time with them.
But some go further, with 50 per cent saying they would rather hug their pet than a child, parent or sibling when feeling down and 15 per cent saying they can “talk to” and “confide in” their animals. Owners also said they like to share their pets’ lives on social-networking sites.
TV vet and pet expert Emma Milne said: “As a vet and animal welfare spokesperson, it is extremely heartening to see the lengths that people go to ensuring that our pets are well cared-for and looked-after.
“Everyone must be aware of the responsibility they are taking on when they choose to own any pet – whether that be a dog, cat, guinea pig or fish – and the results of the census shows that the majority of pet owners in the UK are doing a fantastic job in providing their pet a healthy and happy life by putting their pets first.”
Cat Golden, of My Social Petwork, described as Facebook for pets, said: “The census findings have firmly cemented the fact that not only do we go the extra mile for our pets, we love sharing their exploits online for the world to see.”