In the timeless battle of dogs v cats, pooches pipped pussy-cats to the post - to become the most popular pets for bored Brits in lockdown.

More than 1 in 10 of us rushed out to get a new pet between the months of March and August, more than half for the first time since they were a child, or the first time ever – according to stats from customer insight agency Consumer Intelligence.

40% of people got a dog, with cats trailing behind at 34%. Both outstripped other pets, with fish limping/swimming into third place - chosen by just 13% of new pet owners.

Small rodents came in next, brought by just 5% of people, with common companions guinea pigs and rabbits also sharing 5th place just behind them. More unusual pet purchases included chickens, spiders and bearded dragons - and a random hedgehog that had moved in with a family in the West Midlands.

More than a quarter of Brits desperate to entertain children at home said they’d got their pet for the kids, with 30% saying they’d always wanted one, and the long months at home was simply their chance to do it.

Half of Brits say the experience of having a new Covid pet has been brilliant, with another 39% saying it’s been good overall, and only 12% admitting to mixed or negative experiences.

Ian Hughes, Chief Executive at Consumer Intelligence, said: “The really good news here is that pets are clearly not just for lockdown – they’ve been embedded into family life and have had a positive influence on their new owners. Our survey found 64% of people found their pet good company, 61% said it had increased their exercise or got them out and about, and 41% said it had reduced their anxiety.

“The less good news is how expensive pets are. After the initial purchase price, nearly a third of new pet owners are now are now spending between £26 and £50 each month on our new four-legged, or finned, friends – with most money going on food. As we move into a recession, that’s a lot for any family to take on.

“Perhaps as a result, we found that that only around half of people have insured their new pet. People seem to be aware of risk, with more worrying about illness (52%) than accidents (38%), but 41% didn’t see insurance as a necessity. That might make sense for fish and hamsters, but it looks like lots more people are putting it off. 32% said they planned to insure their pet but still hadn’t got round to it, and 27% said cost was a barrier, and they just couldn’t afford it.

“The danger is that Britain’s new wave of obviously much-loved pets are going to come with a new wave of vets bills owners could struggle to cover. With an average claim coming in at £793, and running into thousands for bigger injuries, lots of new owners simply aren’t going to be able to afford to get them the care they need, when they need it. It’s up to the insurance industry now to make sure they’re targeting Covid pet owners, and supporting them to understand their cover options.”

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