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Pets replace kids in nation’s affections

THE UK’S 20 and 30-somethings are increasingly putting off having children and turning their beloved pets into surrogate kids writes Nick Mays.

New statistics from the Norwich Union insurance company reveal that our dogs and cats are becoming substitute children – with many being given the latest trendy baby names.

Gone are the days of Rover or Fido – and instead 13 of the 20 most popular dog’s names also feature in the top 20 of the latest baby names list, including Jack, Sam, Charlie and Meg.
As for cats, 15 of the top 20 most popular feline names are also in the nation’s top 20 favourite baby names – with Chloe, Oliver, Alfie and Thomas topping the list.

There is one glaring exception, however. Tigger tops the list of cat names, but is strangely absent from the list of the 100 most popular names bestowed on new human beings over the past five years. So is Simba, sitting at No 10 in the feline poll. But it’s probably only a question of time before Posh and Becks name their next child Tigger or Simba…

The most popular names for dogs are, in order: Molly, Max, Charlie, Holly, Jack, Ben, Jake, Rosie, Buster, Meg, Oscar, Lucy, Sam, Jess, Alfie, Millie, Sophie, Harry, Oliver and Benjamin.
Top names for cats are: Tigger, Oscar, Charlie, Max, Harry, Chloe, Sophie, Molly, Alfie, Simba, George, Billy, Jack, Ellie, Tom, Jess, Sam, Katie, Mia and Holly.

The findings also show that we are naming ourselves. We are ‘mummy’ and ‘daddy’ to our furry ‘babies’. Furthermore, we proudly tell friends about our pet’s latest achievements and make sure we leave the lights and television on to keep them company when we’re out.

Isabel Baumber, niche development manager for Norwich Union, said: "While the UK’s birth rate has been falling over the past decade, nearly half the population now owns a pet – and the cat population has significantly risen since 1994 overtaking dogs as the number one choice of companion. This is partly down to changing lifestyles - more one-person households and a greater focus on career."

Households across the UK are spending around £3.5 billion a year cosseting their cats and dogs - showering them with brightly-coloured gifts and holding birthday parties in their honour. Norwich Union’s research reveals that one in ten pets get Christmas and birthday presents - gifts include doggie perfume, embroidered cushions, designer collars and christening gowns.

Even the treatments we expect from our vets are changing. Instead of worming tablets and flea collars, we want alternative therapies such as homeopathy and osteopathy available to our pets.

It looks like some pet owners even decorate with their pets in mind. A contestant on last Monday’s edition of the BBC TV programme ‘Changing Rooms’; expressed a desire for her living room to be decorated with a Golden Retriever theme, in honour of her own Golden, the lusciously russet coloured ‘Bailey’. Her friends making up the decorating team obliged, with copper leaf trim on the walls, ‘doggy brown and beige’ soft furnishings and a framed dog lead piece of abstract art.

Bailey, meanwhile, was much more content to sit on (or rather in) one of the full paint pots in a classic out-take moment at the close of the show. Maybe he thought he could do a better job himself? Then again, maybe he could…