British pet-lovers now think nothing of kissing the dog goodbye before leaving home, sharing a bath with their pet – and facetiming the cat, according to a study.

Researchers found a large percentage of pet owners are going out of their way to do things for their animals that some may consider loopy as they turn to them for comfort and company amid the stresses and strains of modern life.

It also emerged nearly a fifth of cat owners get up to serve breakfast at 4am, while another 40 per cent take their canine companion to bed with them at night.

Others admitted they have asked a friend or relative to call them so they can hear their cat’s purr while at work.

Commissioned by Lily’s Kitchen pet food, the poll of 2,000 dog and cat owners also found a third have let their pet into the toilet at the same time as them or shared a BATH with their pet, while a quarter have confided with their animals about their personal problems.

And 66 per cent believe this behaviour is totally normal – with nine in 10 owners saying they ‘don’t care’ what people think of their relationships with their animals.

Commenting on the research, Dr Deborah Wells, an animal psychologist based at Queen’s University of Belfast said:

“This research highlights the intensity of owners’ attachments to their dogs and cats and the lengths some people go to to ensure their pets’ needs are not only catered for, but, in many cases, exceeded.

“The acceptance by wider society that our pets are an integral part of the family unit has made it easier to indulge in our dogs and cats, enabling us to do things with our pets such as taking them out to dinner that several years ago simply wouldn’t have been possible.

“As a social species, we are programmed to seek out relationships with others, human or otherwise.   The infantile features common to dogs and cats, such as their big eyes and clumsy movements, can trigger care-giving behaviour.

“This may explain some of the findings of the research, notably why we treat dogs and cats in much the same way as our children; we have simply evolved to love and care for soft, helpless things, human or otherwise.”

The survey also found around a fifth of owners kiss their pet on the lips and 15 per cent have taken time off work because their cat or dog was poorly.

Others have let their animals choose what to watch on TV and have read books to them, while a quarter think nothing of taking their dog to the pub with them.

Thirty-four per cent refer to themselves as their pet’s mummy or daddy and three in 10 sign their animal’s name in birthday cards.

Amid this, the research, carried out by OnePoll for Lily’s Kitchen, found a third admit other people find their close relationship with their animals ‘odd’.

However 85 per cent believe only other pet owners can really understand the bond between a person and a pet.

More than six in 10 admit they are closer to their pet than they are to some of their family members, while around a fifth have been told they are too close to their animal.

Ninety-six per cent of those polled are in no doubt that their pet is a member of the family and nine in 10 say they are irreplaceable.

Henrietta Morrison, CEO and founder of Lily’s Kitchen said: “Brits are renowned for being a nation of pet lovers and this research reinforces just how much our pets are family members and such an integral part of our lives.

“It lifts the lid on what some might perceive to be crazy or loopy behaviour, but what pet parents will relate to and know stems from love.”

The research was commissioned to coincide with the pet food company’s first ever advertising campaign, ‘It’s not loopy, it’s love’ which is a playful celebration of all the things we do out of love for our pets.

It highlights family behaviours only pet owners understand, from eating Sunday lunch together and choosing only dog friendly restaurants, to being slaves to our cats, whether that’s serving breakfast at 4am or sacrificing our furniture for theirs.

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