By Zoë Keown
SCOTTISH women are substituting children in favour of pets, a new study has revealed.
Up to 77 per-cent of Scottish women are choosing to acquire pets for companionship around the home, a survey by insurer Petplan found.
Three in four buy their pets presents for birthdays and Christmas, and up to a quarter have adjusted their home especially for their pet.
But a psychologist called the findings “a bit silly and a bit sad.”
While the statistics may seem surreal, positivity can be drawn from them according to Dr Deborah Wells, a senior psychology lecturer at Queens University in Belfast.
She said: “For some owners, notably women, pets can provide a useful training ground for ‘motherhood’, in some cases helping to shape important decisions on whether or not children are to be a part of their future.
“Dogs and cats can offer their owners many of the benefits frequently provided by children, including love and affection, companionship and happiness.”
For others, pets can serve as a child ‘substitute,’ offering people who choose not to have children, or those who can’t conceive, an outlet for emotional attachment and nurturing behaviour.”
The survey, which questioned over 10,000 pet owners across the UK, also shows that up to three out of four owners have suffered symptoms of pet-related troubles normally associated with children.
Taking maternal instincts to a new level, the survey suggested three out of four women feel guilty for leaving their pets alone, or in pet care, when at work.
Alison Andrew of Petplan said: “As a nation we’re becoming increasingly petcentric, and every day we see the amazing lengths that owners go to for their pets, and the level of worry that can go with it.”
Alongside showering their pets with gifts, 82 per-cent of pet owners also admitted to feeding their pets’ human food.
“Silly and sad”
Behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings warned of the dangers of the pet-human relationship.
She said: “You’ve got to allow an animal a certain amount of independence, as much as you would a child, and there is that temptation for a lot of people to go that step too far.
“Humanising them in that way because they’ve become a baby substitute is probably slippery ground because it becomes a bit silly and a bit sad.
“There’s a fine line between welcoming an animal’s unconditional love and companionship and turning it into a freak show because you don’t recognise where to draw the line.
“It’s more acceptable now to have children later, but you nevertheless have that normal hormonal surge and that has to come out in some way.
“These women are literally replacing or appeasing those hormones by getting animals.
“It’s an outlet for the hormones that are within us all.”