Who doesn’t vaccinate their pets, and why not? A recent survey holds the answer

Who doesn’t vaccinate their pets, and why not? A recent survey holds the answer

Whether you own a cat, dog or rabbit, caring for their health means doing everything reasonably possible to prevent them from getting sick in the first place, as well as of course providing appropriate care for them if they do.

One of the best and most obvious ways to do this is to ensure that your pet is vaccinated, and kept up to date with their booster shots throughout their life too, and this is a core tenet of responsible pet ownership.

However, not everyone in the UK is as conscientious as they should about having their pets vaccinated in the first place, and some others that do are likely to let boosters fall by the wayside as their pets age too.

But what sort of pet owner does this, and why? Well, a recent large-scale survey of pet owners undertaken by the PDSA holds the answers.

Read on to find out more about what sort of pet owners don’t have their pets vaccinated, and the reasons they give for this.

What sort of pet owners don’t vaccinate their pets?

The most obvious answer to this might seem to be “irresponsible ones,” and this is of course, not untrue; however, it is not necessarily the full picture either. It is important to get to the bottom of why people choose not to vaccinate instead of just writing them off as irresponsible pet owners, in order to incentivise vaccination and improve uptake levels.

There are a huge range of factors to consider here, such as a lack of knowledge, a lack of money, forgetfulness, and even pseudoscientific beliefs in highly questionable movements with no grounding in science such as so-called “ani-vaccers.”

The PDSA survey incorporated answers from a total number of 5,036 UK pet owners, each of whom owned a cat, dog or rabbit (or more than one pet) to get their views on a wide range of things, including vaccination. The survey asked detailed questions about individual owner’s vaccination protocols to reveal a snapshot of the general state of play in the UK. You can check out the full survey results here.

Below, check out how the survey’s results can answer much more clearly the question of what sort of pet owners are less likely than others to vaccinate their pets, based on their demographics!

What type of pet owners are least likely to undertake initial vaccinations for their pets?

When it came to the breakdown of pet owners undertaking primary courses of vaccinations for their pets (this means having their pets given their very first ever set of vaccinations, usually performed on young animals) here are the results:

Age breakdown

People over the age of 65 were least likely to have their pets vaccinated, with just 62% taking care of this.

63% of people aged 55-64 vaccinate, 67% of people aged 45-54 vaccinate, and 65% of people aged 35-44 vaccinate.

The most responsible age group for vaccinating is the 18-24 age range, of which 75% of pet owners vaccinate!

Education level

The more highly educated the pet owner, the more likely they were to vaccinate too.

70% of degree holders vaccinate, falling to 57% of people with no formal qualifications at all.

Income level

Does money play a part in the decision to vaccinate or not? Definitely. 70% of people with a household income above £50,000 vaccinate, falling to 62% of people with a household income of under £25,000.

Pedigrees or mutts?

The owners of pedigree pets are more likely to vaccinate than the owners of cross breeds or mongrels too! 73% of pedigree pet owners vaccinate, compared to 67% of non-pedigree pet owners.

What type of pet owners are least likely to keep up with their pet’s booster shots?

The survey’s findings in terms of what type of pet owners don’t keep up with their pet’s booster shots are very interesting too, not least because they don’t mirror those for the initial vaccinations as closely as you might expect!

Age breakdown

The age bracket least likely to keep boosters up to date is the 25-34 years olds, with just 63% having boosters.

18-24 year olds come next at 64%, then 35-44 year olds at 65%. 55-64 year olds (72%) and those aged 65 plus (74%) are those most likely to have boosters, which is the direct opposite of the survey’s findings for initial vaccination courses.

Education level

The education level stats fall more in line with the initial vaccination course findings; 72% of owners with a degree have booster shots, falling to 62% with no formal qualifications.

Income level

Once more, those with household incomes above £50,000 were more likely to have boosters – 76%. Only 58% of those with household incomes below £25,000 have boosters.

Pedigrees or mutts?

Again, owners of pedigree cats and dogs were more likely to have boosters than owners of non-pedigrees.

What reasons did non-vaccinating pet owners give for their choice?

The big question of course is why do people who don’t vaccinate or that don’t get their pet’s booster shots make this decision?

The answers were slightly different for dogs, cats and rabbits respectively, so we’ve listed the top reasons given by the owners of each species separately.

Why don’t some dog owners vaccinate their dogs?

  • 13% feel it is “unnecessary.”
  • 11% say it is “too expensive.”
  • 10% say their dogs find the whole process too stressful.
  • 10% just haven’t got around to it.

Why don’t some cat owners vaccinate their cats?

  • 21% say it is too expensive.
  • 19% say it is because their cat doesn’t come into contact with other animals.
  • 18% say it is not necessary.

Why don’t some rabbit owners vaccinate their rabbits?

  • 30% say that their rabbit(s) do not come into contact with other animals.
  • 15% say it is not necessary.
  • 13% say it is too expensive.


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