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These Are the Biggest Things Pet Owners Constantly Worry About

You're definitely not the only one fretting about leaving your furry friend alone.

As a dog owner, I know that puppy mom guilt is so real. I feel terrible when my dog gives me the "disapproving corgi" face as I leave for the office, and when I check the nanny cam and see that he spends every minute while I'm away lying by the door awaiting my return, in spite of all of the toys I leave for his entertainment. I worry that even though I take him to the dog run every day that I'm depriving him of the active, outdoor lifestyle that his breed was designed for, and that he would be much happier if he lived on a farm in Wales and spent his days herding sheep and cattle like he's supposed to.

And, according to a new survey of 1,000 dog and cat owners by British insurance company Legal and General, I'm not alone in my concerns.

Fifty-three percent of owners say their dogs are left alone at home for more than four hours per day, and the majority of owners only feel guilty when their pet is left alone for seven hours or more. This contradicts the advice of vets and the annual PDSA [People's Dispensary for Sick Animals] report, which has previously found that leaving your dog at home for more than four hours per day increases their risk of feeling lonely, frustrated, or depressed.

Of the age groups, Millennials are the most likely to leave their dogs alone for seven hours or longer, and they are the most concerned about being judged by their vets. According to the survey, one in four dog owners worry their vet is judging how they care for their pets, and their concerns aren't just limited to how much time their canine BFFs spend alone at home. Forty percent of them don't realize their dog is overweight or obese, which is problematic, given that pet obesity is one of the leading causes of health issues for dogs.

The survey also found that the average dog walk lasts 40 minutes—which isn't enough for popular breeds like Australian Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, and Huskies—and 33 percent of dog owners feel guilty about their little buddy's lack of exercise. They also worry about variety, with 72 percent of owners saying they wish they could give their dogs more interesting walks. Eighty-two percent of these owners were Millennials, versus only 39 percent of Baby Boomers. As a 30-year-old, I definitely fall into the former group. I feel guilty about how often I end up just taking my curious pup around the same block over and over again after a long day at work, even though the way he actively stares out of the window when we're on a bus or car indicates he needs to interact with the world just as much as I do.

Cat owners aren't deprived of pet ownership guilt either. The survey found that one in five cat owners worry their vet judges them over pet care, and their greatest concerns are inadequate companionships (23 percent), poor grooming (16 percent), and lack of exercise (14 percent). One in three cat owners have even taken their furry friend on a walk with a leash or would be willing to do so, since cats aren't really designed to spend their entire day inside a house either. And only 30 percent of cat owners realize their cat is overweight.

The study also assessed some of the biggest behavioral problems faced by pet owners. Constantly begging for food was listed as number one for both dog owners (24 percent) and cat owners (29 percent), but excessive barking and aggression then take the lead for dog owners, whereas cat owners are much more likely to have to deal with damaging furniture, killing small animals, excessive meowing, and fighting with other cats.

pet owner survey
Legal and General

At the end of the day, there's no such thing as a perfect pet parent, especially when it comes to Millennials, whom the survey classifies as "time poor." I like to assuage my puppy mom guilt by knowing that even if my dog doesn't have the perfect lifestyle, our long walks and belly rub nights sure beat living in a shelter. But if you'd like to be a better pet owner, you should try to manage their weight and diet, give them plenty of play time and exercise, limit the hours they spend home alone, take them in for regular checkups with the vet, and get them groomed at least once a month.

And for more on how to be a great per owner, check out this vet's heartbreaking note about the hardest part of putting down pets.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more