Dogs for company, cats from habit: more than half of Czech households own a pet

More than half of Czech households keep a pet, a new survey by the Focus research agency has found out. The most popular animals Czechs keep at home are – not surprisingly – dogs and cats, but the reasons for why people get either a canine or a feline companion are different.

Old habits die hard – and pet-keeping habits in the Czech Republic are very much alive and well. Every other Czech household has a pet – dogs, cats, aquarium fish and all kinds of birds are the most frequent ones.

Some 78 percent of those polled in a new survey by the Focus agency said they had a dog at home, compared to the 40 percent that keep a cat. These results put Czechs on a par with other nations of Central Europe. Blanka Franková is an analyst for the Focus agency.

“The number of dogs per person is very similar to Germany, for instance. These countries have very similar habits and behaviour patterns, and it comes from the long tradition from the times of Austria-Hungary. Having a dog has been very popular since then. On the contrary, there are other European countries where they prefer cats, for instance the UK and France.”

Most people, says Ms Franková, get their dog when they reach the age of 45 – after their kids leave home, they have no one to care for. The other large group consists of young adults – walking a dog gives them more opportunities to meet other people.

Researchers were also asking people why they get pets, and found out that the reasons for having dogs and cats differ to a large extent.

“Dogs are preferred as very good companions; that’s the most frequent reason. This is less true for cats. People typically have cats because of family traditions.”

Generally speaking, people tend to get the animal that their grandparents – rather than parents – used to have. But Czechs also keep more unusual animals in their homes including rodents, snakes and spiders. Ms Franková says that this is also due to a tradition that goes back decades.

“In third place, as far as popularity goes, are aquarium fish. That tradition originated in former Czechoslovakia, when people liked to have aquariums with goldfish. Today it’s very popular because, for many people, breeding fish for sale is a second job.”

There are not many relevant surveys from the past but analyst Blanka Franková – who herself has a cat, just like her grandmother did – says that in her opinion, the number Czechs with pets has been rising over the last two decades. She also offers a possible explanation – people feel ever-more alienated, and need someone – or something – to look after.