17% of British pets have dedicated presence on social media

Marnie the Shih Tzu has 2.1 million followers on the @marniethedog Instagram account
Marnie the Shih Tzu has 2.1 million followers on the @marniethedog Instagram account
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They may not be able to speak for themselves or use a computer, but that has not stopped thousands of Britain's pets from having a social media profile, a survey has found.

Just under a fifth (17%) of dogs and cats in the UK now have a dedicated presence on social media, with 12% of pets on Facebook, 5% on Instagram, 5% on Twitter and 3% on Snapchat.

Additionally, just over a third (35%) of pets feature heavily on the owner's own social media channels.

Sainsbury's Bank Pet Insurance, which conducted the research, said this is evidence of owners seeing themselves in their furry companions, with more than half of cat and dog owners (52%) describing their pet as their "best friend".

The phenomenon, dubbed "social petworking", has created famous furry faces such as Marnie the Shih Tzu, who has 2.1 million followers on the @marniethedog Instagram account, while other profiles have made social media stars of pets including David Beckham's pooch Olive, and Lady Gaga's French bulldog Asia Kinney.

A quarter (26%) of the 4,008 adults quizzed said they take more photos of their pets than their own children and 42% take more pictures of their pets than their partners.

The study found that almost half (49%) of those surveyed say they prefer animals to people.

When asked why, the top three reasons were because their pets are like a faithful friend, are more reliable than people and they make their owners feel more cheerful.

Psychologist Gladeana McMahon said: "As the problem of loneliness increases in society through a variety of factors such as smaller families, single-person households, living away from family and ageing populations, some people are turning to their pets to provide social comfort and become their 'best friends'."