Find Out About British Pets While Learning How To Speak English Ep 348

Raspberry and blackberry for pet tortoise, part of the discussion on UK obsession with pets.

📝 Author: Hilary

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💬 1940 words ▪️ ⏳ Reading Time 10 min

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Most Unusual Words:


Most common 3 word phrases:

In The UK11
To Speak English4
Cats And Dogs3
Dogs And Cats3
Nature And Animal2

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Transcript: Find Out About British Pets While Learning How To Speak English

Hi there and welcome to this podcast from Adept English. Adept English supplies you with lots of listening material for learning how to speak English. We’re not focused on an academic understanding of the language – though you’ll acquire that too. But we are focused on helping you first of all to understand English and secondly on how to speak English well, so that speaking English fluently becomes automatic for you.

So today, I’m going to choose a topic to talk about – one which is familiar to you. I’ll include some statistics, so that those of you who are going to do IELTS speaking exams can get some practice with numbers and statistics. But hopefully my topic is something which is of interest to most of you and you’ll be able to focus on the subject, while automatically improving your English at the same time! Here goes….

A different type of pet

My daughter’s boyfriend has bought a pet tortoise – that’s T-O-R-T-O-I-S-E – and it’s an animal, a pet. He got the tortoise almost as soon as he finished university, so at the first opportunity. A tortoise is an animal with a hard shell – it’s a reptile - and the tortoise can hide inside its shell.

Tortoises are also known for moving slowly. I find a tortoise an interesting choice of pet. And they live for such a long time, that although my daughter’s boyfriend is only in his early 20s, the tortoise may live longer than he does – she may live for another hundred years or more! That’s a strange thought!

The tortoise is entertaining though – she eats leaves and she likes blueberries and can move surprisingly fast when she wants to – usually if she can see food! And this started me thinking about pets, what kinds of pets are popular and why. In the UK, we are known as ‘a nation of animal lovers’.

We are particularly sentimental about our animals. ‘Sentimental’ means full of sentiment, full of feelings – we get very attached to our animals. And this is evidenced by the fact that the RSPCA – the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – is one of our most popular charities and it’s existed since 1824 – that’s a long time!


A charity, C-H-A-R-I-T-Y, is an organisation that receives donations, receives money and exists to give free help and support to people – or in this case, animals. Other most popular animal charities are Guide Dogs for the Blind, which buys and trains dogs to help people who cannot see and The Worldwide Fund for Nature, or WWF, which campaigns against destruction of nature and animal habitats.

One interesting and consistent statistic about UK charities is that the RSPCA gets more donations, more money given to it than the NSPCC – and that’s the National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children, which I always think is rather interesting. However, of the top 10 charities, all but three of them are related human health and welfare.

Pet ownership in the UK

But we do like our animals, and our pets especially. Apparently in the UK, 50% of adults own a pet of some kind. And while some people like a pet tortoise, most people prefer furry pets. Of course, the most popular choices for a household pet are dogs and cats. 26% of adults in the UK own a dog and 24% own a cat.

As a total number however, there are slightly more cats – coming in at an estimated 10.9 million cats – that’s ‘owned cats’, ones that have homes and 9.9 million dogs.

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And this is according to a 2019 report from another animal charity in the UK, the PDSA or the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals. I’m guessing the number of cats is slightly higher, although they’re a lower % of owners, because people are often ‘multi-cat households’ – meaning people have more than one cat.

That’s me! We have two Siberian Forest Cats, called Vladimir and Misha. Good names, I think – Misha is short for Mikhail, like Mikhail Gorbachev – and Vladimir of course, like Vladimir Putin.

Cats and dogs are good for you

I like both cats and dogs because to me, they’re members of the family. They have characters, they react to you, you have a relationship with them. And they’re furry, which means that they’re covered in fur, F-U-R. If you stroke an animal, ‘to stroke’ means that you run your hand through the fur of your pet.

This apparently lowers your blood pressure. Blood pressure or BP, is a measure of your health – and stress can make it higher. It’s usually taken in two numbers, blood pressure, so 120/60 is a good blood pressure to have. And there’s evidence that owning a dog is also associated with lower cholesterol.

Cholesterol, C-H-O-L-E-S-T-E-R-O-L – is a measure of the amount of bad fat in your blood. High cholesterol is bad – it can affect your heart – low cholesterol is good. So it seems that owning dogs is good for your health.

Other types of pet are in the minority

Other pets which are ‘statistically significant’ – that means there are enough of them to count – are rabbits, hamsters, birds and tortoises. But notice that dogs and cats are owned by a quarter of all households in the UK, but the next most popular pet is a rabbit, R-A-B-B-I-T – big ears. But only about 1% of households have a rabbit.

So dogs and cats really do outnumber all other types of pet. Horses are another type of pet, but of course, most people don’t have the space for a horse. Land is expensive in the UK – you’re lucky if you have enough land to keep a horse!


A photograph of a pet rabbit, discussed in the English lesson on British obsession with pets.

©️ Adept English 2020

A problem with cats?

While dogs are mostly liked, there is an argument, a debate going in the UK about cats. Some people object to them, have a problem with cats, because they kill other animals, especially wildlife. Chris Packham is a well-known nature and animal campaigner in the UK.

He appears on the BBC programme Spring Watch, which is well-known. And he has said that he thinks that cats should be made to stay indoors at night, kept inside the house at night, because of the number of animals that they kill.

Obviously lots of cat owners disagree with him and think that the effect on wildlife is over-estimated. Our cats do occasionally take birds – but to be honest, they do eat what they take and they don’t do it very often. I think if cats are well fed, there’s less motivation.

I do agree with Chris Packham however, when he’s concerned about the fall in numbers of our wildlife in the UK. Populations of animals like hedgehogs and hares have fallen by more than 60% since the 1970s. But, farming and its practices and reduced habitat are much more to blame, I think than cats. Reducing numbers of our wildlife is very concerning though. But that’s another subject for another day!

More listening material

So those are just some thoughts and statistics on pet ownership in the UK. Let us know if it’s different in your country. Do fewer people own pets, or more people? Do most people have cats and dogs – or are there different types of pets in your country?

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Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.



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