Losing a pet can be as traumatic as losing a relative, a poll has found. More than a third of owners believe the death of their pet to be as emotionally difficult as that of a relative.

Some 3,000 dog and cat owners took part in the research, which showed just how highly they value their pets, with 34 per cent equating the experience to the loss of a friend and one in 20 even admitting they felt more bereft at the death of a pet than of a family member.

Lee Mooney, the head of pet insurance at Co-operative Insurance, which carried out the research, said: "Our research clearly shows that their loss can have a significant effect on owners."