PETS are filling a gap for parents whose children have flown the nest.

A new survey carried out by Vets4Pets revealed a quarter of parents admitted they had bought a four-legged, feathered or furry friend when their children left home.

The survey also found that of those who bought a pet after their children left home, 41 per cent admitted they did so because they wanted something to nurture and care for.

Thirty-eight per cent cited companionship as a reason for getting a pet, while more than 60% said the new addition to the home brought them closer to their partner.

Men are more likely to buy a pet when their children leave home in order to have a shared interest with their partner with 37 per cent opting to buy an animal compared to 24 per cent of women.

Dr Huw Stacey, vet and director of clinical services at Vets4Pets, said: “Pets provide a wonderful addition to our families and homes.

“They can help create fantastic memories and offer unconditional love and companionship.

“Of course all pets need a loving home, with a suitable living environment and diet to help give them the best start in life, along with time with their owners.”

The survey also showed that ‘empty nesters’ are more likely to spend more time with their pet than younger generations.

Forty-six per cent of those aged over 45 said that they are able to spend more than five hours extra a week with their pet now that their children have left home, while 25% spend in excess of 15 hours.

Fifty-five per cent said they had been happier since having a pet.

Other benefits of owning a pet include becoming physically healthier from exercise (43%), and improved mental health and wellbeing due to companionship (48%).

Nearly a quarter said say they have had a new lease of life with their new pet.

The most popular pets for empty nesters are dogs and cats (80%), with rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, birds and reptiles making up the rest.

And 40 per cent believed that kittens were easier to bring up than babies or puppies.

“As many empty nesters will appreciate, just like babies and young children, puppies and kittens can get up to all sorts of mischief in their first moments and early stages of development,” added Dr Stacey.

“But with good training, most young pets will grow out of these behaviours.

“I’m sure many empty nesters enjoy being a parent again because, even though it brings learning curves and moments of surprise and worry, it also brings with it a huge amount of joy and fun.”