Why pets help with loneliness
As part of our self care series, we look at how pets are beneficial in warding off loneliness.
A special bond
Anyone who owns a pet knows the joy and happiness they bring to our lives. “The bond between a pet and their owner can be incredibly special,” says Diane James from the Blue Cross. “For many, pets are considered an important part of the family or a best friend. For people who are feeling lonely, pets can be a great comfort and a way to share worries, without fear of judgement.”
Routine and responsibilities
Our pets also provide us with a routine and responsibilities outside of ourselves. “Some pet owners only have their pet for company and their pet is the reason they get up every day, as pets are totally reliant on their owners to care for them,” Diane explains. “Dogs help because they need to be taken on walks, which is great for the mental health of their owners too. The physical exercise of walking and playing with pets, as well as stroking them, helps create stress relieving endorphins.”
A warm welcome from fellow animal lovers
Owning an animal gives us a great reason to get out in the world and make new connections: from meeting fellow dog walkers and members of the local community to shared interests like online animal rescue groups and wildlife organisations. “Pets bring owners together and this can get conversations started,” Diane says.
Things to consider before getting a pet
If you’re thinking about getting a pet. Here’s some things to consider:
Consider the commitment. It’s important to consider whether you’ll have the time to look after your pet properly. Different types of animals can require different levels of care and attention.
Adopt, don’t shop. If you’re looking for a dog, do your research to make sure they don’t come from an unscrupulous breeder or puppy farm. Always consider adopting a dog first from a registered, reputable charity like the Blue Cross.
Make your life pet friendly. If you do have a job and are worried about the commitment of owning a dog, see if your company would offer pet friendly policies.
Build a social life around your pet. If you’re considering (or you’re already a pet owner), could you start a local meetup group or put on an event to raise money for animal charities?
Alternatives to getting a pet
You don’t have to own a pet to have company from animals, think about the following:
Volunteer or become a walker. If you haven’t got the time or space for your own pet, why not look at something like Borrow My Doggy which connects owners and walkers www.borrowmydoggy.com or The Cinnamon Trust https://cinnamon.org.uk a UK charity that matches volunteers up with pets of older and terminally ill people for walking, vet visits and short term foster care.
Sponsor an animal. Even if you’re unable to own a pet or walk one, sponsoring an animal from a charity is a great way to feel connected to a cause and help animals. An animal sponsorship also makes a great present for someone.
Care for a friend's pet. If you have a friend or work colleague with a pet, maybe you could look after it for them for a few hours and enjoy some company.
For more information about rehoming and sponsorship, visit www.bluecross.org.uk
About our loneliness guides
At Marmalade Trust, we're encouraging people to see loneliness as an experience, not as a condition. It doesn't define us. By building a greater awareness and acceptance of loneliness, we can help ourselves and others to manage the feeling.