Owning pets makes people feel less lonely in lockdown

Monday, January 18 marked ‘Blue Monday’, when dark days and squeezed finances are thought to make for the most depressing day of the year.

But, with the UK in the grip of tight lockdown restrictions many people face some tough ‘blue’ months ahead, with millions at home alone with only their pet for company.

PDSA’s latest PAW Report, produced in conjunction with YouGov, found that the owners of 18 million UK pets said that owning a pet makes them feel less lonely and the same number said owning a pet makes them mentally healthier.

The PAW Report, which has tracked pet well-being in the UK for the past decade, also found that the owners of 2.8 million UK pets live in a single-person household.

Many of these owners, often elderly and vulnerable people, remain at risk of facing isolated and lonely months ahead, with only their pet for company.

PDSA Vet Nurse, Nina Downing, said: “PDSA’s latest PAW Report findings highlight the vital role that pets play in helping to counteract the effects of loneliness for millions of people in the UK.

“Looking after pets helps to add structure to people’s lives, with the regular daily routine of feeding and exercise, as well as the physical benefit of taking them for walks and playing with them in your garden or home.

“Our PAW Report shows that pets have been a lifeline for millions of people since the pandemic began.

“And as much as pets support us, it’s important that we as pet owners make sure that we put in the extra effort to continue to meet our pets’ five welfare needs during lockdown.

“We can do this by feeding the correct diet, providing a suitable living environment, providing companionship if appropriate, maintaining their good health and giving them the opportunity to behave naturally.

“Despite lockdown restrictions, your pet still needs just as much exercise as they normally would to keep them healthy and stop them from getting bored.

If it’s too cold or wet for playtime outdoors, play indoor games instead! Puzzle games are great for dogs, cats or rabbits. Remember, even though you’ll be spending more time at home and might be tempted to spoil your pets, keep treats and human foods to a minimum to avoid weight gain and upset tummies.

“While pet ownership can bring positive benefits to us, taking on a pet is a huge responsibility, so it’s important to ensure we are providing for all of their needs too.

If you’re thinking of taking on a pet, it’s vitally important to consider whether now is the right time. With so much uncertainty, we really would not recommend taking on a pet at the moment.

Instead, contact your local animal charity to see how you might be able to help them remotely.”

For more advice on keeping your pet healthy during lockdown visit: www.pdsa.org.uk/petsinlockdown.

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