Rabbits are becoming ever more popular pets, but they are also one of the most misunderstood and neglected. Not because people mean to be cruel but because these beautiful little animals have much more complex needs than many people realise.

In general, all animals have five basic welfare needs.

Let’s have a look at these needs for rabbits as we share our tips on how you can make sure your little hoppers are the happiest they can be!

This may sound easy, but sadly, lots of people get it wrong.

Rabbits have teeth that grow continually throughout their lives, and they’ve evolved to eat fibrous, low energy foods like grass and plants. They need to spend a long time eating and chewing to get all the nutrients they need so their teeth get a lot of wear and tear, hence the need for constant growth. When rabbits don’t get enough grass and hay their teeth can overgrow and cause painful mouth lesions and abscesses. Muesli-style food allows for selective feeding and should never be fed.

Your rabbits should have constant access to good quality hay and only have about an eggcup-sized portion of complete rabbit pellets a day. Giving them access to fresh grass and a variety of green, leafy fibrous vegetation, weeds and herbs is even better.

All animals should have constant access to fresh water. Rabbits can be given water in bowls or in drinker bottles. Always check your rabbits’ water several times a day as bowls may get tipped over or soiled and bottles can get blocked.

Way too many rabbits are still kept in small hutches.

Freedom of choice and movement is essential for animal happiness. Rabbits are most active at dusk and dawn, which may not coincide with your schedule. With this in mind they should have safe access to their exercise area at all times. Hutches should be big enough for them all to stretch out fully and also to be able to stand up on their hind legs. The smallest hutch you should ever get should be 1.8m x 0.6m x 0.6m and they will need a lovely exercise area that they can access all the time too.

You can use tunnels and hideouts and add elevated areas for lounging and looking out. The world is your oyster so use your imagination to make their home as interesting as you can.

Just think – What do rabbits like and need to do? Run, hop, play, explore, graze, lounge around, hide, feel safe and of course, dig!

Just because you are providing your rabbits with luxury accommodation doesn’t mean that they won’t feel the irresistible urge to dig. This may be inconvenient for you but you can give them planters full of soil to dig in or use a sunken pond full of earth to give them some great digging joy without ruining your lawn. Even if your rabbits are kept indoors they still need to dig.

Rabbits are prey animals and they are also social animals.

This means they feel safer as well as happier when they are with other rabbits. Rabbits should never be kept on their own. Together they can groom and snuggle for warmth and have fun. The best combination is a neutered male and neutered female, but other combinations can work.

Rabbits, like lots of other animals, need protection from diseases.

Rabbits should be vaccinated against Myxomatosis and Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease. Talk to your vet about when these vaccines should be given and how often they need to be repeated.

All rabbits should also be neutered. This can help reduce aggression but it also prevents a lot of diseases such as cancer and uterine infections.

A responsible pet parent ensures that the animal has a good quality of life by understanding and meeting the physical, biological, and emotional needs of their companion. Caring for a pet involves investing in essentials like veterinary care, food, enrichment, exercise and other necessities to ensure their well-being. This all starts before you even bring the pet home. Read more via this link.

Before welcoming a dog or cat, or another animal into your home, it’s important to consider your lifestyle, time availability, space, and finances. These factors not only determine if you’re ready for a furry companion but also which breed would be the best fit. If you already have a pet, it’s important to ensure they will get along. To make your decision easier, here are some helpful links: Things to consider before getting a dog and here. We also have a blog on the topic.

There are many factors involved when deciding whether to adopt or buy. Shelters are full of animals waiting for a new home. Every animal is unique, with its own special needs, potential health concerns, and unknown past traumas. This can be particularly true for shelter animals. When deciding to adopt make sure it’s from a reputable animal shelter, as animals there are also typically vaccinated, microchipped, and neutered. Learn more about adoption on this link. When deciding to buy a pet from a breeder, be careful to buy from a responsible and reputable breeder, be careful if you buy online and watch out for inherited disorders. Each year, numerous pets are bred under substandard conditions, prematurely separated from their mothers, and traded across Europe. Check also if the breed has any known genetic disorders and hereditary diseases. Ensure that the pet has not been prematurely separated from its mother and has been properly identified and registered (microchipped).

Preparing for the arrival of your new puppy involves gathering essential items to ensure their comfort and well-being. These include feeding and water bowls, a suitable collar or harness, the appropriate leash, a comfortable bed, and a selection of toys. It’s important to provide a variety of toys that offer both physical engagement and cognitive stimulation. Find out what food the puppy was eating before their arrival and continue feeding them the same food initially. While you have the option to change their food later on, it’s advisable to do so gradually. For pet owners with houseplants, learn which ones could be harmful to dogs. Make sure to make your home puppy safe! Find more information on how to prepare for a puppy via this link.

Before bringing a new kitten home, make sure your home is kitty-proofed. Every kitten needs food and water bowls, food, a litterbox, litter, a tower, toys, and scratching pads. Cats love to climb to higher surfaces, so make sure they are also safe when doing this. Find more information on how to make your home safe via this link.

There is a wide range of pre-prepared pet food to keep dogs and cats happy and healthy. All ‘complete’ pet foods, regardless of format, are carefully formulated to provide all the nutrients a healthy pet needs.

It is important to consider activity level, lifestyle and life stage (e.g. puppy or kitten vs adult), the pet’s preferences with regard to food format and the owner’s opinion regarding convenience, cost, variety and suitability of available pet food. There is no particular right way to feed pets, as long as the nutritional needs of the dog or cat are being met. Always ensure your pet has access to clean water. We suggest you read this factsheet and reference the Nutritional Guidelines. You can also read our blog on the nutritional needs of pets.

Regular visits to the vet are important for all pets. These visits can be stressful for both you and your pet. Here are some helpful tips to make your cat’s vet visits less stressful:

Find out more via this link.

To make the visit to the vet a little bit less stressful for your dog we recommend bringing a favourite toy or blanket. To ensure your pet’s safety and the comfort of others, it’s essential to have a leash handy in busy waiting rooms. Find more information via this link.

Looking after pets in the winter requires some special attention to ensure their comfort and safety in cold weather. Here are some tips for taking care of your pets during the winter months:

White rabbit cleaning its face

Make sure your pets have a warm, dry shelter to retreat to when it’s cold outside. For dogs and cats this will be a warm spot in your home or a cosy basket.  For any smaller indoor pets such as guinea pigs, hamsters and rabbits, they will need extra straw or bedding to keep warm.  If your pets live outdoors, make sure their housing is insulated, waterproof, and elevated off the ground. It should provide protection from wind, rain, and snow. Over periods of extremely cold weather, some pets who live outdoors, may need to be brought inside.  However, make sure that your pets are protected from open fires or wood burners by using a safety screen to prevent accidents.

All pets’ needs are different but many will need time outdoors limited when temperatures drop.  You will need to invest more time playing with your pet indoors, provide new toys and create indoor obstacle courses to ensure they are mentally and physically stimulated.

If you pet is short-haired or is particularly sensitive to the cold weather, research bespoke coats for dogs (and cats) that will help. Make sure the clothing fits well and doesn’t restrict their movement.

Be aware of the signs of frostbite (pale or discoloured skin) and hypothermia (shivering, lethargy, weakness) in your pets. If you notice these symptoms, consult a veterinarian.

Salt and de-icing chemicals used on sidewalks and roads can be harmful for your pets.  After walks, wipe their paws to remove any salt or ice-melting chemicals that can be harmful if ingested. If you purchase any anti freeze products for use in your house, be extra careful as these products are toxic for pets.

Some pets may feel the cold and therefore need more calories to stay warm and maintain a healthy body weight. Other pets may have reduced their exercise and therefore need slightly less.  Either way, it is important to monitor their weight and size.  Always ask your vet for advice if you have any concerns.

Ensure that your pet has access to fresh water at all times. Check their water bowl frequently to prevent it from freezing.

Older pets may be more sensitive to extreme cold. Pay special attention to their needs and consult with a vet about any age-related concerns.

Stick to a regular feeding and exercise routine to help your pet maintain a healthy weight and energy level during the winter.  Maintaining your pet’s coat during winter is essential. Regular grooming not only keeps them looking their best but also helps maintain the insulation properties of their fur.

Consider scheduling a winter check-up with your veterinarian. They can assess your pet’s health and discuss any specific winter care recommendations based on their breed and individual needs. Winter pet care involves being attentive to your pet’s specific needs and providing a safe and warm environment. While winter can be a wonderful time for both humans and our pets, extra care is necessary. By following these tips and being vigilant, you can ensure that your furry friends enjoy a cosy, and healthy winter season.

The Festive holiday season is a time to gather with family and friends. However, while we are focused on entertaining relatives and preparing the next celebratory meal, our pets can find their routines disrupted.  At this time of year, our homes may also be filled with additional hazards for our pets. Some decorations, plants and indulgent human food, may be toxic for our pets.

To ensure a happy and stress-free holiday season for both your pets and your family, it’s crucial to remain mindful of their wellbeing. Here are our top tips:

Beware Chocolate and Sweets:

Over the festive season, it may be more tempting to give your pet a human food treat.  However, foods such as raisins, grapes, onions, garlic and chocolate can be toxic for pets.  Even small amounts of chocolate can be extremely dangerous causing vomiting, diarrhoea and sometimes more severe problems.

Avoid Raisins and some nuts:

Grapes and their dried variants, such as currants, sultanas, and raisins, as well as macademia nuts, pose severe health risks to dogs. These ingredients are commonly found in Christmas favourites like fruitcake, pudding, and mince pies. Onions are another potential hazard as they can upset a pet’s stomach.

Keep Alcohol Away:

Pets can be affected by alcohol in much the same way as humans, resulting in symptoms such as wobbliness and drowsiness. In severe cases, it can be highly toxic. Keep pets away from any unattended glasses of alcohol left around during the festive season.

Mind Human Food left overs:

Human food, especially the rich and fatty dishes typically enjoyed during the holidays, can lead to sickness and digestive problems. Additionally, cooked bones can splinter and puncture the digestive tract. If you want to treat your pet, choose specially formulated commercial treats.  It is recommended that no more than 10% of a pet’s calorific intake over a week or day come from treats.

Carefully locate Decorations and Gifts:

Curious pets might see festive decorations like baubles, tinsel, tree lights, wrapping paper, and ribbons as enticing playthings. However, these items can be dangerous if broken and if ingested can lead to blockages in a pet’s digestive system, which may require surgical intervention. Lit candles and open flames can also pose a fire hazard.

Beware Poisonous Plants:

Several common holiday plants, including poinsettias, holly, mistletoe, and ivy, can be toxic to cats and dogs, often causing stomach upset and other health problems. Additionally, be cautious of the sharp needles on Christmas trees.

Protect from Loud Noises and Fireworks:

Fireworks and loud holiday parties can be frightening for pets. Create a quiet, safe space for them to retreat to, and consider playing soothing music or using white noise to drown out loud sounds.

Manage Visitors in the house:

Some pets may become anxious or stressed with a lot of visitors. If you have a houseful of relatives, ensure your pet has a quiet space where they can retreat if they feel overwhelmed. Remind guests not to feed your pets any table scraps and to be cautious when opening doors, as pets may try to escape.

Seek Veterinary Care:

While we can do our best to pet-proof our homes during the holiday season, accidents can still happen. If you ever suspect that your pet has ingested something harmful, consult your veterinarian immediately. Rapid intervention can make all the difference in ensuring a happy and healthy holiday season for your pets.

Please remember that pets are for life and not just for Christmas.  Having a pet is a great responsibility.  If you are considering a new dog, cat, small mammal or bird, then please do your research and remember it is a long-term commitment. Please read our previous blog on ‘Getting a pet responsibly’ for more advice.

The Netherlands was the first country in the world to ban ownership of pets with bodily characteristics or features that are harmful, including flat faced companion animal breeds. In this blog post we’ll explore the reasons why.

Vets around Europe and globally are highlighting a lack of awareness amongst pet parents about the health impacts for animals that are bred for a specific look. Some features such as a flat nose, a sloping back, bulging or droopy eyes, skin folds, or a round skull can be so extreme that they actually cause (sometimes extreme!) pain and suffering for our furry friends.

To give a concrete example of popular breeds: the flat faces and stocky build of dogs such as the pug and the French and English bulldog cause a range of serious disorders. Most of these dogs are chronically out of breath and are even more susceptible to heat strokes than the average dog breed. Their ‘snoring’ which some may find cute or funny is exactly the opposite – they are struggling to breath!

The flattening of the muzzle which gives the flat-faced look is generally associated with a longer soft palate, covering the glottis, and causing massive respiratory distress. The nostrils are usually narrowed (stenotic) which decreases air flow into the network within the nasal passage (nasal turbinates). This network is meant to help with temperature regulation, humidifying the air before it passes to the lungs and in flat-faced pets these are already smaller than in mesocephalic breeds. As a consequence, these dogs usually have decreased capacity for exercise and much less tolerance to high temperatures.

Other harmful features include the nose fold, which is typical to these breeds and causes skin and eye infections.

And when it comes to cats, those with folded ears, typically the Scottish fold, look like that because they have a genetic cartilage disorder that also causes painful joints and joint diseases.

Factors like these can cause dogs, cats and even rabbits, to live uncomfortable but also unhealthy lives, full of health emergencies and veterinary interventions. Leading to higher veterinary costs and a shorter lifespan.

We want our pets to live a healthy and happy life, so we must not overlook the fact that prioritising looks over health makes having a happy life more difficult. Pets are about so much more than just their looks. They are a part of our families! And just like any family member, we want them to be healthy and be able to live comfortable lives.

If you are considering buying or adopting a pet, make sure you research the common health issues associated with the breed or talk to a veterinarian you trust. When buying from a breeder, always request the animal’s health history and ask about the parents, including breed specific data. Don’t forget to check also that the animal is registered and has their ID chip.

Making a conscious choice will help you share a unique long-lived bond with your fur baby!

Are You Ready to Embrace Equine Responsibility?

Taking the reins as a horse owner is a thrilling adventure, but it’s essential to recognize that this journey comes with a range of responsibilities that are similar to those of a dog or cat parent. Before welcoming a horse into your life, it’s crucial to delve into the world of equine care and understand the unique needs these majestic creatures possess. With careful consideration and preparedness, you can ensure that you embark on this journey equipped to provide your equine companion with the time, care and attention they truly deserve.

The Economics of Equine Companionship

The economic facets of horse ownership are as significant as the emotional ones. From the moment you decide to become a horse owner, you’ll find yourself navigating through a series of financial commitments that go far beyond the initial purchase (that is likely to be minimal compared to the costs that will follow).

Just as a dog requires sustenance, horses (in a much larger scale) demand a steady supply of nutritious food, quality hay, and potentially specialised supplements. On top of that, the pre-purchasing exam, boarding and registration fees, public liability insurance, routine veterinary check-ups, unexpected medical emergencies, regular hoof care, stable renting or maintenance, and training expenses, all factor into the financial equation.

Crafting a comprehensive budget that encompasses all potential expenses, as well as a reserve fund for emergencies and health insurance is key. A solid financial plan ensures that your horse’s well-being is never compromised. According to FEI, horse ownership costs can run from €3,500 to €10,000 annually.

Choosing your horse

Horses, different breeds in particular, come with distinct behaviours, personalities, and requirements. Engaging in comprehensive research about horses is paramount prior to purchase. With prior knowledge acquired you can select a horse whose temperament aligns harmoniously with your lifestyle, daily routine, level of experience, expectations, etc. Remember, a well-matched partnership ensures both you and your horse thrive together!

Ensuring Equine Welfare

Making sure to cover all of the five freedoms is just as important for horse as for any other animal.

Freedom from disease, injury, and pain:

Freedom from hunger and thirst:

Freedom from discomfort:

Freedom from fear and distress:

Freedom to express normal behaviour:

Avoid humanising your horse, let him be a horse, get dirty, run, play, etc.

In Conclusion

Taking on the role of a horse owner is an awe-inspiring commitment that requires dedication, resources, and a genuine passion for these incredible animals. By approaching equine care with a high sense of responsibility you’re poised to embark on a journey of companionship, growth, and mutual enrichment that transcends the ordinary. So, saddle up and embrace the path of responsible horse care – a journey that promises endless rewards for both you and your equine friend.

Owning a horse is very different from owning a donkey. You can find more information here on donkeys.

Other useful resources


World horse welfare

British horse society

Just like us, staying hydrated is essential to keep your fur-baby’s health and well-being. It’s even more important during hot summer months.

Keep an eye on water levels

It can be hard to know exactly how much water your pet is drinking, paying attention to how much has gone each time you refill their bowls can help. It can harder for cat parents, so you will need to be extra vigilant to see if they’re drinking enough.

All pets need more water during the hotter months of the year. So remember to always bring water with you when you take your dog for a walk, leave an extra bowl in your rabbit’s hutch and if your cat likes to venture outside, make sure to leave a bowl in your garden or on your terrace.

It’s also important to be mindful of the activity levels or your four-legged friends. Really active pets will drink more water than calmer pets and may need more water available.

Keeping your pet hydrated in hot days

  • Have multiple water bowls of fresh water around the house to give your furry friend plenty opportunities to stay hydrated
  • Some animals, particularly cats, prefer to drink running water, so automatic water fountains can stimulate them drink a bit more.
  • Make them frozen treats! Ice cubes or frozen treats not only help keep them hydrated but also cool them down, great for really hot days.
  • Consider wet food or add a little bit of water to their dry food. Including water in their meals or treats will also increase their daily intake and help keep them hydrated throughout the day.
  • Giving you pet rabbits fresh vegetables that are rich in water also does the trick. But remember, only 15% of their daily food should be vegetables.

Watch out for these signs of dehydration

  • Vomiting and/or diarrhoea
  • Loss of energy
  • Excessive, ongoing panting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sunken, dry eyes
  • Dry, sticky gums
  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Urinating less frequently

If you have any concerns or worries always contact your vet for advice.

Caring for pets during the summer months requires special attention to ensure their wellbeing and comfort. Hot weather can bring challenges and risks for our furry friends. Here are some essential tips to help you care for your pets over the hot Summer months:

Hydration is Key:

Just like their owners, it is important to stay hydrated in the Summer heat.  Pets must have access to clean, fresh water at all times. One tip is to leave multiple bowls of water around your home.

Avoid Over-heating:

Some pets find it hard to regulate their body temperature and keep cool.  It’s important to keep them in calm and comfortable surroundings.  Also, limit your pets’ outdoor activities during the hottest parts of the day. If you have a dog, choose cooler times of the day such as early mornings or late evenings for walks.

Provide Shade:

Ensure your pets have access to shaded areas both indoors and outdoors. You can use fans or air conditioning to create a comfortable environment. Cooling mats or damp towels can also help.

Never Leave Pets in Parked Cars:

Many holidaymakers drive long journeys for their Summer holidays.  However, at home or away, never leave a pet unattended in a parked car as it can be extremely dangerous in the Summer heat.

Avoid Hot Surfaces

Remember that pet’s paws can burn on hot surfaces. If you walk your dog in the cooler parts of the day, this may not be a problem. However, the grass in your garden can also heat up and burn your pet’s paws so take care.

Watch for Heatstroke:

If you suspect your pet has heatstroke, move them somewhere cool, provide water and consult your vet with any concerns.

Watch out for Fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes:

Parasites are more prevalent during the summer months. Make sure your pets are protected with the appropriate flea and tick treatments. Small mammals such as Guinea Pigs can suffer from infestations in the heat, so do take care and consult your vet for any advice or treatment.

Plan your holiday pet care:

If you are planning a Summer holiday, make sure you have appropriate pet care sorted.  Make sure your sitter is briefed on your pet’s usual routine, pet food and vet’s contact details.

Research if travelling with your pet:

If you are travelling abroad, you need to do some research as requirements will depend on destination.  Always consult your vet and it is likely there will be paperwork and possibly quarantine requirements. Ensure that your insurance covers your pet’s holiday and locate the nearest veterinary practice. If you are staying closer to home, do your best to stick to your pet’s usual routine to make them feel as comfortable as possible.

Monitor your pet’s appetite:

Your pet’s appetite may be affected by the Summer heat and any changes to routine can make them anxious resulting in a reduced appetite. You can help your pet by ensuring it’s routine is as normal as possible and by providing a cool environment for feeding time. You may need to provide smaller and more frequent meals although take care it doesn’t spoil in the heat. Staying hydrated is always important too.

By following these tips, you can help your pets stay healthy, happy, and safe through the Summer season.

World Immunization Week runs from 24-30 April, and on 20 April each year there’s a special awareness day for World Animal Vaccination Day, so it’s quite fitting that we’ll be covering vaccines in this month’s post. Every responsible pet owner knows that it is important to keep your pet’s vaccine schedule up to date. But what a lot of people don’t know is that by vaccinating their pets, they are also protecting their families!

Why we vaccinate

By boosting the immune system, vaccination prevents serious diseases that can cause a lot of suffering for animals and even be fatal. If you pet happens to catch a disease they’ve been vaccinated for, they usually suffer much milder symptoms and have a higher chance of surviving the more serious illnesses. Today in Europe, Vets report rarely seeing certain diseases that used to be very common, and still remain a threat elsewhere around the world – all thanks to having vaccines available and pet parents smart enough to follow vet advice. It is really important to follow the vaccination schedule recommended by your vet to avoid the possibility of a gap in your furry-friend’s protection.

But did you know that not only cats and dogs can get vaccinated? There are vaccines available for rabbits, ferrets and even some pet bird species!

Vaccinating young pets is extremely important for their welfare, as they help to make sure they’ll grow up healthy and aren’t at risk of certain diseases when they’re vulnerable. Since their immune systems aren’t fully developed until around 6 months old, they are particularly susceptible to diseases during the first few months of their lives. This is valid for not only puppies and kittens but also for all fur babies. Ask your vet if you have any questions on how to care for your pet in the early stages of life.

For more information on pet health care, check our Pillars of Pet Care Page.

We know that assistance animals do amazing work helping people in need. But how exactly are they trained to perform so many different tasks? We asked different service dog associations to tell us more about their work and their training processes and put together a quick overview for you!

Choosing the puppies

Puppies can be selected to become assistance animals from the age of 2 months. They are chosen according to certain physical characteristics, such as good balance and their personality also plays a key role. Being sociable is really important for a working dog.


After the initial selection, the puppies are placed with foster families to be socialised. This is a very important part of the process and, the socialiser needs to get out and about quite regularly with their dog! (Who said the perfect job doesn’t exist?) The puppy needs to be introduced to all kinds of different situations they could potentially encounter while working, such as walking through parks or shopping areas, meeting new people and even taking public transport. The first year of a puppy’s life is all about learning — learning basic skills, learning to be a confident, well-socialised dog who is not easily distracted, learning to feel loved and needed. The pups also receive all the veterinary care necessary, including vaccination and parasite control, making sure they grow into healthy and happy dogs.


From 18 months old dogs can start their more formal training process. The tasks and commands the dog will learn varies according to which type of assistance they will provide. For example, a diabetes alert dog will learn to alert their owner of an impending hypo before they are aware of it and retrieve their glucose testing kit. The training process can take from 6 months to a year, depending on the dog’s personality and behaviour and how quickly they pick up the tasks. Trainers can spend hundreds of hours transforming puppies into fully-qualified assistance dogs!

Meeting their people

After they graduate from assistance dog training school, they are ready to enter into and essentially change the lives of their new owners! The associations training assistance dogs will look at their sometimes long waiting list of people requiring assistance and match the newly-trained dog with the person they are best equipped to assist. Sometimes the dog will ‘try on’ a few people until the perfect match is made.

Follow up

After placement, the training association will continue to monitor the dog through regular catch-ups to ensure they are healthy and happy in their new home. They can also provide further support if additional training or education is required. All these important steps help to ensure pawfect partnerships 😉

Check out our infographic!

We all know that an animal companion comes with many benefits. Those benefits can be felt even more strongly by those who need it! Senior citizens, particularly those living alone, sometimes look for companionship or a reason to take a walk outside every day, and that’s where our beloved furry friends come in. 

But we must never forget that every animal has their needs and it’s important to ensure that those will be able to be met as people get older.

Having a dog

Different dogs need different levels of exercise but smaller breeds are often a great choice for older people as they are easier to handle and safer to take walks with. Small dogs also do well in smaller homes and do not require big outdoor spaces to get enough exercise.

A UK study showed that owning a dog motivates older adults to be more active, supporting healthy aging and improving their quality of life.

Having a cat

If an older person no longer enjoys the same level of mobility or strength as during their youth for the daily walks required by a dog, but are still looking for a furry friend to care and love, a cat is a great option!

Cats are typically very independent animals and do not need to be walked or taken outside to use the bathroom. But they’ll still provide boundless love and companionship for anyone living alone!

A Dutch/Swiss review of studies showed that pets provide feelings of being protected and safe for elderly pet owners.

Having fish

While having a large aquarium requires a lot of work, a small one can be both colourful and fun to have in the home. Small freshwater fish can make good pet options for older people. Once the aquarium  is set up to meet the fish needs, the care of a fish is fairly minimal, especially with the use of automated feeders, water filters and testing kits.

A study from Poland suggested that interacting with fish in aquariums has the potential to benefit human well-being.

Having a bird

Birds can make great companions with their beautiful colours and singing abilities. But it’s important to consider a few things before getting one: the size of the cage they need, the food required, the noise level of the bird, and the time and attention each species needs. Since their respiratory systems are delicate, then a bird might not be the right fit for you if you are a smoker. A London study showed that birds can improve people’s mood!

January is ‘walk your dog month’ and at Pet Alliance Europe we thought it would be a good idea to remind our readers of the huge advantages associated with getting out and about with a pet.  There are obvious benefits for your physical health but also for your mental health.  Hanging out with pets keeps your body – and your brain – active!

Exercising with pets benefits our health

It’s well documented that dog owners enjoy the health benefits of more frequent walking than those without a dog.  The odds of dog owners meeting physical activity recommendations are four times greater than for non-dog owners. Older dog owners benefit from an additional and significant 22 minutes per day.

The specific health gains of this additional exercise vary from owner to owner.  However, we know there are well-reported cardiovascular benefits.  A survey of almost 11,000 people in the US linked pet ownership (especially dogs) to increased physical activity and improved outcomes after major cardiovascular events.  Another massive study of 3.4 million people in Sweden found that dog ownership had a dramatic effect on people who live alone, cutting the risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 36%.  In households with more people, the presence of a dog was still linked to lowered deaths from heart disease (15%). 

The routine of getting outside for fresh air also has a positive impact on your mental health.  Physical activity releases endorphins in the brain that energise you and create positive feelings. It reduces stress, boosts your mood, and increases mental energy.  When you add in the companionship of a playful dog, it’s even better! 

The company of a dog on walks has been shown to boost social interaction and confidence.  One study among 80 adult strangers showed that the presence of a dog encouraged friendly behaviour when the pet owner asked for help.

All kinds of pet interactions count

However, the rewards of pet interaction are not limited to dog walking. Spending time playing with your cat or hamster, watching fish in an aquarium or wild birds feeding – have all been linked to improved mental health.  Studies show that pets in general make us feel more relaxed, reducing depression and loneliness.  To read more about the health benefits, see our booklet, which summarises huge amounts of research in this area.

Pets need exercise too

Having talked about your physical and mental health, we should also remember how important it is for your pets to get the right amount of exercise.  Research among vets suggests that obesity is a big problem with 51% of dogs, 44% of cats and 29% of small mammals classed as overweight or obese.

Overfeeding, unsuitable table scraps and insufficient exercise are the major causes of overweight pets. In the same way that excess weight can cause us additional problems, pets can suffer too.  Pet obesity can contribute to health issues such as arthritis, heart disease and cancer.  Sadly, it can also shorten their lifespan. 

Exercise is important to keep your pet content and to strengthen the bond between the owner and the pet too. Whatever activity you choose to practice with your pet, remember that the type and amount of exercise should be tailored according to the individual pet.

This year, we hope that as many of you as possible can get out and about – or invest more time interacting – with your pets.  In addition to boosting your physical and mental health, it will keep your pets stay healthy and happy too.