There are many ways that our pets can help us to

live mentally healthier lives:

Companionship & Loyalty

The companionship that our pets provide us can ease anxiety and provide a sense of security by giving us somebody to spend our time with. Caring for them can also make us feel wanted and needed. This is especially beneficial for those who live alone and the elderly.

Increased Exercise

Animals such as dogs need walking every day, which helps increase your own levels of physical activity and is a fun way to fit exercise into your routine, while also bonding with your furry friend! This can also help you meet new people, as dog owners often stop and chat on walks. Other pets can also help you meet new people, such as through training classes or online groups.

Confidence Boost

Pets can also help increase your self-confidence as they are great listeners and will never judge or criticise you! Especially if you are feeling isolated or misunderstood, the unconditional love from your pets can help you feel loved and appreciated.

Enforcing Routine

Taking care of your pet can also help add structure to your day and create a routine, giving your day a sense of purpose and keeping you focused and motivated.

Assisting with Existing Conditions

People with certain conditions may also benefit from a companion animal. People with ADHD may benefit from the routine that a pet needs, helping them manage their time effectively and releasing excess energy through walks and play time. Pets can also help autistic people build confidence and social skills and reassure their owners if they feel overwhelmed.

Dog running in field

But what if I can't own a pet?

Whether you can’t afford a pet, are worried about health issues or live somewhere that doesn’t allow pets, don’t worry, there are other options for you!

The easiest option may be to spend time with friends and family’s pets, whether it’s walking their dog or cuddling their cats or guinea pigs. They may need somebody to look after them while they’re on holiday or working!

Alternatively, you can contact your local rescue centre as they may have volunteering opportunities to help exercise, feed, and care for their animals. Charities such as The Cinnamon Trust are always looking for volunteers to help walk dogs whose owners may be elderly or disabled and can not walk their dog as easily anymore. You could also consider fostering an animal if you would like to take care of one on a short-term basis but cannot commit to one long-term. Cats Protection and Dogs Trust both need people to provide temporary foster care for pets whose owners are fleeing abusive situations but cannot take their pets into refuge with them. You could help people and pets in need while also improving your own mental health!

But with all the benefits, please remember that a pet is a major commitment and is not a miracle cure for mental health issues. Owning a pet is fun and comforting but also requires a lot of time, money, and patience.

If you need to talk to somebody about your mental health then there are many helplines available, staffed by trained people who are ready to listen without judgement:

  • Samaritans. Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can call 116 123 (free from any phone), email [email protected] or visit some branches in person. You can also call the Samaritans Welsh Language Line on 0808 164 0123 (7pm–11pm every day).
  • SANEline. If you're experiencing a mental health problem or supporting someone else, you can call SANEline on 0300 304 7000 (4.30pm–10.30pm every day).
  • National Suicide Prevention Helpline UK. Offers a supportive listening service to anyone with thoughts of suicide. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline UK on 0800 689 5652 (open 24/7).
  • Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM). You can call the CALM on 0800 58 58 58 (5pm–midnight every day) if you are struggling and need to talk. Or if you prefer not to speak on the phone, you could try the CALM webchat service.
  • Papyrus HOPELINEUK. If you're under 35 and struggling with suicidal feelings, or concerned about a young person who might be struggling, you can call Papyrus HOPELINEUK on 0800 068 4141 (weekdays 10am-10pm, weekends 2pm-10pm and bank holidays 2pm–10pm), email [email protected] or text 07786 209 697.
  • Nightline. If you're a student, you can look on the Nightline website to see if your university or college offers a night-time listening service. Nightline phone operators are all students too. (
  • Switchboard. If you identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, you can call Switchboard on 0300 330 0630 (10am–10pm every day), email [email protected] or use their webchat service. Phone operators all identify as LGBT+.
  • For more options, visit the Helplines Partnership website for a directory of UK helplines. Mind's Infoline can also help you find services that can support you. If you're outside the UK, the Befrienders Worldwide website has a tool to search by country for emotional support helplines around the world.
Horse Portrait Manchester