Millions of UK pets are facing loneliness this January, warns vet charity PDSA. As well as an influx of new residents through the doors of rehoming charities in the months after Christmas, pets are facing long-term loneliness at home.
In the charity's recent PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report, it was revealed that over two million dogs are frequently left alone for five hours or more on a typical weekday. Loneliness and boredom in dogs can lead to frustration and destructive behaviour.
PDSA vet, Rebecca Ashman, comments, "Ideally, dogs shouldn’t be left alone for more than four hours on a typical day, so it’s hugely concerning that millions are routinely left alone for longer periods of time. Dogs are naturally very social animals and need companionship. Loneliness can be very harmful to their mental wellbeing. Many dogs will have enjoyed the busy Christmas period with lots of company, and suddenly, when everyone goes back to work, they are back to spending much of the day alone.
"The PAW Report also found that 1.6 million dogs aren’t being walked every day and, worryingly, an estimated 94,000 dogs are never walked at all. Regular exercise is vital to encouraging positive interactions with people and other dogs, and avoiding obesity."
Rabbits were another pet that suffered from loneliness, with a worrying 780,000 rabbits living alone despite being highly-sociable animals that should live with another rabbit. Solitary felines, however, had the opposite problem. PDSA figures showed 2.3 million cats are living in homes with another cat, or cats they don't get along with, potentially causing chronic stress.
Rebecca added, "Ninety-three percent of owners told us that their pet makes them happy, so we are undoubtedly a nation who value and love our furry companions. But caring for a pet and ensuring you are providing for their needs can be very demanding. It’s important that you do your research before getting a pet, and make sure your chosen pet is right for you and your lifestyle. Your local vet is perfectly placed to help you with this important decision.
"Pet owners need to make sure they understand what their pet needs to be happy and healthy, and be certain that you can meet these needs on a daily basis. For example, do you have time to walk a dog every day? Do you have the space, resources and time to commit to two rabbits? While the nation may be feeling the ‘New Year blues’, it's important not to forget about keeping our pets happy too."