Charity warns cost-of-living crisis ‘causing mental health problems for pet owners’

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pet theft tears families apart
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While getting a pet is well documented as bringing improved well-being and personal happiness, sadly the current cost-of-living crisis means that pet ownership can now also be a source of stress and impaired mental health, according to new data from national pet charity, Blue Cross.

In a national survey, carried out in January 2023, 32 per cent of respondents in England said that cost-of-living pressures and the need to care for their pet has had a negative impact on their mental health.

Nearly 20 per cent of people surveyed admitted to having been unable to pay for a vet bill over the previous three months, and almost 22 per cent felt that they would be unable to afford food for their pets in the near future.

Sadly, 42 per cent of pet owners also identified the increased cost-of-living as something that has recently made it difficult to own a pet.

Having a pet should be a source of joy and companionship, and when asked to give up to three reasons for welcoming a pet into their life around half surveyed (49.7 per cent) gave ‘wanting a pet to love and care for’ as a reason. Nearly half (43 per cent) cited ‘companionship’. Sadly, 42 per cent of pet owners also identified the increased cost-of-living as something that has recently made it difficult to own a pet.

Chris Burghes, CEO of Blue Cross, said, “As an organisation, we recognise the huge pressure the cost-of-living crisis is having on all areas of people’s lives. We are doing everything we can to support pet owners, whether that is through our clinical or behaviour services or through our network of pet food banks.

“Blue Cross has a growing number of pet food banks, where struggling owners can get free food for their pet companions. Some of our pet food banks have volunteer drivers who can deliver to pet owners who are unable to travel, and we are even able to cater for some special diets. We also provide free and reduced cost vet care to pets whose owners are on certain means-tested benefits.”

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Currently 13 Blue Cross sites are providing pet food directly to owners in need, including the charity’s Grimsby animal hospital and Sheffield rehoming unit. The charity is taking donations of pet food at 33 of its sites and at 97 Pets at Home stores, and working with local foodbanks to distribute to owners in need.

In total the charity is supporting 136 human foodbanks across the UK, and since October has given out enough food to feed over 800,000 cats and dogs for one day. Blue Cross’s website has lots of tips and ideas on how to keep animal companions fit and healthy on a budget.

Chris continues, “Keeping them exercised is great for their well-being and keeps their weigh in check. Overweight pets are more prone to developing chronic health, which will need lifelong treatment and can reduce your pet’s quality of life. Good mental health is crucial to our overall well-being, and as a pet charity we are only too aware of how pets bring happiness and support. We want to keep people and their pets together and would urge anyone worried about caring for their animal to visit our website for help and advice.”

Whatever the reason, Blue Cross wants to help ensure no one goes through the pain of losing a pet alone.

It is sometimes necessary to re-home a pet though, and this is a heart-breaking decision to have to take. Blue Cross has a professional re-homing team working in rehoming centres across the UK, who can help owners – and their pets – through this, and the charity advises anyone thinking of rehoming their pet to contact them first for advice and support.

They also provide a free and confidential Pet Bereavement Support Service (PBSS) to help anyone going through the pain of losing a pet. This may be after the re-homing of a beloved companion, or perhaps after a pet’s death, a family break-up, or a pet’s disappearance.  Whatever the reason, Blue Cross wants to help ensure no one goes through the pain of losing a pet alone. Its Pet Bereavement Support Service is available by phone, email, or webchat, and operates around the clock, every day of the year.

With the increasing demand for Blue Cross pet welfare services, the charity needs the support of animal lovers to continue its work helping pets and their people – whether that’s by donating urgently to keep rehoming and veterinary services going through these tough times, fundraising for Blue Cross, providing foster care for pets while loving new homes are found, volunteering at pet food banks, or signing up to support Blue Cross campaigns for better pet welfare.

This is a guest post by Blue Cross. Want to write for us? Visit www.dogstodaymagazine.co.uk/essay-submission or email editorial@dogstodaymagazine.co.uk

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