Benefits of pet companionship

Posted on 11 January, 2016

  • Proposition: pet companionship is good for older people
  • Problem: pet ownership is expensive (and a tie)
  • Solution: take up an occupation which offers the company of pets, and is tailored to personal preferences – and lifestyle

Domestic pets are ‘good for you’ particularly if you are an older person – and they are much more palatable than medicine! In fact, pets are so good for human health that it’s been said they should be available on prescription for some individuals.*¹

Scientists on both sides of the Atlantic say that pets may help older people live longer, healthier and more enjoyable lives. Dogs and cats provide companionship, affection and entertainment, and they’re associated with:

– improved mental and physical health

– lower stress

– giving a sense of purpose and responsibility through the care-taking role

– increased levels of activity (not explained solely by dog-walking because cat owners are equally active).

However, owning a dog or a cat does not come cheap. The average lifetime cost of owning a cat or a dog stands at around £17,000 according to the most recent figures published by Sainsbury’s Pet Insurance.*² The average annual cost of owning a dog is currently £1,183 but with inflation and rising costs, Sainsbury’s estimates that could easily rise by about 20% to £1,418 during its average life expectancy of 13 years. The average annual cost of owning a cat is slightly lower at £1,028 but this could increase to an annual cost of £1270 in 15 years’ time – the average life expectancy of a pet cat in the UK.

This is a significant financial commitment for anyone, but well beyond the means of many older people, particularly if they are retired on a fixed pension and receiving a miserable return on their savings. Most people in this situation are currently looking for ways to reduce their expenditure – not suggestions for increasing their outlay, however attractive and beneficial the proposition.

The other drawback to acquiring a pet, particularly at the ‘just retired’ stage of life, is that it is a major commitment – and a tie. If you want to be off staying with family and friends, doing some travelling, pursuing hobbies, undertaking voluntary work, a full-time pet may not fit in with your lifestyle. Pets require time and attention: they can only be left alone for a limited time and arrangements must be made for their care if you want to go away.

So what’s the answer if you want to enjoy the benefits of pet companionship – but cannot afford the cost and commitment of pet ownership?

900+ people nationwide have chosen to become home and pet sitters with Homesitters Ltd. For periods averaging 7-10 days, they move into clients’ properties while the owners are on holiday and look after their homes and pets. The petsitters specify the types of pets they would like to care for, and they are then carefully matched on a range of criteria including the pet breeds and numbers, age and energy, exercise requirements – and personalities! So whilst a single female cat sitter might particularly relish a week in London giving tlc to a shy housecat, a country-loving couple of keen walkers could think two weeks yomping across the Yorkshire Dales with a couple of lively Labradors was their idea of heaven!

And it’s not only on the pet front that sitters and clients are matched. Size and type of property, location, length of stay are all taken into account. So as well as enjoying the benefits of animal companionship, the pet sitters are also benefiting from a change of scene – a mini break with responsibility.

Should all go well, there are usually opportunities for sitters to return and look after the same pets on further occasions, which sitters welcome. As one says ‘It’s a bit like looking after the grandchildren; you can enjoy the pleasure of their company on a regular basis whilst knowing that you will be handing them back to their owners in due course.’ And the pets relish the repeat visits too; one dog sitter scored most of his dog charges as ‘very happy from dawn to dusk’ reporting: ‘No pining, no whining, happy to see a returning sitter because sitters will spend more time with them than most clients do; we talk to the pets a great deal and give them plenty of handling.’

Pete Wedderburn, the vet, writing in his Telegraph blog, posed the question ‘Why should pets be so good for us, and in particular, for older people? Nobody knows the exact reasons. Perhaps it is simply that we humans are social beings who enjoy companions. And a companion does not need to be human.’ Being a pet sitter offers opportunities to enjoy that beneficial pet companionship – but ensures that it is compatible with the sitter’s lifestyle.



Homesitters Ltd introduced nationwide home and pet sitting in 1980. The service allows homeowners to go away with peace of mind, knowing that their homes are secure and well cared for, and that their pets remain in their familiar environment following their normal routines.

The company has completed over 70,000 assignments looking after well over 100,000 dogs and cats.

Homesitters is not an agency. The 1000+ employees are meticulously vetted, personally interviewed and fully insured. Sitters operate under the company’s direction with 24 hour back-up. They are selected not only for their integrity and reliability but also for their domestic and petcare skills. Most of the employees choose to become Homesitters because they have been pet owners and welcome another opportunity to enjoy the companionship of animals.

Case studies and images can be provided. Please contact the press office below.

The Homesitters website is

For further information please contact us on 01296 630730.


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