Whilst there’s no doubt that we’re a nation of pet lovers, not all of us are lucky enough to share our home with a cute little animal companion. Perhaps your landlord doesn’t permit pets, or maybe you’re not home enough to give a puppy the time it deserves. Whatever the reason, if you’re an animal lover without a pet, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy National Pet Month.
Running from the 1st of April to the 6th of May, it’s the perfect excuse to embrace your inner animal lover and find new ways to spend time with creatures great and small. Whether you have pets or not, here are 10 great animal-oriented activities that the whole family can get involved with.
1. Go to a cat cafe
Rapidly growing in popularity, the trend for cat cafes first began in Taiwan, before spreading to Japan and then arriving in the UK in 2014. Since then, cat cafes have appeared in major cities across the country. Each establishment is usually home to a group of kitties, who are left to roam, play or sleep as they wish. Order a coffee and a slice of cake and enjoy the feline company as you catch up with your friends.
It’s all about providing a haven for the animals so most cat cafes prefer you not to pick up the kitties or stroke them while they’re sleeping. They also get busy, so it’s best to book in advance. Not sure where your nearest cat cafe is? There’s a helpful guide to the best cat cafes around here.
2. Try alpaca walking
If you love getting out into nature, pick a sunny day and enjoy some pretty scenery…while walking an alpaca! These four-legged fluff balls are the smaller siblings of llamas. Full of personality, alpaca walking experiences have popped up all across the country, giving you the chance to get up close and personal with the friendly, fleecy creatures.
On most alpaca farms you’ll be instructed on how to handle, pet and lead the pack, as well as handed some treats to feed the animals on the way round. You might even be able to snap a few selfies along the way. Alpaca walking experiences are available up and down the country, just search for your nearest one online.
3. Volunteer at a dog shelter
Dogs are a big commitment. Sharing a home with man’s best friend takes a lot of responsibility, patience and time. If you’re not able to dedicate yourself to rehoming a dog, volunteering at a shelter might be the next best thing. Voluntary work for a dog related charity can take the form of anything from fundraising, to working in a charity shop, or even helping out around the shelter. There’s always plenty of opportunities to help, and your time will be greatly appreciated by every pup waiting for its new home.
Generally speaking, if you’re interested in volunteering it’s best to enquire at your local branch. There’s usually a form to fill in, but most shelters will be totally flexible on how much time you’re able to dedicate. Why not start by reading more about volunteering with the RSPCA, Dogs Trust or Blue Cross.
4. Visit the zoo or safari park
Pack the whole family into the car and head out for a day filled with animal fun! Everybody has a favourite animal, and the zoo is the place to be for fans of the more exotic species. Keep costs down by making a picnic to take with you and pay a visit to each enclosure to see what animals you can spot. From playful baby elephants to elusive big cats, you can appreciate the beauty of these magnificent creatures as they go about their daily routine.
If the weather’s not on your side, stay in the shelter of your car and head to a safari park. Drive around the trail, spotting the animals as you go. Watch out for those cheeky monkeys though – if they’re feeling brave they might hitch a ride on your car.
5. Take a trip to the farm
Heading to your local farm makes for a lovely day out – especially if you have young children. Along with looking at all the animals the farm has to offer, it’s a great learning experience for the kids. Depending on the farm you visit you might be able to go on a tractor ride, watch the cows be milked or maybe even bottle feed some baby animals.
Many farms are adapted for visits from young children and often host talks, demonstrations or give the kids the opportunity to feed or handle small animals like bunnies and chicks. Informational and interactive, it’s an experience the whole family can enjoy together.
6. Go birdwatching
Maybe you’ve never thought of yourself as much of a twitcher, but birdwatching is officially back in fashion. Earlier this year the RSPB launched the Big Garden Birdwatch 2019, a campaign that encouraged us all to get out in our gardens and keep a note of all our feathered visitors. The world’s largest garden wildlife survey, the statistics provided by this help the RSPB to keep track of bird populations.
Enjoyed by around 3 million adults in the UK, you don’t need binoculars to take up birdwatching. It’s a great excuse to get out into nature and take the time to observe the birds in their natural habitats. Get started by reading the birdwatchers’ code here.
7. Have a go at horse riding
A trip to the stables might be a little daunting if you’ve not grown up around equestrians, but there are plenty of opportunities to get into horse riding as an adult. A quick Google search for ‘horse riding lessons near me’ will throw out a host of results helping you to find a local stable that will get you (back) on the horse. If you’re looking for less of a commitment, try looking for horse riding experiences – there are trail riding adventures, along with groom and ride days available.
Horse riding comes with a wealth of benefits, not least of which is that it’s great for your health. It’s a good workout, encouraging core strength and better posture – so get in the saddle and give it a go.
8. Try beekeeping
The dwindling number of honey bees in Britain poses a real threat to our environment, and our ecology. An ancient craft, beekeeping is now growing in popularity as we’re all becoming more aware of the importance of helping to preserve and increase bee populations. There are plenty of ways to get involved and support the ethical beekeeping movement. The Bee Centre offers information about beekeeping experiences, adopt a bee schemes, and the option to ‘give a swarm a home’.
If you’re interested in learning more about beekeeping, courses are available across the UK. A great activity for children to get involved with too, the British Beekeepers Association has a section dedicated to kids’ beekeeping to inspire you about how they can help the honey bees.
9. Visit an aquarium
Show your love for sea life and spend the day enjoying the underwater scenery at an aquarium. Wander around each exhibition, taking in the ambience of the shimmery blue water and abundance of marine life swimming all around you. From sharks to frogs, there’s plenty to see and learn about, creating an immersive experience for the whole family. Depending on the aquarium you choose to visit, there might even be interactive sessions to get involved with.
Guaranteed to get you thinking about how we can all be more mindful of conserving our oceans and the creatures living within them, a day out at the aquarium is much more than just an underwater adventure. Pick an aquarium to visit from this helpful list of the best aquariums in the UK.
10. Sponsor an animal
Adopting an animal is a great way to feel like you’re making a difference to the preservation of a species in need. After a visit to the zoo or safari, why not come home, get comfy on the sofa and choose an animal to sponsor? The WWF offers a choice of 16 exotic species that you can adopt yourself, or sponsor as a gift on behalf of the animal lover in your life.
If you’d like to support animals a little closer to home, the Wildlife Trust does important conservation work to help look after UK wildlife. Choose an animal to adopt and the money raised will go towards nature reserves or habitat creation for Britain’s wildlife populations.