Animals have a unique ability to lift our spirits, comfort and relax us, and show us new perspectives on the world. Pets can also offer us unconditional love and companionship, while wildlife can help us to feel grounded, inspired, and part of something bigger.
So, for animal lovers alike, the big question is usually: how can I spend more time with animals? And this may be particularly relevant if you don’t have a pet of your own.
With this in mind, we’ve put together a list of 13 ways to connect with animals. With everything from visiting a dog or cat cafe to learning to scuba dive, hopefully something will pique your interest.
1. Try birdwatching
Birdwatching is a great way to get outside and get closer to nature, while helping to your mind on the present moment.
You don’t need to go far to have a memorable birdwatching experience. Birds are almost everywhere – we often just need to look a little more closely to find the window into their interesting and captivating world.
Watching birds as they squabble, build nests, hunt for food, and raise chicks can provide hours of entertainment. And the more you get to know different species of birds, the more fascinating they become.
Our beginner’s guide to birdwatching has lots of helpful tips and tricks for first-time twitchers, including how to identify different types of bird, how changing seasons can affect bird behaviour, and how to make your garden more bird-friendly.
2. Work with animals
If you’re in the market for a new job, why not consider a role working with animals? For many animal lovers, getting paid to hang out with furry, feathered, or scaly friends is a dream come true.
There’s also a huge range of different professions within the animal care and management industry to choose from. Some of these you can get started with straight away (for example, dog walking or assistance dog training) and others that’ll require some pre-study (such as animal physiotherapy or zookeeping).
To find out more, you might want to check out our article; 12 interesting roles working with animals. Or, you can search for animal roles near you on our website.
3. Visit a dog or cat cafe
Dogs and cats can help us to see the lighter side of things and offer a refreshing break from the hustle and bustle of modern life. However, not all of us are lucky enough to own one – which is where the idea of cat and dog cafes stemmed from.
Animal cafes have long been popular in South East Asia, and have grown in popularity in the UK in recent years. For example, Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium is a warm, cosy cat cafe in the East End of London that does a top-notch afternoon tea. It’s home to several quiet, contented rescue cats who’ll often interact with customers through cuddles or by playing with toys.
Meanwhile, the Dog and Scone Cafe in Newcastle is the perfect place to enjoy tasty cakes, coffees, and teas in the company of eight gorgeous dogs – each with a very different personality. For example, Momo the toy poodle loves relaxing on her favourite beanbag, pomeranian Teddy loves to play all day, and Yuki the Yorkshire terrier is very shy!
If this sounds like your perfect day out, then why not check out POPSUGAR’s roundup of the best animal cafes across the UK to find out more?
4. Volunteer with animals
If you’ve got some free time on your hands and aren’t worried about getting paid, then there are plenty of fun and fulfilling animal volunteering opportunities out there.
For example, you could consider fostering a trainee guide dog puppy for several months while it learns the skills needed to improve the life of someone with sight loss.
The RSPCA also regularly appeal for animal care volunteers and drivers to support pets and wildlife when they’re at their most vulnerable.
To learn more about the benefits of volunteering with animals and what sort of roles might be available, why not visit the relevant page on our site?
5. Get into horse riding
Whether you’ve not ridden a horse in years, or you’ve always wanted to give it a go but haven’t had the chance; it’s never too late to get started or get back in the saddle.
Horses are beautiful animals with long memories and distinct personalities – and the connection between horse and rider can be incredibly powerful.
In many cases, horses are also gentle, calm souls who can read human emotions and behaviour, and respond. For this reason, even people who don’t want to ride a horse may take part in equine therapy to help with mental and physical healing.
If you’re interested in getting into horse riding, then you’ll need to take some lessons at a riding school with an instructor. You can find out more about how to find a class and get tips for new riders in our article; How to start horse riding in your 50s and 60s.
6. Try beekeeping
Beekeeping can be fascinating, rewarding, thrilling, and relaxing, all at the same time.
Not only do beekeepers get a buzz out of helping nature’s most important pollinators thrive, but they get to become part of an active beekeeping community, and – with a little patience and dedication – enjoy beautiful honey straight from their own hives.
To find out more about honeybees, and when and how to get started, you might want to check out our introduction to beekeeping. We have a number of beekeeping courses available through our site too.
7. Visit The Farne Islands
The Farne Islands in Northumberland have been hailed as Sir David Attenborough’s favourite UK place to visit to see ‘magnificent nature’. Every year, puffins, grey seals, and over 100,000 seabirds make these beautiful islands their home.
The puffin is one of the UK’s most-loved birds and there are few places where you’ll be able to get this close to them. During the summer months, over 40,000 pairs of puffins are present here.
Or, if you decide to visit during autumn and winter, this is when sea pups are born in their hundreds – which really is a sight to behold.
It’s best to plan your trip to The Farne Islands ahead of time, as they can be a bit tricky to get to. There are 28 islands in total, but only three are accessible to the public.
8. Consider getting a pet
Getting a pet won’t be for everyone; as it takes a huge amount of responsibility and commitment. It can also take some time to figure out which type of pet you might want to own, as every pet will have different needs.
Some people prefer the idea of getting a dog for their loyalty, companionship, and love of walking, while others might prefer to have a pet that’s more independent, like a cat. Or something small and low maintenance, like a fish or a rabbit.
If you think you might be ready for a pet but you’re not sure how to choose the right one for you, then you could try taking PDSA’s Get Petwise quiz. It considers factors like the size of your home, your budget, and how much time you have to give to an animal.
There’s also plenty more helpful information in our article; 10 benefits of owning a pet.
9. Learn to scuba dive
Learning to scuba dive can open up a whole new world, as it’s difficult to appreciate the true beauty that lies below the surface without seeing it up close. Coral reefs, seahorses, and exquisitely coloured fish are just a snapshot of what you could experience once you dive deeper.
If scuba diving appeals to you, and you’d like to learn more, then why not have a read of this quick and easy introduction to scuba diving from PADI? Or to get inspired, you might want to check out RedBull’s list of the 10 best places to swim with wildlife in the UK.
10. Try pets yoga
Yoga is a great way to work on your strength and flexibility and calm your mind – but throwing some furry friends into the mix could make it a particularly fun and memorable experience.
During the class, puppies, kittens, bunnies (or even goats!) will roam free and interact with the members of the class naturally. The relaxing nature of a yoga class means that both pets and humans get the chance to unwind.
However, it’s important to remember that animals are unpredictable, so these classes are best suited to people who are happy to go with the flow and have a giggle – as there’ll be no shortage of funny moments!
Pets yoga varies in popularity around the UK, so it’s worth searching online to see what might be available near you.
11. Do some pet sitting
If you want to combine your love of travel with animals, then why not consider doing some pet sitting?
Pet sitting opportunities vary and some people might prefer to make it their profession, while others might be happy to do it for free – either as a hobby or in combination with a remote job role.
Aside from the opportunity to stay in people’s houses and explore new places, many people find that pet sitting offers them companionship, and a chance to build new friendships (both with pets and their owners).
If you want to try pet sitting but you’re wondering where to start, then you might want to consider signing up to TrustedHousesitters (for an annual fee). You can get connected with home and pet owners worldwide who are looking for people to care for their pets and properties while they’re away. Sitting with TrustedHousesitters is done for free, in exchange for a chance to experience life in a new location.
12. Go on a safari
Safaris are usually unforgettable, life-changing experiences. We’ve all seen lions, tigers, and elephants on wildlife documentaries – but nothing compares to seeing some of nature’s most majestic, beautiful animals up close in their natural habitat. And if you’re into photography, it’s also the perfect opportunity to snap some stunning shots.
When choosing a safari, it’s important to do thorough research to ensure that you travel with companies that aim to protect wildlife and respect their space – rather than exploit them to make money.
A good place to start looking is on the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)’s website, as they’re the leading organisation in wildlife conservation and endangered species.
WWF has partnered with Natural Habitat Adventures to offer a number of travel opportunities that focus on conservation and sustainability, with the aim of supporting and protecting wildlife, nature, and local communities. You can search for trips using the handy tool on WWF’s website.
Alternatively, Responsible Travel is another travel company that has a focus on making sure that safari experiences benefit both humans and wildlife.
For more holiday ideas, check out our article; 10 of the best holidays for animal lovers.
13. Connect with animals around the world virtually
While most of the ideas in this list require you to go somewhere to see animals, there are also lots of ways you can connect with animals around the world from the comfort of your own home.
For example, by following live streams on Explore’s website, you can visit Bald Eagles on Santa Cruz Island, check into the puppy playroom at Warrior Canine Connection in the USA, or see what the gorillas are up to in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
There are also lots of animal live streams available on YouTube, such as the one of a hummingbird bird feeder below. The stream is run by Carole, who has fed the birds for 10 years in her home studio in California.
If you’re having a bad day, are looking to escape the fast-paced nature of the modern world, or just want to feel part of something bigger; connecting with animals can make a big difference to how you feel.
While getting a pet may feel like a natural step for some animal lovers, for others, this may not always be possible. But, luckily there are plenty of other ways that you can explore your connection to animals.
Whether you decide to take up bird watching, visit a cat cafe, or learn to ride a horse, we hope this article has got you thinking about your next animal adventure!