There are many positive effects associated with pet ownership, including improved physical and mental health. As such, many people in North America consider pets an extension of family - some would argue that a home just isn’t a home without animals.
People experiencing homelessness are no different, and a significant number of them have pets. A study of vulnerably housed adults found that 11.5% of participants in Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa owned pets.
Many people cannot bear to give up pets they adopted while housed, while others acquire pets while already homeless. In either case, pets are generally kept because people can’t imagine life without them.
“She’s the only thing I got in this world besides my life.
I’m there for her and she’s there for me.”
Companion animals are often more than just pets. For many people, especially those experiencing homelessness - whose social networks are usually extremely limited as a result of their homelessness - bonding with an animal is a great source of love and companionship. 74% of pet owners said,
Their pet was their only source of companionship and love.
Pets provide unconditional acceptance and a source of comfort. Owning a pet comes with great responsibility and this isn’t lost on homeless owners. This sense of purpose, responsibility and accountability from animal companionship can be transformative in the lives of people experiencing homelessness.
In many stories, love, companionship and responsibility are all common reasons why homeless people kept their pets.