Britain is a nation of animal lovers. The latest statistics from the Pet Food Manufacturers Association show that nearly half (46%) of the UK’s households are also home to furry/scaly/feathered residents.

But our animal companions have become more than a pet and are being used more and more for physical and emotional support. In National Pet Month, we celebrate all of what our animal friends do for us.

Furry Tales

■ Furry Tales puts animals from Stepney City Farm with people who might need companionship.

Ione Rojas, founder and project manager of Furry Tales

During a visit where a guinea pig (Baked Bean), hen (Mabel) and rabbit (Harvey) paid a visit to residents at Hawthorn Green Residential and Nursing Home, activities leader Joan Coker said: “Our residents absolutely love to fuss over and hold animals, so when the poster went up for the Furry Tales event, the excitement rippled throughout the home.”

Furry Tales was set up by Ione Rojas to provide older people with companionship and help residents with dementia to stimulate conversations and memories via the warmth and physical contact of the animals.

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East London NHS Trust’s Four-Legged Therapist

■ Animal-assisted therapy involves the use of animals as a form of treatment. This can range from animal interaction to the use of pets within a therapeutic environment.

Matron Maureen Brown and pet therapy dog Leo

Since the introduction of pet therapy dog Leo, patients at the Tower Hamlets Centre for Mental Health have shown improvements in their anxiety and depression.

One service user said: “Most of all, when your confidence is at its lowest, when you feel battered – by life, death and (especially) other humans – a dog will shove her nose in your hand and tell you, with conviction and feeling, what a really good person you are.”

■ For those who just don’t have time for a pet offers an alternative.

Greenwich residents Katherine and Peter signed up with their miniature dachshunds George (who loves to sleep and have his tummy rubbed).

BorrowMyDoggy member George from Greenwich

Katherine said: “Once we got George we signed up in the first couple of weeks of having him. We’ve been able to socialise George with more people because miniature dachshunds can be quite a nervous breed

“One of the best things about Borrow My Doggy is that we know someone is always nearby to look after him.”

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Cat sitting from Cleaning Zoo

■ Animals at home need to be looked after as well, so when director of Cleaning Zoo Julia Nowak began getting requests from cleaning clients to sit for their cats, she was more than happy to oblige.

She said: “It came as a side business because people were asking for favours to sit with the cats. I now sit for more than 100.

“I feed them, change the litter, sit with them, play with them – some of them just want cuddles all the time.”

She now has six cats of her own after taking in a pregnant feline.

She said: “It’s good for the cat as someone is coming to the house and the house looks busy – almost like house sitting too.”

£12ph (extra £2 per cat), £14ph bank hols and weekends, .

A few more...

We have found plenty of animal-focused events to look out for in the next few months including the Curious Canine Kitchen in Shoreditch, where dogs can enjoy an holistic therapy fine dining experience.

The event on April 11 and 12 is already sold out, but look out for future dates.

One diner having a pawfully tasty time at Curious Canine Kitchen

For feline lovers there’s Great Kitten - the World’s First Cat Cinema & Cafe , which is currently in the crowdfunding process - so fingers crossed it comes over to east London.

Then there’s Lady Dinah’s Cat Cafe, which has been a firm favourite since it opened just over a year ago in Bethnal Green Road.