Photo of a black cat by Nathan Riley on Unsplash, with the words National Black Cat Day

Tomorrow is National Black Cat Day – a day to celebrate one of the nation’s much-loved pets. Information nurse Richard, who is a “mad-cat-person in the making”, is taking the opportunity to blog about all pets – and some things to think about if you have cancer and are worried about looking after them.

A nation of pet lovers

In the UK we really love our pets. Over 45% of households have a pet. We’re caring for a whopping 50 million animals. From gerbils and spiders to horses and snakes – we love ‘em.

With over 7.5 million people living alone in the UK, and 2.5 million people living with cancer – it’s very likely that a lot of people are caring for a pet alone while dealing with cancer.

When support may be needed

Like many serious illnesses, cancer can mean time spent in hospital. Or there may be days when you feel less able to cope. Both can be a problem if you live alone and share your life with a pet.

The amount of help you need will depend on your situation. You may:

  • be struggling to look after your pet
  • be no longer able to look after your pet
  • have to go into hospital or nursing home for a time
  • worry who will look after your pet if you die.

It can be a distressing time. But help and support is available.

Who can help

If you only need someone to pop in and feed your pet or perhaps take them for a walk, ask people who are close by, like your:

  • neighbours
  • family
  • friends.

Family who are further away may also be able to help.

Your vet may also be able to suggest help, or you could contact organisations, such as:

Short-term options

If you have to go into hospital or a nursing home for a time, your pet may need more than just someone popping in a couple of times a day. It may be better to arrange short-term care.

You could consider:

If you can pay, other options include:

  • a boarding service, such as a kennel or cattery - but they can be expensive
  • having someone come to your house to feed and care for your pet
  • having a sitter stay in your home.

Your vet may know local fostering services, volunteer schemes and organisations that can help, or you could contact Petpals.

There are house-sitting services listed in the phone book or online. The National Association of Registered Pet Sitters and Dog Walkers (NARP) also has details.


Sometimes it may be necessary to permanently rehome your pet. This can be a very difficult decision to make. I know it would really help me to know they have gone to a good home.

There are local and national organisations and charities that provide long-term care or rehoming. These include:


Think about who will look after your pet in an emergency. Or if you have to go into hospital at short notice. It could be a neighbour or good friend. You could carry a card in your wallet or purse with their details.

Planning for your pets if you die

Although no one likes to think about it, it’s a good idea to plan what would happen to your pets if you die. You can include instructions about your pets in your will. If you have no family or friends that can take your pets, several charities run re-homing services if a pet owner dies. You usually need to register. Check out the websites of the re-homing organisations listed above.

If you want more information about pet care and cancer, have a look at our online information.


To see what else Macmillan's cancer information team has been blogging about, please visit our blog home page! You can subscribe to receive our blogs by email or RSS too.

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The Macmillan team is here to help. Our cancer support specialists can answer your questions, offer support, or simply listen if you need a chat. Call us free on 0808 808 00 00.

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Black cat photo by Nathan Riley