When I first arrived at Manchester for uni, I thought I would quickly start missing my family, friends or boyfriend the most. And I do miss them, don’t get me wrong, but I definitely miss my dog most often, given he was the one who was following me around the house 24/7 when I was back at home! Even though bringing a fully grown Border Collie all the way from Peru would have been crazy of me, I have to confess I did a little research before coming here to see if it was actually an option. Unfortunately, I found that most student accommodations did not accept pets, even though this made incredible sense since students usually handle busy schedules and are rarely in their dorms.
Honestly, I thought I would encounter more dogs here in Manchester, but I haven’t seen many –my theory is that since it rains so much people are put off by the idea of having a dog that requires them to constantly step outside! Therefore, this article is intended for those of you who like me, miss their furry friends, or for the general animal lovers out there, or even for anyone looking for a unique plan for the day. I love dogs, but ever since I got Luca, I have grown more sensible to animals in general and I have found that just by coming into contact with them for a short period of time, or by looking at them interact with each other, I feel soothed.
Although most of the research is fairly recent, there are studies that have found that animals help decrease levels of stress and feelings of loneliness, and increase feelings of social support and good mood. I think it’s safe to say that being current students at the University of Manchester is a stress-guarantee which is why, without further ado, I present the following places and activities in the Manchester Area where you can make animals part of your next day out:
There are several organisations that offer volunteering opportunities in Manchester, although most have limited slots available, so I advise you to be patient!
Dogs Unleashed works alongside the Manchester and Cheshire Dogs’ Home, and you can contact both of them through Facebook. Dogs Unleashed is particularly directed at UoM students wanting to help dogs before they find homes for them. You first need to contact them, attend a training session to get approved to be a volunteer, and then wait for them to call you to participate in one of their activities. Make sure to ask the people at Dogs Unleashed and at Manchester and Cheshire Dogs’ Home about any other events they are organising and you can become involved with, such as their Christmas Fairs. Finally, the Greater Manchester Animal Hospital is another option, although opportunities available with them at the moment may be limited.
Part of the #100DaysMcr poster provided during Welcome Week that lists 100 recommendations of things to do in Manchester, the Cat Cafe located in the City Centre is a great option for those of you who wish to carry on studying or working while being accompanied by cute fur balls. The Cat Cafe is located in the Northern Quarter (big surprise, eh?) and costs £12 per hour, during which you get an hour of “cat time” plus unlimited hot and cold drinks. Keep in mind that from Monday to Friday the cafe offers a 10% discount off for all students with a valid Student ID. It offers cosy sofas to cuddle up on and a relaxing and calm atmosphere.
Monday – Saturday: 10 am – 7 pm
Sunday: 11 am – 6 pm
Also part of #100DaysMcr, although a little further away than the Cat Cafe, the Donkey Sanctuary offers donkey-assisted learning services to vulnerable people, and also gives the general public the possibility of visiting the donkeys and watching them graze, be groomed, eat, or play. Feel free to talk to staff members and ask them any questions you may have about the donkeys to learn more about them. If you are lucky, you may even get the chance to pet them if any of the donkeys decide to approach you.
Monday – Friday: 3 pm – 5 pm
Weekends & selected Bank Holidays: 10 am – 3 pm
Closed: first Saturday of each month
The SU occasionally brings therapy dogs on campus for students to play with, but they only announce these events on social media on the same morning due to their huge popularity. So keep a close watch for these posts!
Options for the children – or the child within us!
- Cockfields Farm Park
Cockfields Farm Park has cute small animals you can hold and cuddle with such as rabbits, hedgehogs and owls, and also has farm animals you can see such as donkeys, llamas, goats, cows, ducks, reindeer and meerkats. It organises reptile shows and you can hold and touch the creatures, if you’re brave enough to! The park is open 7 days a week and is located on the Border of Ashton under Lyne & Oldham in Greater Manchester, which is a little bit far off. Check out their website for further information, including admission prices, and be sure to check out their special events during the holiday season.
- The Garden House
Also located a bit further away in Marple, near to the Roman Lakes, the Garden House is home to many farm animals such as goats, pigs, turkeys, alpacas and ducks. It even has a beautiful butterfly house! However, at the Garden Case, visitors are not usually allowed to pet the animals, so do be careful. Check out their website for more information on other events they are organizing, especially for children.
Tuesday – Sunday: 10 am – 3 pm
- Animal Centre
The Animal Centre located in Heaton Park is another place where you can find farmyard animals such as chickens, goats, pigs, guinea pigs, rabbits, alpacas, peacocks, horses and donkeys. Similar to the Garden House, petting and feeding the animals is not allowed at the Animal Centre. The centre is free and open year round during the following times:
April to September: 10:30 am – 6 pm
October to March: 10:30 am – 6 pm