‘They offer comfort’: Why pets are integral to positive mental health during lockdown

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By John Voutos and Andriana Simos.

The Cat Protection Society of Victoria says pet adoption inquiries have ‘skyrocketed’ since Melbourne’s stage four lockdown began. 

Rachel Bitzilis, Marketing and Communications Manager at the Society, says there’s a reason why more Melburnians than ever before are welcoming cats into their homes. 

“Every time there is a lockdown, there is a spike in adoption applications… There is also more interest in adoption than cats and kittens available,” Ms Bitzilis tells The Greek Herald.

“There are quite a lot of benefits from the cat’s perspective as well. They find a forever home. 

“They also provide companionship.”

Zaki the Greek offers all that and more for his Greek-Italian owner Eliza Malerba. 

Little did Malerba know that Zaki would be her lifeline in lockdown and during very difficult times when she rescued him from the Society, but when her lipstick left a mark on his white fur she knew he was “the one”. 

It turned out Zaki would be the one rescuing Malerba, she tells The Greek Herald.  

Zaki, deriving from the Greek word for ‘sugar’ (‘zachari’), is 10 years old with heterochromatic eyes and is one of the more than 1500 surrendered and abandoned cats that find themselves in the Cat Protection Society of Victoria’s care each year. 

On average, a cat will spend 20 days in care at a cost of around $600. 

That’s a cost of over $900,000 per year, the Society says.

La Trobe University research fellow Dr. Vanessa Rohlf says the burgeoning COVID-19 lockdown has helped find these endangered animals find a home. 

“The reason we are seeing this increase is that we as human beings are social creatures and we are hard-wired to connect, especially in times of crisis,” she says.

“Prior to the pandemic, research showed that those who owned a cat reported time spent interacting with their cat improved their mood and reduced their levels of depressive and anxiety symptoms. 

“Pets can offer a stable and secure connection. [They] can really offer some certainty, purpose, and comfort during these difficult times.”

To find out more about how you can help the Society care for cats and find them their Happily Furever Home, visit www.catprotection.com.au/happilyfureverafter.

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