Animal shelters across Victoria have breathed a sigh of relief that they cannow facilitate pet adoptions during Melbourne’s stage four lockdown. The CatProtection Society of Victoria welcomed the news as adoption enquiries haveskyrocketed since lockdown began.
The Society’s Shelter Manager Lisa Agius has seen a huge correlation betweenthe adoption applications and the worsening pandemic in Melbourne.
“We’ve definitely experienced an increase in inquiries on the days that thevirus numbers have been high. We’ve always known the superpowers of cats, thatthey have the ability to calm and comfort their owners, but it is somethingthat we’ve witnessed again and again over the past few weeks,” she said.
Research Fellow, Dr Vanessa Rohlf with Dr Tiffani Howell and Professor PauleenBennett, are currently conducting a La Trobe University study into pets andpet ownership during the pandemic. Dr Rohlf believes that it is the humanresponse to connect during a crisis which is a huge driver in the rise inadoptions.
“The reason we are seeing this increase is that we as human beings are socialcreatures and we are hard wired to connect, especially in times of crisis. Ithink people might be experiencing greater levels of loneliness and isolation,as well as rising levels of stress, so see a pet as easing some of thesenegative feelings,” Dr Rohlf said.
“Social support from friends, family and colleagues can help us cope withstress but with current restrictions in place, this can make receiving socialsupport difficult, especially if we live alone, so I think that is why peopleare seeking to adopt pets, as it is a safe form of social connection.”
“Prior to the pandemic, research showed that those who owned a cat reportedtime spent interacting with their cat improved their mood and reduced theirlevels of depressive and anxiety symptoms,” she said.
Pets can also provide safety and a routine to their owners, something they arelikely craving during lockdown. This is especially the case for children.
“So many children and adults consider their pet part of the family and asource of unconditional love. I think that during difficult and uncertaintimes like this, children can feel a sense of safety when they have a pet intheir family. This is particularly important right now because they don’t havetheir normal routines. Having a safe base at home and having a saferelationship with their pet can be really important,” Dr Rohlf said.
“Pets can offer a stable and secure connection. For many people, the pandemichas disrupted their lives and routines, and having a pet that wakes us up atthe same time every morning for a feed, for example, can give us a reason toget up in the morning. Pets can really offer some certainty, purpose andcomfort during these difficult times.” she said.
While the mental health benefits of owning a pet are undeniable, Dr Rohlf doesnot suggest that all people who are currently experiencing anxiety, depressionor extreme stress should adopt a furry family member.
“We certainly know from the research that pet ownership is related to a numberof different mental health benefits but that doesn’t necessarily mean that allpeople who are feeling depressed or anxious should go out and adopt a pet,”she said.
“If you are feeling anxious or depressed in response to the pandemic, first,recognise that this is a really normal reaction to a very abnormalcircumstance. Second, if you are finding that these symptoms are significantlyimpacting your life, then do seek help from a mental health professional.Third, if you are thinking about adopting a pet, please remember that pets arefor life and not just for the duration of the pandemic. Do your homework andmake sure you have what it takes to be a responsible pet owner and that youhave the resources both during the pandemic and beyond to responsibly care foryour pet,” she said.
The Cat Protection Society of Victoria doesn’t think the boom in adoptionenquiries will lead to an increase in surrendered pets when isolation measuresend.
“As we have matched our adoptees so thoroughly, I’m not concerned this will bea problem,” Ms Agius said.
“Through the application forms and chatting to applicants over the phone we’vebeen able to tell if there are any red flags in regards to their desire toadopt and we’ve been able to ensure that our cats have been adopted to newfamilies who are adopting for the right reasons,” she said.
“The extra time spent with our adoptees has also ensured they are aware thatadopting is a lifelong commitment and have been provided all the informationthey need to assist with their new family member.”
For further information on the Society’s adoption process visithttps://www.catprotection.com.au/adoption/ and to find out more about DrRohlf’s study visit https://redcap.latrobe.edu.au/redcap/surveys/?s=8HTPTTH79X
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