Pets and the pandemic: 'On the tough days, they lifted my spirits and gave me a reason to smile'

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Pets have been a great support system for many living alone during the pandemic.
Pets have been a great support system for many living alone during the pandemic.
  • The Covid-19 lockdown was a tough time for a young psychology student.
  • Living alone made her feel even more isolated.
  • Her three cats, however, supported her through this difficult time.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been a difficult time, made even harder by tough lockdown measures.

Stringent lockdown restrictions meant people who lived alone were particularly isolated.

According to the National Income Dynamics Study – Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (NIDS-CRAM), depressive symptoms among the population have been "consistently higher" than before the Covid-19 pandemic.

'Having cats saved my life'

South Africans, however, were found not to be clinically depressed, but rather "moving in and out of a low mood state". 

Fortunately, for many people who live alone, their beloved pets kept them going.

Michaëla Corbett is a 28-year-old intern counselling psychology student. She opened up to Health24 about how her pets helped her during the pandemic: "Thanks to my three furry stars providing me with unconditional support, I made it through my internship year and completed my master's research this year," the counselling intern explained.

Healthcare workers needed to work long hours to take care of Covid patients, leading to high levels of exhaustion. 

Not being able to participate in regular activities and isolation rom her loved ones made things even worse: "Going home and not being able to socialise with the people I love and doing things I enjoy began to wear me down emotionally and mentally."  

However, the ongoing support from her supervisors and the love and affection she got from from her cats kept her going. 

A daily 'shot of serotonin'

"After a long day at the hospital, I'd come home, be greeted at the door by the cats before they followed me to the bathroom to keep me company while I scrubbed off the day."

Based on the research she's been doing as a master's student, Corbett experience first hand how the relationship between animals and people had a positive impact physically, mentally and psychologically. 

"Spending time with animals, building that bond and attachment is like giving yourself a daily shot of serotonin." 

When life had very little joy to offer, her pets are what brought laughter to her life, she said.

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