Woman isolated during lockdown with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome finds comfort in her cat companions

NEWS AND OPINION: It is a time to praise the domestic cat for comforting vulnerable people who during extensive coronavirus pandemic lockdowns have been left isolated through no fault of their own. This is a time when the domestic cat has really proved their value to society.

Fuchsia Carter

Fuchsia, aged 35, lives in Lewes, Sussex, UK. Sadly, she suffers from an hereditary disorder called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. This affects the joints and skin. She has found that not only has she been unable to leave the home, her friends have stopped visiting because of the restrictions imposed by the UK government to minimise the spread of Covid-19. She is isolated but normally works in human resources for a bank.

Lucretia a blind tuxedo former street cat living with Ms Carter. Photo: Ms Carter.

You can imagine how difficult this is for her. I think there’s nothing worse than being stuck at home, looking at the four walls of your living room, cogitating. This is surely going to bring you down emotionally. You have to get out which is exactly what I do every day. We are all susceptible to melancholy under these circumstances. She said that she wouldn’t know how she could have coped but for her cats.

She lives with two cats one of which is Lucretia, a tuxedo rescue cat who is blind. She adopted her two years ago and she says that for the first year of their relationship she showed little or no affection. During lockdown Lucretia appears to have become more affectionate. Fuchsia said that when she was feeling particularly down, at ‘rock bottom’ in her words, Lucretia would come up to her and nudge her which encouraged her to get out of her wheelchair and sit on the floor with her cat. And then her other cat Aurelia would join them on the floor where they lovingly interacted with each other. She is down to their level which I think is a great way to interact with your cat. These happy moments brought her back from her rock bottom state of mental health.

Aurelia lives with Ms Carter who is isolated during coronavirus lockdowns. Photo: Carter.

She describes it as “like a mindfulness technique”. Her cats take her out of herself meaning that she can think externally and take responsibility for her cats rather than internalising thoughts and becoming depressed.

Her story is a living and real example of the benefits of a cat companion as confirmed in a recent study by the universities of York and Lincoln in the UK (we don’t really need it!). The participants of the study almost invariably found their pets to be a source of considerable support during lockdown. More than 90% of the 6,000 participants said that their animal companion helped them cope emotionally with the lockdown.

And a survey from Cat Protection which polled more than 10,000 people also confirmed that 87% of cat owners feel that their animal companions bring them joy while 91% regard them as part of the family.

Postscript: it is interesting to note that one of the lead researchers of the university study, referred to above, said that they don’t want to encourage people to adopt pets to protect their mental health during the pandemic. A strange suggestion. What they’re doing, I think, is trying to put a halt to people adopting dogs in particular during the pandemic as a source of comfort because the big question is what happens after the pandemic lockdown is over? There is a real fear that dogs and cats might be abandoned to rescue centres.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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