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Byron Shire
September 18, 2021

Pets are a mental health win-win

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This puss had been in care for six weeks – Sunday was his lucky day when he chose his forever human.

During this Mental Health Month it’s a good time to be reminded of the benefits of owning a pet.

Pets make excellent companions and they are great for removing stress – research shows that pets can also have calming effects on their owner. Just by stroking, sitting next to or playing with a pet gives a human a chance to relax and calm their mind and reduce blood pressure. Even watching fish swimming in an aquarium reduces stress.

Pets for Life president Jean Conway says now is the time to desex your cats.

Pets can be affectionate, accepting, loyal, honest and consistent. If you feel isolated with little support, a pet can help reduce your loneliness and can fulfil a human need to touch.

A pet can provide you with a sense of purpose, which helps improve mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. If you have a pet, you are never alone and you are also responsible for looking after them.*

An Echo reader recently told us that she had lost her cat of more than 16 years and she was having trouble coping with the silence in her house. ‘I didn’t realise until she died that on some days, the only voice I heard was mine talking to her. When she passed away, the house became so quiet.’

A gorgeous girl – Tootsie is a very playful kitten who is waiting for her forever human to walk through the door.

Enter the Pets for Life Animal Shelter Inc. in Billinudgel.

Ginger puss Theo didn’t know what he was in for when he opened his eyes to a new day on the weekend. A lovely fellow, he was handed over to the Billinudgel Vet mid August – he was starving and very confused.

Puss soon proved to have a friendly nature and the ability to get on with others which meant he was able to free-range at the Pets For Life shelter housed above the vet’s surgery in Lucky Lane.

On the Sunday, after weeks of deliberation, our reader paid a visit to the shelter and after carefully choosing, left with this little man. This was a win-win for the human and the little red head.

Pets for Life along with Companion Animals Welfare Inc. in Brunswick Heads and Animal Welfare League in Mullumbimby, were inundated with animals over the winter period. Many more animals were surrendered than is usual in that time period.

‘A lot of them were surrendered due to increasing rental pressures,’ says Pets for Life president Jean. ‘Animals are not allowed in most rentals in Byron Shire. Do think carefully about adopting an animal if you’re in a rental property. It’s a lifetime commitment – cats can live til they’re in their 20s and some dogs can live to 15 or longer.’

Jan says the kitten season is coming up now and owners with undesexed male and female cats are urged to have their animals de-sexed before cats become pregnant. ’It’s becoming more difficult to re-home kittens because of the rental situation and kittens grow up quickly,’ she says. ‘It’s important to have male cats neutered as well as females because one male can impregnate a lot of females!’

If you’re interested in adopting an animal please check out the Echo’s Pet classies and the appropriate websites for more information.

If you would like more information about Mental Health Month, visit the website.

* If you are really struggling to look after yourself, then talk to your doctor before you take on caring for a pet.

Nate and Sweetie are waiting to lavish their feline love on you. Photos Tree Faerie




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  1. This of course is a truth. Which brings to mind…why do so many people who have renters pay their mortgages deny humans of this reality?

  2. Cats, dogs and foxes are responsible for more loss of our beautiful fauna than housing, logging and mining put together.

    So if you must have a companion animal, PLEASE choose carefully. Don’t get a cat, and please, those of you with cats, don’t tell me YOUR cat doesn’t kill and how its got a bell round its neck. Doesn’t work.

    It’s not their fault. It’s in their nature and our little marsupials did not evolve with the skills to avoid cats, dogs and foxes.

    Australia is still losing species annually and it is all down to human impact, especially predation and loss of habitat.

    • You are quite correct – cats (and dogs) do kill wildlife BUT It’s mostly feral cats and dogs that kill them. This is where RESPONSIBLE OWNERSHIP comes in. Please have your domestic pets de-sexed. Hopefully this will prevent us from ever needing animal shelters in the future.

      Feral animals usually (but not always) occur because people either dump them in the bush because they can’t re-home them, find a rental, or they’re just not real animal lovers. All of the animal shelters have been completely full this past year and so it’s not always possible to re-home them in a rescue centre. Some cats are allowed to stray and then become feral. Some pregnant cats have a tendency to try to find a nice, hidden spot to have her kittens and the owner can’t find the cat. However, sometimes people dump the pregnant cat because they can’t handle the consequences of looking after kittens.

      If you adopt a cat, Pets for Life Animal Shelter Inc. recommends that you keep the cat inside (this is not cruel as cats are pretty adaptable and it’s safer for the cat – no tick or snake bites or getting run over); if you let the cat outside, build it an enclosure; bring the cat in at dusk. Cats hunt mostly at night and some Councils have a cat curfew. Byron Council recommends 9.00 pm but this is too late in winter. There are special bibs that can be purchased (made out of wet suit material) that can be hung around the cat’s neck. When the cat puts it’s paw up the bib knocks it back down. Not 100% for every cat but apparently it works for a lot of them. Give the cat plenty of attention and toys so it doesn’t get bored.

      Remember – being a responsible animal owner is the key to all problems with domestic pets. Dogs need to be trained correctly and it’s the same with cats. The methods of training are different that’s all. It’s the owner that makes the difference.

      If anyone out there would like to adopt a cat please ring 0403 533 589.
      Our website is: petsforlifeanimalshelter.net

      Jean Conway

  3. Of course – you’re correct. Cats can and do kill wildlife – BUT this is where responsible ownership comes into play. Most of the wildlife that is killed is by feral animals (both cats and dogs) and not by domestic pets. If you own a cat then we recommend that you either keep it indoors (this is not cruel for the cat – lots of cats are very happy to stay inside). If you want to let your cat outside then build it an enclosure. Feed your cat properly and make sure it has plenty of things to play with so that it doesn’t become bored. Keep your cat inside at night – most cats hunt at night. Byron Council recommends that a cat be taken inside at 9.00 pm. This is too late in the winter time – make it on dusk.

    There is a special bib that can be purchased (made out of wetsuit material) that you can put on your cat. When the cat raises it’s paw the bib knocks the paw back down. Simple and effective, but it doesn’t work for every cat.

    The problem with feral cats is that people tend to dump their pets in the bush when they can’t find a rental or a new home for the cat. The animal shelters are so full now that it’s impossible to keep up with the demand. This is another reason why it’s imperative to have your animals desexed. Hopefully, one day there’ll be no need for animal shelters.

    If you’d like to adopt a cat from Pets for Life Animal Shelter Inc. please ring 0403 533 589.
    Our website is http://www.petsforlifeanimalshelter.net

    • Jean, it’s my understanding that a cat, raised from a kitten, can very happily spend its entire life indoors. Rumour has it that thousands of felines live just like this in high-rise apartments in Japan.

      The community owes you and your volunteers and all the animal shelter volunteers across the country and the planet really, for the gift you give to animals and humans.

      • Very true Eve. We have lots of people adopting who keep their cats indoors all of the time and they are very happy felines. Some people take their cats for a walk on a harness. One of our volunteers has been doing that for years as she lives on a very busy road. I’m looking after a cat at the moment and took him for a walk on a harness for the first time on Saturday. The weather wasn’t much good though so we didn’t go far!

  4. If you walk or cycle the hinterland roads you will see feral and collared dogs roaming and cats, some collared, others decidedly feral.

    Reality on the ground.


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