Pet food bank allows unemployed man on welfare to keep his cats

For me, this is a story which looks at the cost-of-living crisis, unemployment, anxiety and depression, domestic cat caregiving, alleged laziness and the state of the Scottish economy! It goes well beyond cat caregiving.

Chris Forrest became anxious that he would have to give up his four black cats, all males and two sets of siblings. They look great. He says that he depends upon them to help him with his mood. They are, in effect, therapy cats for him.

But he lives on employment and support allowance (welfare) in Scotland because the BBC says that he is unable to work due to severe anxiety and depression.

He lives in Granton, Edinburgh, Scotland. His cats are like his children he says. He said: "The cats keep me going-they interact with me and get me up in the morning as they need to be fed. I am in a much better place having them, I'm more chilled out and relaxed."

Chris Forrest and Shadow
Chris Forrest and Shadow. Image: BBC Scotland (believed).

There is a really nice picture of him smiling broadly with one of his black cats on his back on the BBC website. He does not look depressed in that picture.

Because of rising prices, I guess, and what is euphemistically called the cost-of-living crisis in the UK, Chris is dependent upon a pet food bank set up by Mike Dougan, the community outreach and development manager of the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home according to the BBC.

He started the pet food bank when he discovered people were sharing the human food that they had got from food banks with their pets. That's interesting. Clearly it is not a good idea to give your cat exclusively human food because it does not contain the required nutrients for cats. Human food is not "complete and balanced" to use the terminology of pet food manufacturers.

You don't need vouchers to receive pet food from this pet food bank and they also provide other items such as food bowls, toys and harnesses. They do a great job I think and certainly if pet food banks help people to keep their pets it is a great service because nobody wants more cats and dogs surrendered to animal shelters.

Chris says that "The pet food bank is a lifeline. I get so much from my cats; the cats make my day better and I talk with them more than I do humans."

He's a great cat caregiver and lover but I do question his way of life. It is very difficult to talk about depression and anxiety and I don't know Chris. But one way to tackle these mental health problems is to get out and be active.

Working at least part-time is a way of managing depression and anxiety. Staying at home if that is what he does is a sure-fire way of exacerbating anxiety and depression.

I'm not saying that Chris is lazy. But a lot of Scots think that other Scots who are on welfare are lazy. Sir Jackie Stewart, the famous F1 racing driver, accused fellow Scots of being lazy and too dependent on jobs for life in 2007.

And in a survey a high number of Scots thought that poverty is caused by laziness. I read somewhere that less than 50% of Scots actually contribute to the wealth of their nation.

Scotland has consistently spent more than the country earns. There is a sense south of the border that Scotland is living beyond its means. And you wonder if as a nation they can work a little bit harder but that will no doubt rub people up the wrong way.

We have to face the fact that there is a section of society who become dependent upon welfare. And we have to face the fact that certain health conditions are only diagnosed on the basis of what the patient says namely health problem such as back pain and depression and anxiety.

You can't diagnose depression and anxiety other than through what the patient tells the doctor. I'm not saying that this is what is going on with Chris, but it does happen, and it needs to be challenged by the authorities. It is a sensitive area, but a lot of people believe that not only Scotland but also Wales and England have become a little bit lazy.

The UK has a poor productivity record. There are a lot of people out of work in the UK because they are ostensibly ill after the Covid pandemic. These are men and women of working age. Are they genuinely ill? Are they shirking?

The Covid pandemic lockdowns and the furlough scheme, I believe, engendered laziness in the population. And it is a great excuse to stop working by simply saying that you have Long Covid. Long Covid as a way out of working in this country and it has to deal with it more robust in my view.

I wish Chris Forrest well. I hope that he finds he can get back to work at least in some capacity because I think that it will do him good. And then he will be dependent upon a pet food bank or any other charity.

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