It’s difficult to leave a beloved pet behind when you head off to college.
Pet ownership, especially for a college student, is no simple task. Dogs, cats and other pets require a substantial amount of effort, a responsible owner with structured free time and spare cash.
This criteria presents several obstacles for prospective pet owners, but it is still doable. With the right research and planning, owning a pet can be an overwhelmingly positive addition to one’s college experience.
Because larger pets like dogs or cats may be too much to handle for certain owners, other non-human companions like reptiles, fish or other small creatures can be the perfect stress reliever for homesick or overwhelmed students.
Pet therapy is proven to help its patients, and one of its key benefits is stress management. Personally, interacting with either my own pet or a stranger’s gives me feelings of joy and relief that alternative coping mechanisms fail to match. College can be one of the most stressful times of young adults’ lives, and adopting a pet can help reduce anxiety, whether it sleeps in a glass tank or on your bed.
This is the first year of my life without a pet, as my spastic black lab and absurdly-old beta fish died in the past few months. The closest thing I currently have to an non-human partner is Spookly, the pet pumpkin cared for by my roommates and me since late September.
While I cannot say a bad word about good old Spookly, he does not exactly meet my standards for a stress-relieving pet. I am now in the market for a new companion that is easy to care for. My finances are limited, so a new aquatic friend seems to be my most plausible option. The Duck Nest of the University of Oregon Health Center provides therapy dogs for students, a perk I plan to take advantage of in the near future.
Additionally, people registering pets as emotional support animals has grown in popularity in recent years. To apply for an ESA, one must be evaluated by a licensed mental health professional, who then has to recommend that an ESA will help with one’s day-to-day life. This can help those looking to cope with mental health issues to keep a pet in housing areas that otherwise do not allow animals. The Fair Housing Act prevents landlords/homeowners from charging extra for an ESA.
Emotional support, therapy, comfort or companion animals are not considered to be service animals by the UO.
Overall, student pet ownership, if done responsibly, yields significant benefits that outweigh its consequences. Those interested in keeping a pet while in college should conduct research beforehand and truly consider if they are up to the task.