College is hard, there is no denying that. For many students, it is difficult to get enough sleep or exercise, which will inevitably take a toll on mental health, according to an NPR article by Whitney Blair Wycoff.
For some students, animals have been great forms of support and comfort.
“I had always known that I had done better around animals ... In order to take care of them, I need to take care of myself,” said Joseph Johnson, a third year Biotechnology and Molecular Bioscience major.
After a summer of consideration, Johnson decided to fill out the paperwork that would allow him to have a cat. Through the Spectrum Support Program on campus, he was able to register Zephyr as an emotional support animal, who would be able live with him in Gibson. The inspiration to adopt Zephyr came during his freshman year when he saw people walking cats on leashes at night.
“Honestly he has helped me socially and motivationally. Because of him, I have [been] introduced to new people. He is just really, really cuddly and entertaining.”
According to a study done by Ohio State University, pet owners are found to be healthier and happier than those without animals. The research found that many students would own pets to help deal with loneliness or stress.
People that owned pets (especially dogs) were also found to exercise more. This improvement in physical health will also help to improve mental health since the two are often intrinsically linked.
“I try to let [Zephyr] walk without trying to guide him about 50 percent of the time,” said Johnson.
Other students own pets just for the sake of having a pet.
Nick Rabb, a fifth year Computer Science student, owns a cat named TK (short for Tiny Cat). He had adopted TK about a year ago when she was two years old. He came to this decision after cat-sitting for a friend while she was on co-op. When she returned, she wanted the cat back, and almost immediately gave it away to someone else.
“It was just weird not having a pet around when I gave it back,” said Rabb. “[Now], I would miss having a cat.”
Rabb lives in off-campus housing, so he has to pay $35 a month on top of the annual deposit in order to keep TK with him.
“She’s not very snuggly. She was from the wild, so she was a real world cat and that is not her first instinct,” said Rabb. “It’s nice to pretend like you are not talking to yourself when you are talking to your animal, but you are really talking to yourself. ... Pretty much whenever I am home she is around.”
Rabb’s living situation strikes a difference from Johnson, who lives in the dorms. Johnson generally does all of his schoolwork in the dorms, or if he needs to take a break he will take Zephyr to the House of General Science, where they will help take care of him.
“They are always happy to accommodate since so few other people have cats on campus,” Johnson said. “Pretty much when I am not at class, I am in the dorm with my cat.”
While there are a lot of benefits to owning a pet for comfort or the sake of owning a pet, make sure you have the capabilities to take care of an animal.
“Don’t [have a pet] if you can’t spend time taking care of the animal. I did that for a while because I had two other roommates, but it is harder in a single person situation. If you have other people you are living with, make sure they will help,” said Rabb.
Both Rabb and Johnson noted that it is more difficult to keep a house clean if you have an animal. Johnson doesn’t like to run the vacuum around Zephyr, and cleaning out litter boxes is never exactly an enjoyable experience for anyone.
Then, there is also the cost of having an animal. It isn’t too expensive for Johnson since RIT allows him to keep a pet, but for Rabb, the monthly costs and annual fees his apartment charges him add up. Throw in the cost of food, litter and toys and the expenses of owning an animal will accumulate quickly.
Let’s say for a moment, though, that the stars have aligned and owning a pet is the right choice for you. You have time, money, an agreement with any roommates and now you want a pet. What are the next steps to receiving your fluffy friend?
If you live on campus, you should probably read through all of the information pertaining to service animals. Other than fish, pets are not generally allowed in the dorms. However, if you look through this manual and the information outlined in your housing contract, you will find information regarding who to call about having a service animal stay with you. Having an animal in housing off-campus will vary by living situation.
Rabb recommended the Lollypop Farm Humane Society in Fairport, N.Y. if you are looking to adopt a pet, which was where he found TK.
“It’s the place where my family always went when [they] thought about adopting a pet. It is seriously huge,” he said.
There are facilities to visit, adopt, train your pet, and volunteer. All sorts of animals are available to adopt, from cats and dogs to rabbits and reptiles.
If you are unable to provide for all of the care and expenses required for any pet, therapy dogs come to campus around midterms and finals, so keep an eye out for when they will next visit. This would be a great opportunity to snuggle with a dog, without the struggles that come with owning one.