Paw prints on my heart – Do university and pets mix well?

Dogs and cats are used as therapeutic companions at nursing homes and some hospitals – but is getting a pet a practical idea for a university student?

It is argued by pet lovers that cats and dogs are healthy investments as they reduce stress in their owners. According to an article from the journal “Current Directions in Psychological Science,” this has some truth to it.

The author of this article, Karen Allen, found that people who were given a stressful mental task performed better when their pets were present than when their spouses were present.

She also found that pets could reduce blood pressure in people with high or normal blood pressures when they are exposed to stress.

Allen says, “Perhaps pets allow people to relax and bring out the best in their owners as a cheering crowd helps an athlete perform well.”

But wait – this does not mean that pets are necessarily a good idea for university students. In some situations, pets may cause more stress than they reduce as they are time consuming and expensive.

Jordan Ammendolia, a fifth-year Laurier Brantford student, permitted his roommate to get a one-year-old black Lab/German Shepherd/Doberman cross but ended up having some difficulties with it. He says that it was too large for the place that they had and it shed frequently which caused their house to look messy.

Ammendolia acknowledges that the dog’s food and vet bills were very expensive and his roommate’s freedom was limited as he could not go away for a weekend and leave the dog by itself.

Ammendolia recently purchased a beta fish and he is very happy with his decision as it is better suited to his lifestyle.

“Fish are easy to take care of and not expensive. I now have a fish named Walter Finsky and it’s great to come home and just stare at it.”

He uses an automatic fish feeder for his fish when he goes away to visit friends at other universities during weekends.

Kassie Wright, a former Laurier Brantford journalism student who graduated in the spring, says that she had pets while she was a student.

During her third year of university, she acquired a cat; and then during her fourth year of university she adopted a two-year-old Miniature American Eskimo dog.

While she did not have any major issues with her pets she advises there are some concerns.

“I think every pet is different, as is every owner, but I think it’s safe to say that yes, pets can create stress. They have odd moods and can be needy for attention. That being said, the benefits tend to outweigh the positives,” Wright said. “You get a friend and unconditional love, whether you’re stressed over finals, slaving away on a paper, or you’ve just been dumped or failed a quiz. You may not always feel like taking them out for a walk, but the cuddles and love you receive really do make school a lot easier to handle.”

When asked about the time commitment necessary on top of all other responsibilities during school, Wright said that, “If you love something and you really want it, you’ll find a way… as for time, I’d do walks and playtime between classes or as a way to take a break from essays. The way I see it, if you can justify an hour to watch Jersey Shore or Gossip Girl, you have an hour there to be able to walk/play with/feed your pet of choice.”

Before getting a pet, it is important to weigh the expenses, the time requirement, your roommates (if applicable) and the legalities of it – many landlords do not allow their tenants to have pets; or tenants who do have pets may have to pay a pet deposit in case their pet damages the house.

It seems as though pets do reduce stress, but only in those who are willing and equipped to handle them.

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