Growing up, I never really had friends, but we always had a pet in the house. Our one dog, Lucy, was a pitbull and she was my best friend growing up — as sad as that may sound to some people. I grew up being the only Black person in my grade, which then turned into me being the only Black person in my high school — if not the entire school.
I felt out of place most days, never having a consistent spot at the lunch table. When I would come home, I would play hide-and-seek with Lucy. I would bury myself under clothes, hide in the tub, or anywhere that I could squeeze, and she would always find me. At one point, I taught her how to play Go Fish — well, she just understood that she had to pick a card from her pile to get a treat.
When I got to college, I experienced the same feeling I had growing up. I still do on occasion. Since I don’t live on campus, it only seemed fitting that I got myself a furry best friend. Having a pet can impact an individual’s mental health, which, in turn, can create physical health benefits. Help Guide provides an in-depth look at the benefits of getting a pet, but I’ll be giving you five reasons why you should be getting one while in college.
1. They’re a Nice Distraction
Now, I know what you’re thinking — a distraction in college can be great? But yes, they are a great distraction. My cat, Colin (aka Bubby, String Bean, Fatty) always reminds me when it’s time for me to take a break from my classwork. Staring at a computer screen gets tiring on the eyes. I’m sure most of us could agree, so it’s always nice when someone reminds us to take a break, especially when that someone is furry and cute — or maybe just cute.
Stepping away from homework or a study session for 10-15 minutes won’t be the end of the world. Take some time to breathe and do something that makes you happy. Maybe make a Tik-Tok video together.
2. They Have Furry Shoulders You Can Lean on
College is stressful. If you deny it, you’re lying to yourself. You’re in a new place trying to navigate your new life while trying to make new friends — it’s all new. When everyone around you is going through the same experience, it may be hard to talk to them. Maybe the waiting list to see the on-campus therapist is too long or seeing a therapist outside of school might not be an option for you financially.
Pets can offer emotional support. If you’re able, talk to your doctor or therapist to see if an emotional support animal is something that would be beneficial to you. Or be like me and impulsively buy a cat anyways.
If you do happen to live alone off campus, you might want a little security that you don’t have to physically install. Whether that security is a German shepherd or a chihuahua, it might give you some comfort to know that you have an alarm system anywhere you go, and it might even comfort your parents.
Going back to my dog Lucy, she alerted my mom when someone tried to break into our house. Nobody tried to do it again after that.
4. Another Reason to Get Out of the Dorm
You’ve heard it before and now you’re hearing it from me: the “freshman 15” is real. Maybe food is how you comfort yourself during a transition; maybe you get invited out to eat with your roomies. Whatever the reason, it sneaks up on you. It’s important to get out and exercise and having something to walk or jog with can encourage you to do so.
Except my cat doesn’t do too well in a harness.
5. They’ll Love Having You as a Best Friend
Since you’re feeding them, loving them and picking up after them, they’ll really have no choice but to love you. Unless it’s a cat, then you might be out of luck. If you’re anything like me, it can be difficult making new friends. It’s my fourth year and most of the “friends” I have are coworkers who only text me when they want me to cover their closing shift. A pet can give you a sense of companionship when you might be feeling alone.
Or who knows, maybe they can help you make friends, because, honestly, who doesn’t stop to ask if they can pet someone’s dog?
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