Pet owners, particularly dog owners, are happier and healthier than those living without companions, according to findings recently published in the medical journal Circulation.
Pair that with the fact that the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has used animal therapy programs in hospitals and nursing homes for over a decade, one could see why owning a pet could be beneficial college students.
“They need attention but so does school,” says Cassandra Reeves, 21, senior at Middle Tennessee State University. “My puppy [a Bassett hound/Husky mix] keeps me sane a lot of the time.”
Researchers at Ohio State University found that chief reasons for college students owning pets were to help cope with adversity or to help feel less lonely.
“College is a very stressful environment for them and sometimes they can feel isolated or overwhelmed” says Sara Staats, Professor emeritus and lead author of the study. “Many feel their pets will help get them through these difficult and stressful situations, and … without their pet, they would feel lonely.”
With both obesity and depression being roots of undergraduate illness, owning a pet could increase both emotional and physical health. Since one of the leading causes of depression is weight gain, exercising with your dog could provide dual benefit.
Canine companions require copious amounts of activity, so going for a run every day with the dog stands only to benefit both species.
In a study led by Glenn Levine, cardiologist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, it was determined that “dog owners were 54% more likely than other adults to get recommended levels of exercise.”
Where dogs require attention and activity, cats tend to blaze their own trails until they actually desire human company.
In a 2011 column by University of Florida English major Wesley Campbell for The Alligator, Campbell wrote, “Owning a dog is like having a toddler for 10 to 20 years … Cat owners: Brush off the cat haters. While you’re at it, brush off all that hair on your jacket because some people are allergic to awesome.”
Humor and bias aside, Shelby Trujillo, 19, sophomore at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology says owning a cat has “absolutely decreased” her stress levels.
However, don’t stop reading and run out to get a furry companion — there are other considerations to make before getting a pet:
- • Adopt a pet for the right reasons — number one being to give the animal a loving home.
- • Make sure the apartment building or college dorm will allow pet ownership. The last thing a student needs is to be evicted or fined.
- • Create a budget before adopting a pet to make sure you can afford its care.
- • Be sure you can spare the time to put into owning a pet.
Pets are not cheap.
Routine vet bills can run into the hundreds of dollars and food can cost about $240 per year — $120 for cats. On top of that, most adoption centers — such as the Norfolk SPCA in Norfolk, Va. — charges between $100 and $150 for cats and dogs.
So, before taking on the life of another animal to reduce stress, take a look at your current budget and schedule of availability — not just to make sure you can manage owning a pet, but to make sure your current fiscal responsibilities aren’t the source of stress.
If, after considering all options, adopting a pet is still something you want to do, it can be worth it.
“They do beg for attention from time to time which can get annoying when I am busy doing homework,” says Shayla Fett, 20, sophomore at Old Dominion University. “[But] I can’t imagine myself without them, they definitely make me a happier person.”
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