Best friends don’t come around very often, and even when they do, they’re not always at your side. What if you came home every day from a long day of work and/or class, and your best friend was waiting to greet you: with a bark and a wagging tail, a soft mew as they emerge from under the sofa, or a silent acknowledgement of your existence by means of swimming in a tiny circle and peering at you with unblinking eyes?
There are many pros and cons when decided to add a pet into your home, especially as a young adult and college student. It’s important to do lots of research and planning to understand the commitment.
Pros of a Pet
1. Stress relief
College students deal with a lot—a heavy classwork load, working one or more part-time jobs, managing a healthy work life balance and lifestyle—and having a critter at home to calm you down gives you something to look forward to during a long day. According to the Mental Health Foundation, having pets can reduce stress and anxiety.
2. Improved physical and mental health
Dogs are proven to improve physical health when taken on regular walks and runs, an easy way to integrate exercise into your daily routine. Although cats may not enjoy an outdoor walk, they often need an hour or two of energetic playtime. The National Institute of Health reported that living with an animal can decrease cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, boost mood, and decrease feelings of loneliness.
3. Companionship and general enjoyment
An animal can soon become your close companion—a cat or dog to lie at your feet during a nap, or cuddle up to watch a movie, to sit at your ankles when you’re cooking a meal. The bonds that humans form with animals is a beautiful thing. Pets also allow us to connect with other people, whether it be our friends who come over to hang out just to hang out with the cat, or a stranger on the hiking trail who stops you to pet your fluffy and kind dog.
Cons of a Pet
1. Extra expenses
College kids have to be on a budget. Living off scholarship money, part-time job money, or a savings account is tough, and not to be put lightly. First, the apartment or rented house you live in might not accept pets or will charge an extra fee with each month’s rent. Check your lease for your apartment’s pet policy. Even without your apartment’s fees, pets can be a major expense. Vet appointments, vaccines, food, litter boxes and litter, beds, leashes and collars—all miscellaneous expenses should be calculated before making a decision to get a pet.
Some roommates may encourage a pet, or not care about the addition to the living area. But, it would be wise to sit down with your roommate(s) and discuss the responsibilities: who will feed the animal if you cannot? Who is responsible for cleaning a litter box or hamster cage or fishbowl? Where will the kennel, the litter, and other pet items be kept in the apartment? If your roommate has a pet allergy, you might want to find that out before you bring one home.
Some pets are not just a four-year gig, they might follow you from your first apartment to your second or third, across state lines, to your first house. Think through your future—and how none of us know where we might end up—before deciding on a long-term pet. Dogs and cats can sometimes be high-maintenance, a little fish up on a desk never hurt anyone.