While college is a very fun time in many peoples’ lives, it is also one of the most stressful experiences for a variety of reasons. First, going to college is very likely the first time you are living independently. While this new freedom can be liberating and exciting, it also can seem rather scary simply due to the drastic change.
On top of this, the combination of college classes, job or internship responsibilities, and social commitments can seem nearly impossible to maintain. It is for these reasons that many students feel incredibly high levels of stress.
This is where pets come into the equation. For many people, pets are a safe haven in a world full of chaos. Because of this, many college students would greatly benefit from the opportunity to have a pet in their lives.
When everything else seems out of control, your animal may be the only constant in your life. This is a comfort that cannot be overstated. While there are numerous pets one can care for and love, today we will mainly be focusing on cats and dogs. Read on to learn the importance of having a cat or dog by your side throughout your pivotal college years.
Student Stress in College
As discussed previously, college can be an anxiety-filled time for students. It can bring about a number of potential stressors. These stressors can include, but are not limited to:
- Financial stress regarding paying for tuition, school supplies, food, housing, etc.
- Educational stress regarding classes, assignments, and exams
- Social stress regarding finding friends and joining social groups
- Personal stress regarding adapting to independence, finding yourself, settling into a new place
- Career stress regarding searching for internships and jobs
There are quite a few staggering statistics that illustrate the stress college students routinely feel. For example, 49.3% of college students say they feel moderate levels of stress and 29.5% say they feel high levels of stress. Only 19.7% say they feel low levels of stress.
What’s more is that 90% of individuals between the ages eighteen and twenty-three feel educational concerns account greatly for their high stress levels.
Furthermore, many college students have spent pivotal years of their lives in a pandemic, one that we just recently started to gradually emerge from. Therefore, collectively they have experienced a great deal of turmoil and uncertainty during their college years.
This has led to even higher amounts of stress as many college students admit to experiencing greater stress throughout the pandemic. This is supported by the fact that as many as 85% of students felt higher levels of anxiety throughout the years of Covid-19.
If you find yourself struggling with a large deal of anxiety in college, check out our best tips for starting college and these self-help podcasts to help lessen the burden. Additionally, don’t be afraid to reach out to a trusted family member, friend, or mental health professional.
How Can Cats and Dogs Help You In Your College Journey?
Surrounding yourself with a cat or dog in college is one of the best ways to cope with the stress and feelings of being overwhelmed.
Studies reveal that animals reduce cortisol levels in humans, which are the chemicals responsible for stress. Additionally, oxytocin levels rise around animals. Oxytocin is the chemical that produces happiness. These results illustrate the very real and positive impact cats and dogs can have on college students' lives.
Let’s look at the importance of having a cat or dog in college in greater detail.
Improve Mental and Physical Health
As we already touched on, having a cat or dog in college decreases cortisol levels and increases oxytocin levels. This results in improved mental and physical health.
In terms of mental health, cats and dogs have been shown to help combat anxiety, depression, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and more. Cats and dogs provide comfort to those experiencing these conditions, therefore allowing them a healthy manner in which to cope. The truth of this can be seen in the fact that 84% of those who have a service dog due to suffering from PTSD felt fewer debilitating effects of the illness.
Animals can also help one’s physical health. For example, the lower stress levels and higher happiness levels associated with interacting with animals leads to lower blood-pressure levels. In addition, having a pet can also contribute towards preventing cardiovascular/heart issues.
Cats and dogs provide a companionship in college that can be incredibly beneficial. As talked about earlier, it can be easy to experience social-related stress in college. When you go to college, many times you do not know the area or the people in the area. Therefore, you are out in a position where you are trying to make friends and connections with all new people.
This is a very difficult time and you may feel lonely during it. Cats and dogs, however, provide you a companionship that is strong, constant, and nurturing. They are always there for you and never hesitate to shower you with love and affection.
Having a cat or dog in college also opens the door towards numerous fun activities. Whether it be taking your dog for a walk, which is a great way to get exercise in college, or playing games with your cat, there is always something to look forward to. Other fun activities include:
- Taking your dog to a dog park
- Snuggling with your cat or dog
- Training your cat or dog to perform cool tricks
- Making delicious treats for your cat or dog
Is a Cat/Dog Right for You?
Now that we have gone over the benefits of having a cat or dog in college, it's time to determine if caring for an animal is feasible for you.
When determining if having a cat or dog is right for you, it is important to consider the various care duties that come along with them. Both cats and dogs are relatively higher-maintenance animals. Cats are slightly less high-maintenance than dogs, but nevertheless they both require much attention and care.
First, you must acknowledge that cats and dogs are long-term commitments. You must be willing to commit a great deal of years towards caring and loving your cat or dog. While you may first get your cat or dog in college, you will likely be caring for them beyond your college years.
Basic Care Needs
Cats and dogs require a number of basic care needs that differ slightly from one another. These needs are:
- Exercise: For dogs this means regular walks, while for cats essentially you should provide them with a space large enough to run around.
- Food: Both cats and dogs must be fed two times a day during scheduled times. You should try and keep the food you feed them consistent so as to not upset their stomach. Check out this list of the best cat and dog food if you are having trouble selecting a brand.
- Grooming: Many cats self-groom themselves, however it doesn’t hurt to run a cat brush through their hair every now and then. In fact, many cats love the feel of this. In terms of dogs, it is important to brush your dog’s coat regularly if they have longer fur. Additionally, regular grooming appointments are often required for dogs in order to keep their fur at a manageable length.
- Bathroom needs: Dogs must be taken outside on a schedule to go to the bathroom. A schedule is important to establish so your dog knows when they are going out. A bathroom schedule helps prevent them from going in the house. In terms of cats, they are a little easier in this regard. All you need is a litter box and a guide to litter box training your cat.
- Medical needs: It is extremely important to take your cat and dog to regularly scheduled vet appointments in order to address any medical concerns as they arise. These visits are usually annually, however they could also occur more often if necessary.
Attention and Love
Before you choose to bring a cat or dog home, you must be absolutely certain that not only can you provide the basic care needs, but that you are also prepared to devote time towards giving your cat/dog all the attention and love in the world.
Both dogs and cats are social animals and need to be showered with affection. They do so much for us, but there is also a lot we can do for them. Just as we find solace in our cats and dogs, they often look at us as a safe space.
We’ve now covered the importance of having a cat or dog in college. The benefits include companionship, increased happiness, and reduced stress. We also discussed the care responsibilities that come along with having a cat or dog. It is now up to you to decide if you want to take the leap and bring a cat/dog home!