Opinion: Having a pet in college can be beneficial for struggling students

The amount of stress from college that many students experience can be hard to handle. Workloads become heavy with readings, papers, projects and more. It also can be hard to find the time to see friends and catch up. There's one thing I’ve noticed that seems to be relieving these worries: a pet. 

I find that having an animal puts me at ease. Having a dog or cat while in college can help other students too, and with a multitude of issues, whether it's academic stress or struggling to meet new people.

College can leave students with mountains of work, and because of this they might drift away from friends and family or just struggle to make new friends. Sometimes, when you have a lot on your mind, you can’t be bothered to start conversations with new people. But pets can be great conversation topics, according to Riley Sailor, assistant director of admissions at Lees-McRae College. Most of the people I know enjoy meeting other people’s pets, and it can easily spark up a conversation and lead to a potential friendship.

Pets like cats and dogs cannot only create new friendships but can be a friend to you as well. Those who might feel isolated on a college campus can get important interactions from these pets. While having a pet cannot replace interaction with other people, it can certainly help combat loneliness and keep you from feeling like no one is there for you.

Pets have also been shown to help with mental health, something many students may silently struggle with. I know people on campus who struggle with depression, anxiety, stress and more. Meg Olmert, who has studied the biochemistry of the pet-owner bond for 20 years, said having a pet can produce oxytocin, a neuropeptide that can stop stress hormones from being produced. Pets can also cause serotonin in human bodies to increase, which is something that antidepressants usually try to elevate. Having a pet in your life can truly help improve your health, keep you from worrying too much about your workload and help you get used to the environment you live in.

Since priorities usually consist of school and work first, finding time for the gym can be difficult. But when you have a dog or cat by your side (especially a dog), you have more opportunities to get out and exercise. Having a dog gives you a chance to go on walks every day, helping to relieve some stress that may be weighing on you. Dogs need to get out and regularly exercise, which can cause a healthy routine for the owner as well. People may consider exercise boring or futile, but a pet can alleviate the stress and social pressure and taking them out gives you some time to be alone and reflect.

If you find yourself struggling with college, having a pet might be beneficial to you. Even if you cannot have a cat or dog due to allergies or expenses, even a bird can provide companionship and relieve stress. Every student I’ve met who has a pet has said to me that they are so glad they made the decision to adopt it because they feel a little bit less lonely in the hectic world of college.

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