If you know me at all, you are probably aware of the fact that I have my cat, Bobbie, with me at school. She is brown and black tabby cat with splotches of white, including one on the tip of her nose (which makes her perpetually look like she has had a little too much fun). She is very small, so she looks as though she is still a kitten, even though she is almost a year and a half old. In other words, she is incredibly cute (in my humble opinion, the cutest cat to ever exist, though I suppose I could be biased). I’ll be honest, I’m obsessed with her. I talk about her and post pictures of her probably more than I should, and definitely more than anyone cares to hear or see. I can’t walk by a pet store without buying her some cliche toy, such as a pack of cat-nip filled wine bottles labeled Mus-Cat and Cat-Bernet (true story). As many pet owners may be able to relate to, I have a specific voice which I use when I speak to her, a voice which, if we are being real with ourselves, should never be used on anyone or anything, even pets. If you dare say you don’t like cats in my presence, you’ll wish you hadn’t. In summary, though I’m reluctant to say it, I have become one of them: a crazy cat lady.
Being a crazy cat lady, though, has its perks. Studies show that being a pet owner increases your chances of happiness and success. Having a close bond with a pet boosts feel good chemicals such as endorphins and oxytocin which can make owners feel more relaxed and happy at home. Even more, pet owners are more likely to be married, have a child, get a university degree (shout out Brown) and have found their perfect job. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves with all that, but I do know that I definitely do feel happier with Bobbie here. Every time I come home, I know that she is there waiting to greet me, ready to curl up in my lap or nestle between my shoulder and neck. When I need a break from work or whatever I am dealing with that day, I can throw around her toys and watch her scramble after them, which never fails to bring a smile to my face. Sometimes college can be lonely, but knowing that I have Bobbie with me keeps me from ever feeling that way. It feels like things can never get that bad, because I have this little bundle of love with me no matter what. That is not to say that I don’t still sometimes feel anxious and down because, of course, we all do. It is just that when I am stuck in those moments, I now have Bobbie to help lift me back up. The kind of love a pet has for you and you have for them is unconditional, and it’s hard not to feel happy when you have that.
That being said, it is far too easy to up and decide to get a pet at college without really thinking about the responsibilities that it entails. Of course when you walk by a puppy or a kitten, you are going to feel an overwhelming urge to get one yourself, they are adorable, but before you give in you have to sit down and actually think about what that means. As much as I love Bobbie, she is a huge commitment. I am literally responsible for her life, and if anything were to happen to her it would be on me. That can be really scary. I find myself double checking that all the window screens are closed only to run up again as soon as I get downstairs just to be extra safe. I tell everyone who comes into my apartment that they have to close the door quickly, in case she runs out. If I ever go away for a day or a weekend, I can never do so spontaneously; I have to be sure before I go that I can find someone I really trust to watch her and spend time with her while I am away. While cats may be more independent than dogs, I still feel guilty ever leaving her for too long. Because of this, I find myself leaving my friend’s house early or opting to stay home instead of joining everyone at the beach (though this will not be a problem for much longer). This doesn’t really feel like a sacrifice to me because it makes me happy to come home to Bobbie and hang out with her, but it is true that in choosing to do so I may be missing out on other things that my peers are doing.
Ultimately, it all depends on what you think is right for you. There are countless amazing benefits to having a pet at school, and, naturally, there are also some things about having a pet at school that are difficult. It is okay for you to feel like taking on such a big responsibility may interfere with your college experience, but you have to come to that realization before you get your pet. If you decide to get a pet without thinking through the reality of what it means, both you and your pet might end up in a situation that isn’t right for them. If you do give the decision a lot of thought and come to the conclusion that you do want to have a pet at school, that is totally okay, too. Personally, I do not regret my decision for one second. All I need to do is look down at Bobbie, who is sleeping on my lap as I write this article, to know that I made the right choice.