The Best Study Buddies

It’s around 7 a.m., and I'm trying to comprehend my French assignment. There's a distinctive plop on the sofa beside me. Before I can yank my MacBook off of my lap, two kitty paws are pressing down hard on the keyboard. “Noooo! Herbie! Stop!” I whisper scream at my feline as the rest of the house sleeps. All I get is a purr in response. I carefully remove each paw and frantically scan my Canvas homepage to see what damage my cat has wrecked. None, but that was a close call.

Later I warm up leftovers for lunch and take my lunch and homework to the back porch for a change of scenery. As I settle into a chair in the shade, I suddenly get the eerie feeling that someone is behind me. It turns out to be the chickens gathering. “No, no! You guys just go play in the yard,” I suggest to my growing number of avian friends. Their responses are hard to translate, but they include quite a lot of “pock, pock” and quizzical looks.

Now, as I sit writing this, another cat incessantly meows. He thinks homework and writing are boring, and he wants more attention. Beside me, the pitbull snores. It’s his naptime, and he can’t be bothered to do anything.

This is chaos. But is it also good for me? Are pets really the best study buddies despite their shenanigans?

As Martin Mulcaheny reported for The Atlantic, there have been many studies linking the ownership or companionship of dogs in particular to physical and mental benefits. There is even some evidence that dog owners may live longer. As Mulcaheny mentions, it is easy to see antidotal evidence of this in our own lives. He mentions how walking his dog reinvigorates him for the rest of his day. Dog ownership may be great, but does my snoozing pup or other pet really impact the quality of my work?

An increasing number of pet friendly workplaces and a number of pet friendly colleges seem to indicate yes.

Pet friendly colleges include Eckerd College in Saint Petersburg, Florida where dogs, cats, lizards and more call campus home. An Eckerd College faculty member was a co-author of a study that found that pets helped students prevent stress from manifesting into physical anxiety symptoms. According to Jeff Gitlin, Eckerd College is not alone as a pet friendly college. Other colleges welcoming four-legged, scaly or furry friends include Stephen’s College in Columbia, Missouri, Stetson University in DeLand, Florida and the University of Washington in Seattle but overall pet friendly campuses remain rare according to CNBC. UF allows fish, gerbils, geckos, hamsters, chinchillas, some lizards, non-poisonous salamanders and non-poisonous frogs. Of course, service animals and emotional support animals are welcome at all colleges.  

As Krystal D’Costa explains in an article for "Scientific American," pets are becoming more welcome not only at hip tech companies like Amazon and Google but smaller workplaces too. However, she explains that one study showed that most employees exposed to a pet in the workplace actually felt neutral about their presence. Cory Stieg in another article for CNBC notes that pets may make great study and work buddies during the COVID-19 outbreak but that when it comes to productivity, stress and pets there are lots of variables including you and your pets’ temperaments. As she mentions, your cat jumping on the keyboard cannot be easily considered relaxing or conducive to work. In addition, D’Costa points out concern over the wellbeing of animals themselves in work environments.

This sentiment is echoed by others who say that, as cute as a kitten might be, college students are not always the best pet owners and may be better off sticking with human study buddies for a while if they don’t have time and money for a pet.

With that in mind, here are some ways to responsibly enjoy the benefits of study time with pets and animals!

  • Find a cat café near you!
  • Study in the presence of (but at a safe distance from) an alligator at the Reitz Union’s Green Pond or Lake Alice.  
  • Decompress between studying sessions by visiting your nearest Petco’s adoption day or volunteering at a local animal shelter.
  • Take a stroll to the UF Bat Houses and Barns and bring a picnic blanket with you to study on.
  • Study with the pets of family and friends
  • Finally, need some pet or animal study buddy inspiration? Check out Her Campus UFL’s Instagram and meet the pups of Her Campus UFL.