The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
I got my cat, Oreo, when she was just a kitten, the summer before my freshman year of high school. I was 14, but knew I was ready to handle the responsibility of having my very own pet. As cheesy as it may sound, she was always so much more to me than just a pet – she was like a little best friend with a tail. As high school went on and inevitably got more challenging – academically and mentally – she was always there to cheer me up. Throughout the first pandemic lockdowns, I spent my days in my room on Zoom with her laying in my lap. Oreo has always been a calm and constant sense of comfort in my life.
So, last August rolled around and it was time to move to college – roughly an hour and a half away from home. Adjusting to life at college is already a very difficult task, and I found myself struggling a lot and feeling like I had no one to turn to, despite having new and old friends, and actively seeing my therapist. Something just felt… off.
On the weekends I would go home and get to see Oreo, I figured out that she was what was missing. I hated leaving my hometown knowing once I got back to school, she wouldn’t be there meowing at my feet and always cuddling up to me at night. When my mom recommended the possibility of registering Oreo as an emotional support animal, everything started to make sense. I had been struggling with mental health since I was 11 years old, and the last couple years of high school seemed to make everything worse. I had no official mental health diagnoses, despite therapy and medication, and I was scared that getting a diagnosis in order to bring Oreo to campus would just make all my struggles feel so… real? And that was a scary feeling, but it was very much worth it.
After I registered Oreo as an ESA, got my diagnosis, and filled out paperwork with the accessibility office at my school, I was finally given the clear to bring her to campus a couple of weeks ago, after months of waiting and feeling so lost and alone. And now she’s here!
It has definitely been an adjustment, but Oreo has been so calm and good, and I am very proud of her. Even though I still have my bad days where I struggle, especially with all the due dates and finals approaching, having Oreo on campus has given my days a sense of purpose. I know I have to feed her, fill her water bowl, and clean her litter box. Having a living thing I have to take care of other than me – because, let’s face it, when you’re struggling mentally the last thing you feel like doing is taking care of yourself – has made me feel a little better every day!
If you are struggling mentally, especially as a college student, I would 100% recommend an emotional support animal if that is what you think is best for you. At the very least, it is worth bringing up with a trusted friend, adult, or counselor to see if having an ESA is a good fit for you. For me personally, Oreo has been my rock as long as she has been in my life, and I am so thankful to have her along to support me during this crazy time in my life called college!