Do Pets Really Improve College Student’s Mental Health?

Maddie Zimmerman, Columnist

Before I moved away to college, I never really realized how many college students had pets.

I thought, ‘Surely, everyone was too over their heads in schoolwork to be able to have time for a pet.’ This was before I ended up getting several betta fish, a hamster and a rescue cat. At first, I started out with a betta fish that my roommate and I shared.

My roommate and I had so much fun picking out what would go in the bowl; colorful rocks, plants and accessories for the fish. In and of itself, the fish was fun to look at, and gave me a sense of purpose. Something depended on me.

Fish are also simple and affordable. If you want an easy pet to brighten your day, I highly recommend a betta fish. Just make sure that you research it, like any pet, beforehand. 

This year my boyfriend and I wanted something to hold, so we got a hamster. Now, I was super excited for a cute little hamster to be mine, but it turns out that Hammie (his name is “Hammie”) doesn’t like people very much. I can still pet him, but he nibbles sometimes.

Despite Hammie being a not-so-nice hamster, he still makes me smile. Hamsters are adorable, even just to look at. Whenever I’m upset about something, stressed or overwhelmed with homework I just sit with my hamster. He ends up doing something funny, or even just looking cute ,and it changes my mood.

A few months after I got my hamster, my boyfriend brought up the idea of getting a cat. At first I was nervous about the idea; cats are a huge commitment and they’re a lot of work. After researching and looking for a cat we rescued Manon. Our approximately seven-year-old Point Lynx Siamese cat has changed my life.

I may sound dramatic, but I promise having a cat helped me. I used to think that emotional support animals were kind of bogus. Cats can help with depression? Dogs can help with anxiety? Well, as a person who has both of those mental illnesses I can assure you that my cat has helped me with both.

Manon makes me excited to get out of bed in the morning. Animals know when you are anxious and Manon always hops on the bed to make sure I’m okay when he notices that my mood shifts. 

The pandemic made people lonely. Everyone was terrified to leave their houses, and what gives people company in their homes besides humans? Pets. Dogs, cats, reptiles, hamsters– you name it.

Pets give people a sense of security and companionship. Pets don’t judge you. They listen to you and they’re excited to see you; unless they’re my hamster, who hates my guts.

I’m not the only one who thinks so. My friend Aubrey was the one who convinced me to get Manon in the first place. Aubrey has a rescued cat named Mina; “Mina is for real my best friend. She makes me feel so loved. I can come home from a long day and she’s so happy to see me.” Overall, pets are a perfect way to have a companion and overall help your mental health.