Finding emotional support and coping with pets

A student explains the significance of their pets and how they help them cope with emotions.


My first pets were two guinea pigs when I was eight, named Lollipop and Princess.

I was scared to touch them because I didn’t want to hurt them. I started with small strokes on their head, and they quickly grew comfortable with me as they saw I had no harmful intentions.

As I became relaxed around them, I turned to them for emotional support because they didn’t judge me like people do. I would hold and pet them when I was upset, but even watching them play with each other could help me feel better.

While I felt lonely at school because I had few friends, I looked forward to seeing Lollipop and Princess playing, eating or sleeping. It’d quickly put a smile on my face as I forgot why I was upset.

When I was nine, my dad died of suicide. It was a difficult time not only because I didn’t envision a family death so early in my life but I didn’t know how to cope with it.

Confronting my emotions was difficult and I alternated between crying and feeling numb. I didn’t have outlets to cope with my feelings, so I turned to Lollipop and Princess to remind me to cherish the time I had with loved ones.

When Princess died in 2016, it was heartbreaking. Seeing Lollipop’s distress from losing her sister made it harder for me because we were both dealing with the loss.

She barely ate or moved around that day. I put my feelings aside to help Lollipop with her sadness, which made coping with Princess’ death more challenging. In addition to dealing with my grief, I had to try to cheer up Lollipop and ensure she ate food and drank water so her health wouldn’t deteriorate.

Less than a year later, Lollipop died too. I lost two important parts of my life and felt empty inside. Lollipop and Princess were my main sources of emotional support, I didn’t know how I would cope with difficult feelings moving forward.

Before Lollipop died, my uncle adopted a rabbit. I saw the rabbit a few times during the summer and enjoyed his presence. 

Around a month after Lollipop died, my uncle died in a work-related accident. Because no one else could take care of the rabbit, my family adopted him. The rabbit, who we named Nejo, made it seem like we still had a piece of my uncle to remember him by.

While I don’t see Nejo much during the school year, I’m always happy to be with him when I go home during breaks. When I do see him, I spend a lot of time playing with him and talking about my life stressors, comforted by his calming, nonjudgmental presence.

I thought moving to Philadelphia would be the first time I wouldn’t be around a pet and was worried about how I’d find emotional support, but I was lucky to have roommates who feel as strongly about pets as I do.

Before moving to my apartment, my roommates and I adopted a cat because we felt it’d bring more joy into our lives, we named him Soup. 

I dealt with a lot of homesickness shortly after moving in, I spent many days crying and settling into a new environment where I had to do things myself. I was excited to move out and be in my own environment, but it was also my first time away from home. I was overwhelmed by this change, but I was lucky to have Soup to comfort me.

Soup helped me cope with my homesickness and my feelings of loneliness as I’ve struggled to make friends here, too. Having him curled on my lap always put me at ease and made my adjustment to college much easier to manage.

After winter break, one of my roommates got another cat as a companion for Soup, who we named Miguel.

Sometimes, I sit in the living room just to watch Soup and Miguel play with each other and it comforts me when I’m in a bad mood. I struggle with procrastination and low motivation, but rewarding myself by hanging out with them has recently motivated me

Living with Soup and Miguel with me made me realize how important pets have been throughout my life. All the pets in my life have positively impacted me and I’m forever grateful for the joy and support they’ve given me even during the roughest times of my life.

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