Recently, my roommates and I acquired a pet rabbit to brighten up our little home.
We’ve received a lot of flak for this decision, from both people doubting our choice of animal, and those questioning the wisdom of a few of college students owning pets. I’m not going to bother dealing with the first assertion, because anyone who hates bunnies is clearly a sociopath, and also talking extensively about my feelings concerning rabbits makes for a boring and myopic article.
However, I’m willing to go to bat to defend pet ownership in general, and to prove how it presents a fantastic opportunity for college students.
First off, pets are stress-relievers. There’s a reason why videos of cats being adorable are so popular on YouTube. There’s also a reason why animal-assisted therapy is, in the words of the American Humane Society, “[growing] in mainstream healthcare acceptance and practice.”
College students live busy lives, and petting a soft, furry creature is a great way to unwind after a long day of classes. It’s certainly healthier than developing a crippling alcohol dependency or binging on “Say Yes to the Dress” repeats.
In addition, pets teach you important lessons about responsibility. Maybe you can live off of Ramen noodles and 40s, but little Cupcake sure can’t.
Pets provide you with a reason to get up every day and focus on something besides yourself. If raising a child is a video game, owning a pet is like playing the tutorial level. You experience the joy and pain of taking care of something, but unlike a child, you can leave your pet in a cage for the day.
For an example of personal growth I’ve experienced since becoming a pet owner, my rabbit Gizmo needs to eat fresh vegetables to be healthy. You know who else needs fresh vegetables to be healthy? People. I am never running out of romaine lettuce again, and both she and I will benefit from it.
One of the most important initial steps you can take to become a responsible pet owner is to do research on the type of animal that best suits your lifestyle. If you’re athletic, a dog could be a perfect fit, while the more sedentary among us might go for a goldfish, hamster or Tamagotchi.
Consider your living environment. For example, those of you who live in small apartments should make sure that your new furry friend will be comfortable in a confined space.
Do you live a residence hall? Owning a pet is a wonderful way to learn all about your hall’s policy on animals. Mainly, that you are not allowed to have them. Sorry about that. Maybe you should have been more responsible and had a talk with your RA before you decided to bring a German shepard to live on the seventh floor of Johnson Hall. See? Lessons all around.
Finally, owning a pet is fantastic for your social life.
Anyone who has dated in college is probably familiar with the classic “watching a movie” seduction technique. Basically, you invite the object of your affections to your house, apartment or dorm in order to “watch a movie,” which essentially means cuddling on your bed streaming Netflix for 20 minutes before your crush gets bored enough by your bad taste in film to make out with you. It’s a chestnut because it works — natural, non-threatening ways to lure someone into your den of inequity are few and far between — but it can grow a little stale.
Inviting your paramour to your place to “come see my pet” is a fun, unique spin on this old trick. You still achieve your goal of being alone with them in private, but you’ve accomplished it in a far less hackneyed way. In addition, you come off as a sensitive and caring, but also with a sense of animalistic vitality. Did you happen to rescue your pet? Even better. No one can resist a well-told tale about the time you saved Sprinkles, hounded by fleas, scurvy and the rains of North Philly, from her meager shelter in a trash can on 17th and Diamond streets.
Even if you don’t have romance in mind, pets make excellent social lubricants. Don’t want to trudge all the way to the library to work on your group project? Invite your classmates over to “play with your pet” as you study. Need an excuse for skipping your friend’s party or open-mic night? Just tell them Buttercup is sick and requires around-the-clock care. First day of class icebreaker? You’ve now got a killer interesting fact. Pets: helping college students win friends and influence people since whenever they were first domesticated.
Overall, pets are awesome companions, and any college student with the appropriate space and ability for their care should highly consider acquiring one.
Jordyn Kimelheim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JordynK91.