Research about the benefits of having pets is starting to get the attention of universities around the country as schools implement pet-friendly dorms and special puppy days.
According to research from Miami University of Ohio, “pet owners had greater self-esteem, greater levels of exercise and physical fitness, and they tended to be less lonely than non-owners.
As students start to miss, not only mom and dad, but Fido and Fluffy as well, schools ranging from Massachusetts Institute of Technology to California Institute of Technology are beginning to agree- pets are an important part of a student’s mental well-being.
“Because universities are working harder to make college more attractive to students, it wouldn’t surprise me if pets would be part of that portfolio…” said Allen McConnell, Ph.D, a professor of Psychology at Miami University in Ohio and one of the researchers on the team that studied the effects pets have on people.
“…Whether it’s exams, or for many…just the whole transition to college- I think all those factors can be stressful-…a pet is one sort of outlet that they may have to combat those stressors,” said McConnell.
Students are in accordance, and many believe that pets in dorms or special pet days are great ways to de-stress as midterms and a longing for a family pet start to weigh in.
“I actually had a [cat] in my apartment when I was a junior in college and I definitely think it helped to have her around,” said Lauren G., a graduate student at Northeastern University. “When I'm stressed I turn to pets because they're always happy and ready to play.”
While for some students a pet in the dorm poses a logistical challenge such as food cost, waste removal, and allergies, the idea of having a special puppy day can be as appealing, as it allows contact with animals without the responsibility.
“At my school we have days during the year where dogs come in and you can play with them… and just forget about your exams for a bit,” said Madelyn R., a sophomore a Rochester University.
While sneaking a pet into a dorm is not a great option (although it has been known to be done), finding a friend who has a pet, or playing with pets during special puppy days, can be a great way to reduce stress, tension, and homesickness for a household pet.
As Madelyn R. simply puts it, “it gives the students a little down time to de-stress and remember there are happier things in life, like puppies.”