Puppy Love

Rachel Hagenbaugh

Who thought that having a pet would be the safe haven students would need to make it through their college years?

According to the 2009/2010 National Pet Owners Survey, 62 percent of U.S. households own a pet. That means a little over half the students on campus owned a pet before they left home.

Heather Wade, a 3-year associate of Paws and Prayers animal shelter and rescue in Akron, said she gets students coming to the shelter wanting to adopt pets all the time.

“Especially if they were used to having a pet at home, it gives them a little extra love and knowledge that someone is always around,” she said.

There are many psychological and health benefits to having a pet. Wade said having an animal around keeps that constant interaction that many college students are lacking, especially during midterms and finals week.

“Having a pet is a good therapeutic break,” Wade said.

If the dog wants to go outside, take a study break. Going for a walk with the dog is a good way to regroup.

Another psychological benefit of pets is safety.

Having a pet in the household can make students feel protected from intruders. Cats are also capable of letting their owners be aware of disturbances in the home.

Having a pet can also have physical benefits as well. Many students gain weight while they are in school.

Owning a dog forces the student to be active and exercise. It is hard to stick to a routine by one’s self. Once the routine is set in place, the dog expects it and will push the owner to stick to it.

Petting an animal can also have health benefits for the human body. It is very relaxing and ultimately lowers a person’s blood pressure, Wade said.

At the shelter, they match up animals to fit the adopter’s needs. Puppies and kittens are not usually the best choice for college students, she said.

They require a lot of attention. Kittens need to be confined to one room because they cannot roam too far away from the litter box.

Wade recommends students try to get cats and dogs that are a little older. Cats that are at least 1-3 years old are better suited for college students. Older dogs sleep half the day, so being gone for a period of time is not a problem. However, if a student is going to be gone 8-10 hours each day, Wade does not recommend owning a dog.

Cats are “predominantly self-sufficient,” whereas dogs still require a lot of love and attention.

However, Wade said there are some breeds of cats college students should not adopt if they are going to be gone all day. Siamese and Bengal cats require a lot of attention, and Bombay cats are very temperamental. Persian and Himalayan cats require specific grooming patterns.

According to the 2009-2010 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, basic annual expenses of owning a dog are approximately $1,490, while the expense of a cat is $1,045. Wade encourages students to really think about if they are ready financially and mentally to take care of an animal.

“It’s a give and take, but it definitely has its perks,” she said.

If cost is an issue:

Fish, reptiles, rodents, birds and rabbits are low in cost and relatively easy to maintain. These animals can be kept in small spaces. Some rodents require constant cleaning of their cages because they have a natural odor. Sugar bears are marsupials, meaning they do not have a stench, but are very sociable animals. They require more attention than typical rodents.

If you don’t have a lot of spare time:

Cats are very independent and do not require a lot of attention. Cats can be left alone for a long period of time. Students who go to school full time and also have a job can have a cat. Kittens are not a good idea because they require a lot of attention. Also, specific breeds of cats need more attention than others. Researching the breed before buying it is always a good idea.

If you want a loyal companion:

Dogs are very affectionate and loving animals. They need owners who will be around them for a sufficient amount of the day. Puppies need constant one-on-one training. Older dogs can be left alone for a period of time, but will become depressed and irritable if they are left alone all day.




You can contact Rachel Hagenbaugh at [email protected].