OPINION: Why college students should own pets


Samuel Cooke

An App State campus celebrity celebrated their birthday Tuesday – Teddy the golden retriever. Teddy patiently posed in front of his birthday banner while waiting for his dog safe birthday cake.

Ella Hanley

Have you ever seen a big, fluffy golden retriever bounding through Sanford Mall, chasing a stick in the sun? Or perhaps seen one of the many student-owned cats napping on a picnic blanket? It’s likely you’ll meet a furry friend or two on your way to class if you haven’t already, especially with the warm weather approaching. Believe it or not, pets are more than just fluffy companions, especially to college students. They promote positive mental health, physical health and the overall benefits are through the roof. From chemical changes in your brain to healthy lifestyle changes and responsibility, the pros outweigh the cons by a landslide.

Pets can promote exercise and physical activity. If you own a dog, it’ll need to go outside at least once a day for a walk. Life can get busy, and students sometimes don’t have time to exercise on their own. With a dog, exercise becomes part of routine. Additionally, pets provide great companionship. Whether you have a puppy, a sleepy, lounging cat or even a fish, pets are amazing friends. Even better, if you’re looking for new human friends, just bring your pet out onto Sanford or on a walk through campus. The odds are high you’ll meet at least one person who wants to say hi, and the conversation can go from there.

On top of healthy lifestyle changes, pets can actually create chemical changes in your brain. Spending time with your pet can increase serotonin and dopamine levels, and pet owners also have lower cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure. Multiple studies show that owning a pet can also lead to lower cortisol levels in your body. Cortisol relates directly to stress. Think of it as your body’s built-in alarm system. Less cortisol means less stress.

The best benefit to owning a pet is the responsibility skills they encourage. Most pets need to be fed at a certain time every day, and this will add consistency to your routine. Structure  and a daily routine is beneficial because it helps to combat burnout and relieve anxiety, both two increasingly significant problems for college students.

There are some, although few, downsides to owning a pet. They can be expensive. Purchasing food, cleaning supplies, beds, toys, vet bills and more can rack up the bills quickly, and college students are infamous for being broke. On top of that, pets aren’t exactly easy animals. They require much care, effort and devotion. If you’re a student who pays a nightly visit to Ransom or goes back home to Charlotte for the weekend, having a pet is not ideal unless you’ve secured a pet-sitter. Additionally, most pets are not allowed in dorms. Osteichthyes, a certain type of fish, are the only exception

As mental health problems become more common among college students, ways to combat them are needed more than ever. Pets are a great way to boost mental, physical and emotional health. Consider the debate settled, App State students and pets are a perfect combination.