The Benefits of Owning a Pet in College

Story by Shayla Gallagher
Photo by Anne Langan

If you’re an animal lover, it’s a no-brainer owning a pet improves your happiness. Previous pet owners can attest that while at some points pets can be time consuming, the positives outweigh the cons.

What you may not have realize, however, is that owning a pet has many lifelong health benefits.

Social Icebreaker
This probably isn’t your first thought when you think about getting a pet (and I wouldn’t advise anyone to get a pet for this sole reason), but pets can be a great social icebreaker, whether your pet is with you or not.

Who doesn’t love animals? Talking about your pet is a good way to start a conversation if you’re not sure what to talk about or you’re meeting someone for the first time. Hopefully, after talking about your animal, it’s easier to carry on a conversation. Pet owners can interact and share stories about their pet, and it could even lead to pet play dates which gives you time to interact more and make a new friend.

CMU student Andrea DeLong said that her bunny Nolan has helped her become better at socializing. “If I am ever caught in a conversation and I don’t know what to talk about, I talk about my bunny. We usually end up talking about their pets or their friends pets and we move on from there. It’s a good way to start a conversation because everyone loves to talk about their pets or other animals.”

Staying Fit
Owning a dog can help you get in shape – and stay in shape. Dogs need a lot of exercise and room to run around. If you live in an apartment complex or a house without a yard, it can be difficult for your dog to get the adequate amount of exercise.

A good way to ensure that your dog gets the exercise it needs is to take it for walks or even run with it. Not only will your dog get the exercise it needs, but so will you. Try to make it a daily thing or even go every other day. If you’re struggling to start working out, which we all know is the worst part, a dog can be the push that you need.

CMU student Teasha Johnson said that her dog Diesel is her motivation to get up in the morning. “Diesel forces me to get out of bed in the morning to take him outside. Some mornings I hate that he wakes me up, but Diesel is just the push I need to get my morning going. He is my motivation to get out of the house and start my day.”

Beat the Blues
Animals provide unconditional love which is great every day, but especially when you’re having a bad day or feeling lonely.

Owning a pet can give you a sense of purpose and a lifelong companionship, making you feel like you have more control over your life. Pets are good at taking your mind off of your day and helping you feel needed and loved. They are great to come home to and cuddle with or just petting them can provide a sense of comfort.

If you are dealing with depression or another mental illness, talk to your doctor about getting your animal registered as an emotional support animal to ensure you can the support you need.

CMU student Allyson Strickland has two guinea pigs, Kevin and Delilah. “They are my stress reliever. I come home to them and they take my mind off of my hectic day. I adopted Kevin to help him and get him out of his unstable home. Little did I know Kevin would help me. ”

Other Health Benefits
As you grow older the health benefits of owning a pet are greater. Owning a pet can decrease your blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, all of which decrease your chances of developing heart problems. Pets can even boost a child’s immune system and prevent them from developing allergies.

Before purchasing a pet, consider whether the choice is right for you. If you are interested in owning a pet, look into adopting one locally through Humane Animal Treatment Society.