When students enter college, there’s this newness of environment that can sometimes incite loneliness, stress and depression. While there’s plenty of ways to deal with these issues, including self-help and counseling, other times adopting an animal is a student’s first thought. I agree with the first two courses of action, but I’ve noticed a trend where adoption has become the new way to solve underlying issues.
Adoption is always a positive act I encourage, especially adopting from shelters and rescue missions, but sometimes people adopt based on emotion rather than rationale, and this can become problematic. Here are a few things to consider before adopting a pet.
Based on first-hand experience, college students believe adopting an animal will help alleviate their issues, when in fact, sometimes a pet can amplify stress. Though pets are close, personal creatures most of us have grown up with, not many are equipped with the resources to single-handedly care for a pet, including space, time and especially finances.
Not all college students live in a roomy home like many of us had with our families. Spacing matters for pets, especially larger pets like dogs, who need plenty of room to roam and play. Many college students live in an apartment with at least one to three other people. Overcrowding exists, even for pets.
Time is what many college students lack too. With school, work and social time included, there aren’t many hours left for a pet. Plenty of people can surely find time for a pet when they’re home, but consider how often you’re at home, undistracted from assignments. With a pet, how many hours can you put into loving and caring for it?
Remember: Pets need to use the bathroom too. If you’re not home, don’t expect others to pick up the responsibilities like Mom, Dad or siblings did back home. Roommates can be like family, but at the end of the day, it’s your pet, not theirs.
Of course before any purchase, we must all consider if we can afford it. As college students, I know many of us aren’t making great money, even if all the bills are paid by the end of the month with some leftover. But adopting a pet isn’t a one-time purchase. It’s a 10-year subscription to annual vet check-ups, updating shots, sick days, specific diet, toys and other accessories. Those small purchases can eventually add up and stress another bill to pay.
My suggestion is this: Before adopting a pet, consider adopting a plant. Plants are a great way to take time and reevaluate the situation. Plants are cheap and only need water and sunlight for their care. They don’t need lots of space (just a spot), time for attention or constant bills to upkeep (just sometimes new fertilizer every once and awhile). Plants need care too, just a different form, and much less stressful or all-consuming.
See it as a test. If someone can’t care for a plant, what makes anyone think they could care for a pet? If the experiment succeeds and a new plant parent is added to the community, all the more benefit. If not, perhaps adopting a pet can wait.