Pets in College Prove to be Beneficial

For my Broadcast Journalism Writing class, I wrote this blog post to identify the positive outcomes of having a pet as a student in college. I was able to interview several people who are experts and just animal-lovers. I interviewed three other college students who have pets, and a therapy dog specialist who founded the KU Therapy Dog program.

Pet adoption is at an all time high due to the Coronavirus pandemic, and this is certainly true for college students at The University of Kansas.  Owning a pet in college can be beneficial to students’ mental health, academic performance, and physical well-being.  

According to the research article, “The Mental Health Benefits of Having Dogs on College Campuses” published in the Troy University Journal of Modern Psychological studies, Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) is becoming more prevalent among college and university counseling centers because working with dogs helps alleviate stress and anxiety within college students.  

Annabelle Bragalone and her puppy, Juliet showing how much joy and happiness a pet can bring to a college student

Amid the Coronavirus pandemic, college students are looking to their pets for comfort and stress release. Pet adoption has increased by 15% since the start of the pandemic, according to Shelter Animals Count, a non-profit organization that runs a database of statistics about sheltered animals.  Pets can provide stability, a healthier lifestyle, a set routine, and a built-in companion, which has helped several college students cope with the stress of the pandemic and online classes.  

In Kansas alone, 7,748 animals were adopted in the year 2020, according to the KC Pet Project.  This organization reported that cat adopted increased 10.5% in 2020 due to the Coronavirus outbreak, which is the highest number of cat adoptions in KC Pet Project’s history.  

According to National Geographic, pet owners reported feeling less isolated and lonely than those who did not have any pets at home.  “Plenty of research shows that dogs have emotions and can absorb what their owners are feeling – particulary if an owner is emotionally dependent on them,” says Rachel May, writer for National Gepgraphic.   

Tori Hood playing with her dog, Rodrick. Playtime releases serotonin and dopamine, which relieve stress and increase feelings of happiness

During the Coronavirus pandemic, college students at The University of Kansas have relied on their pets to get them through this time.  Tori Hood, a freshman at The University of Kansas, explained that her dog, Rodrick, has helped her by having a set schedule, daily walks, and with emotional support.  Hood said, “Whenever I am feeling down, Rodrick can always sense it and will just lay on top of me and try to help me in any way he can, and honestly, it has helped a lot with the stress of online classes and living through a pandemic.”  

Genevieve Rajewski, author of “How Animals Help Us During the COVID-19 pandemic”on Tufts Now, explained how pets can motivate people to do things that are good for their own mental health and well-being. Activities with animals that turn into part of a normal routine are able to bring back some degree of normalcy, and with all the uncertainty in the world, that is beneficial to college students as their lives are being turned around.  

Amelia Aldritt with her cat, Arabella getting some “outside time” in showing that having a pet allows you to take mental breaks from work and school

Amelia Aldritt, a freshman at the University of Kansas, said that her cat, Arabella, has made her feel less lonely and isolated by providing structor and responsibility.  She explained that having a cat in college has made all the difference in the world by providing her with a sense of security, belonging, and responsibility to care for Arabella. 

“Animals are a source of company and connection, which has been lacking during the pandemic.  Also, when we interact with our pets, our brains release ‘feel good’ hormones (oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine) that strengthen the human-animal bond, and improve our overall mood, as well as reducing blood pressure and heart rate,” said Raven Rajani, licensed clinical social worker and therapist, and founder of the Therapy Dog program at The University of Kansas.  

Rajani explained in an interview that having a pet requires commitment, creates a routine, and a need for stability and structure, which is great for college students to experience. Rajani had three dogs in college, which kept her in good company, good shape, and gave her something to think about and care for besides herself. 

Caring for a pet in college has several benefits that help students – not only during the Coronavirus pandemic, but also by preparing them for life beyond college.  Learning how to deal head on with mental health and physical health issues is a recipe for future success.   Having a pet while in college benefits not only the students, but their roommates, their families, and the pets too! 

May 2021

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