Since I was a child, I had always wanted to get a pet. I wanted a dog or a cat, a little creature that could give me attention, play with me and be cuddly. Throughout the years, I was given two tortoises and two hamsters, but I felt there was still a void in my life. This hole was filled when my kitten Pixie came into the picture in June 2020. Although he’s mine, I know I will have to say goodbye to him as soon as I move back to university and leave him with my parents. In this article, I will discuss why I believe pets are a pleasant addition to an international student’s life and they should be allowed in halls and apartments.
They teach patience
Whoever owns a pet knows how frenetic they are when they’re young. My kitten Pixie has the speed of an F1 car whenever he runs around the house and he stops only to eat, use his litter box and sleep. Pets are energetic, especially in their first year of life, so you need to take this into account when deciding to get one.
Most of the times, pets don’t do what they should and they can become unnerving if you need to complete a task or go somewhere. Pixie often asks for food or uses his litter box just before I have to leave the house, so I try to get ready sooner than normal to avoid this issue. He seems to know when shoes are on, that means I will be out of the house in a matter of minutes. Those who look into animal behaviour might say he does it because he doesn’t want to be left alone, but I think it’s more about remembering he has needs whenever he’s not occupied with playing.
Although it could seem too much to handle, having a pet in the house is a brilliant way to learn to be more patient. As you can’t teach them when is the time to want something-or to wake up and play-it’s necessary to understand they don’t do it on purpose. This will allow you to be more aware of another being’s needs and to become more understanding, characteristics that will help you with people.
They keep you occupied
As I said in the previous point, pets are just all over the place. You would expect them to be sleeping on their pillow, when they are in fact ravaging your toilet paper roll. Jokes aside, pets are always busy doing something, no matter the species they belong to. If you get a caged animal such as a rodent, amphibian or reptile, you will need to clean their environment often to keep them healthy. The same is true for dogs and cats, as they must have clean plates, beds and litter boxes.
Apart from their basic needs, pets keep you occupied. Although students rarely need more things to do apart from university work, carrying on a different task might be beneficial. I’ll use my experience as an example. Before Pixie came home, I was still studying for my second semester exams. However, as I had to research all about kitten care, I spent some time looking around for resources and where to buy food, litter and toys. This not only became a way to ease the stress of revising, but it was also refreshing to think about something else than macromolecules, physiology and chemistry.
They teach responsibility
When I discovered I would soon become a “pet’s mom”, I used my organisation method to be ready for it. Those of you who are more familiar with me know I need to prepare and strategize. Thanks to my aunt’s recommendation, I joined a Facebook group for people who want to feed their pets the best food. This allowed me to search the internet for brands the most advanced pet owners recommended and buy everything a kitten needs in their first days in its new home. I created a calendar on Google to remind myself of vaccination dates and medicines I would administer.
Although not every pet owner is as organised, having to care for someone else teaches to be more responsible. International students need to face a series of problem when moving to another country, so I wouldn’t endorse getting a pet during your first year at university. However, once you’re settled and you plan to stay over during the summer holidays-or you can easily have someone taking your pet when you’re away-adopting a little animal friend will only enhance your ability to be responsible.
They bring happiness
Pet therapy is now something widely known today. Even private halls sometimes organise meetings with dogs used for pet therapy. Although I have never taken part to those events, I know I might have enjoyed going downstairs and let myself relax by petting the dog for a while.
It’s true that pets can overwhelm you, but they are also little bundles of joy. Whenever I look at Pixie, I realise how much happiness he has brought in my life. He’s always busy, he doesn’t let me sleep much and I need to follow him around to avoid damages in the house, but I love the way he looks at me when he wants to cuddle on my lap. How many times does a pet do something that makes their owner burst into a laughter? In my case, this happens every day.
International students live far from home and can often find themselves alone. Owning a pet can be a brilliant way to have some companionship and enjoy brief moments of cuteness. If I could bring Pixie with me in the UK, I would be the happiest person. Apart from being a busy little fellow, he often comes up with new mischievous ideas and it’s a joy to see him discover new abilities-while sometimes failing at them and being goofy.
How they can be allowed
I’ve discussed why I think pets are a nice addition to an international student’s life; now I’d like to talk about how we can organise their staying with us in student halls and apartments.
Most people in halls have private rooms and have to share their kitchen, living room and bathrooms with others. Doors are locked all the time and the pet could not go back and forth from your room to the kitchen. Plus, some people might have allergies or just be uncomfortable with an animal roaming around. Talking about animal welfare, I wouldn’t expect a pet living closed up in a room for their entire life. As a result, to own a pet in student halls can be difficult.
Likewise, if you rented a room in a house with other people, make sure everybody is comfortable having an animal living with them. There are limitations to this. If every person in the house wanted their own pet with them, it would be too hectic and untidy. Again, someone could be allergic to fur or not used to having animals inside the house-think about different cultures and backgrounds. One solution-if you live with friends-would be to get a pet shared with all the others.
If you live by yourself in an apartment, the situation changes. You would only have to make sure the animal has enough room and you tended to their needs-food, water and litter. However, most places do not allow pets in them. This not only is true for private halls but also private rented apartments. I understand their position, as some pet owners are not careful enough and their pets could cause damage to the facilities. There could be a special clause in the contract where the person renting takes all the responsibility if the pet causes any kind of damage.
As with every other situation, owing a pet can be both beautiful and stressful. I wouldn’t recommend getting one during your first year at university. There are too many things to think about and starting a new life abroad, so there needs to be some stability before adding a member to your family. However, when you feel adjusted and settled in your new home, adopting a pet can be a way to feel more comfortable and avoid loneliness.