You see a fellow student walking their adorable pet puppy outside and you let out a pterodactyl screech as you trip over yourself to shower it with affection. When you’ve had enough, you go about your merry way and assume that the puppy will do the same, effortlessly charming whoever crosses its path next. And then, sometime later, you see another puppy and the process repeats all over again.
On the streets of Isla Vista, it isn’t uncommon to see pet owners walking and carrying their pets on a regular basis. With so much open space and the beach just around the corner, our idyllic college town makes for the perfect place to let pets run to their hearts’ content. Whether we grew up with pets or not, it’s only natural that many of us want to get a head start on adulthood and set a standard we want for the rest of our lives — but not many people know exactly what they’re getting into.
Is a puppy still cute when it pees inside your apartment? What about when it chews through the furniture, or gets sick because it eats something off the floor that it shouldn’t? Is a kitten still cute when it bolts outside the door you just opened, or brings home dead rodents as presents? The answer is “yes” — you’ll come to love your pet no matter how much it drives you crazy, no matter how much mischief it gets into the second you look away from it.
There are proven medical and psychological benefits to having pets close at hand. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), a study found that out of 421 adults who had suffered heart attacks, dog owners were significantly more likely to survive than those who did not own dogs, regardless of the severity of the attack. Another study found that pet owners had lower heart rates and blood pressure than those who did not own pets. Not to mention that the entire concept of Dog Therapy Day is based off of this principle.
But when you become a pet owner, you’re not just signing up for the cuteness, the companionship, and the stress relief — you’re signing up for the whole package. Raising a pet is serious business, and what many first-time pet owners, and even some who have owned pets in the past, fail to realize is that it’s a full-time commitment.
So if you’re considering investing in a baby animal — not something small and easier to care for, like a fish — and you’ve never done so before, or you’re not sure you’ll have the time and money for it, don’t.
According to ASPCA, about 7.4 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide — about 3.9 million dogs and 3.4 million cats. About 2.7 million animals are euthanized each year, 1.2 million dogs and 1.4 million cats, and about twice as many animals enter shelters as strays, compared to those physically brought to shelters by their owners. With how many cats you see roaming the streets of I.V., both with and without collars, we are already part of the problem.
Instead of potentially contributing to this statistic, if you’re serious about becoming a pet owner, consider adopting an older pet. According to renowned dog trainer Cesar Milan, adopting older dogs may save their lives, as older dogs are usually the first to be euthanized when shelters become overcrowded. Many older dogs are already trained in basic commands like “sit” and “stay,” and they can be a lot less energetic than younger dogs and thus less demanding of your time and energy. As a student, you won’t be able to spend every waking minute with your pet, so this is crucial.
A pet can make for a great companion, but the reality of taking care of one may fall short of your expectations. Make sure you assess the risks to both yourself and your pet before jumping for the first cute puppy or kitten you see. Make sure your lease allows for pets, and have a backup plan in case you find that you won’t be able to care for your pet.