Credit: Humberto Arellano via Unsplash

Looking after pets means looking after you

By Katherine Prentice

Although they require routine care and financial support, pets can add an invaluable benefit to university life.

Life can be unpredictable and hectic as a student; between irregular timetables, long breaks, exams, drinking, and part time jobs, no two weeks look the same. I, for one, hate that. Without any structure I will sleep crazy hours and eat and do work when I remember to – as you can imagine, lockdown and online uni wasn’t ideal for me. My saving grace when I was at home was taking my dog for walks and, when I’m in a rut, borrowing him for a while gets me up and out the house every day. 

I got my cat in July 2020, after thinking about it for a while. I am so lucky that I am able to have him in my flat, and I know most people are not as lucky – student flats and toilet training animals don’t seem to mix. Luckily, Edgar was already litter-trained, and while he was absolutely nuts when I first got him, he brightened up a frankly awful year. He is almost two now, and I am planning my post-graduation move with him, and honestly I feel so much better knowing he will be with me. Day to day, feeding him breakfast and dinner and taking care of him keeps me sane, as does our morning routine of a cuddle when he hears my alarm. 

A few months later, I figured I had already committed to a pet and was handling it well, so I took the plunge with another pet I had wanted since I was a child: a snake. My mum would never let me get one, so of course by Autumn, when I started a new job, I got a royal python named Vlad. Cheerful names, I know, but they suit them. Let me tell you, if you want an easy pet as a student, reptiles might be the way to go, although not for everyone. Vlad needs fresh water, fed weekly (which costs £1), along with heat and humidity. The set up cost is not insignificant, but from then on keeping Vlad has made no noticeable dent in my budget (unlike his furry older brother). He is so lovely to look at and play with, he enjoys being handled and it is extremely nice to feel needed and wanted by a little creature. 

“I took the plunge with another pet I had wanted since I was a child: a snake. My mum would never let me get one, so of course by Autumn, when I started a new job, I got a royal python named Vlad.”

I quickly upgraded Vlad’s enclosure to a bigger vivarium (exchanged via a Facebook ad for a bottle of Smirnoff), and suddenly had an empty vivarium. So, a little crested gecko named Nuri (my fire, for a little dragon) joined the busy flat. Nuri needs to be misted twice a day and fed every two days, but slotting her into my routine has been so helpful. 

As someone who loses track of the days easily, having to keep track for the sake of my pets has been incredibly helpful. If I won’t remember meal times for me, Edgar will remind me, and if I don’t feed the reptiles they simply won’t eat. As cliché as it is, having them has made my flat so much more cosy and homely, and I really can’t imagine life without them now. 

Of course, do your research and lots of it if you’re considering getting a pet, too, and think about what your plan is after university or even just next year. Maybe your lease won’t let you have pets, or maybe you are only allowed something in a tank or vivarium, or you want to do a year abroad. These are all important to consider. But, if you have the space, money, time and energy, pets can be invaluable for creating routine, and the knock on effects from this and the unconditional love from a pet has done wonders for me personally, and my friends appreciate getting to visit pets when their own are often miles away. Despite my itchy eyes, and the disturbing freezer drawer that houses Vlad’s food, I wouldn’t change a thing. I have given them a happy home, and in turn they made me feel at home. 


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