Every Ursula student knows the feeling of having two tests, an art project, and an entire essay with a works cited page due all in one day. While the therapy dogs that visit us during final exams in May are a great temporary distraction from the stresses of school, having any kind of pet -- dog, cat, fish, etc. -- at home has been proven to have multiple benefits.
Specifically, dogs have been shown to ease anxiety among students. A recent study at the University of British Columbia found that, among 246 students, those who played with therapy dogs during exam week reported feeling less stressful and more energetic, as opposed to those who did not. In fact, the study suggests that the dogs should be available to students during the entire year to help with outside-of-class assignments, not just during high stress periods.
However, dogs are not the only animals that can decrease stress. A study published by the Journal of Vascular and Interventional Neurology reveals that owning a cat can lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke. Even if you don’t have a cat, watching funny cat videos on the internet can boost energy and positive emotions, reports a study from Indiana University. Fish tanks also have calming effects, and, according to a study by Purdue University, are associated with better short-term memory in Alzheimer’s patients.
SUA students are well versed in the benefits that their own pets provide. Over one in five girls own a cat, including Gracie Davis ‘19. “My cat is crazier than I am, so she always makes me feel better about myself,” she says. Madeline Maginnis ‘21 agrees, saying that “there is nothing better after a long day than coming home to furry balls of joy” who will “greet [her] with enthusiasm”. Gabby Warren ‘19 says that taking care of her goldfish “implements a sense of structure that [she doesn’t] get in other aspects of [her] life”.
Recently, students were asked to complete a short survey on pet ownership. Over 50% of the student body responded, and the vast majority of pet owners had a dog and/or cat. Interestingly, 81.7% of SUA students have a dog, which is over two times higher than the national average of 36.5%, while only 20.0% of students own a cat, compared to 30.4% of all Americans. However, students also reported owning more exotic pets, such as donkeys, emus, and toads.
Exam week stress or not, any pet can be comforting in their own way. As Adreanna Oelrich ‘21 puts it, having a pet “serves as a reminder of the amount of joy you can bring to others just by being there.”
From top to bottom: Pepper (left) and Rudi (right) (Adreanna Oelrich '21), Mojo (Madline Maginnis '21), Cagney (Gracie Davis '19), Charlie (Gabby Warren '19), Scarlet (Emma Perera '21)