Lucy, my family’s cocker spaniel, sits beside me on the loveseat. Mittens the Siamese-tuxedo cat gazes out at the snowy backyard from behind the living room curtains.
I’ve missed this.
Lucy and Mittens are back with my family in Kamloops, where I spent my Reading Week. I feel the acute lack of pet companionship in my current residence in Nanaimo.
I live with one other student in pet-free off-campus housing. We’re both animal lovers, though my roommate is a dog person and I prefer cats. If we want pets, we’ll need to move somewhere else. But with the high cost of living, could we even afford one?
I asked my mom how much she spends on our five non-humans (three cats and two dogs). She said it was at least $100 a month for all of them.
While that might not seem like a lot, Mom pointed out other factors that can increase costs: medication, special diets, vet visits. Each breed has its own health problems. And a puppy or kitten needs extra time and attention.
Time, money, and space. Three things students are almost always short on. And that’s a problem if they miss their pet at home.
From studies and our own or other people’s experiences, we know that pets improve mental health and happiness—things that fluctuate or even deteriorate during the university years.
What can students in need of pet therapy do? Here are some suggestions:
Hang out with a therapy dog
VIU’s Nanaimo campus has a Wellness Lounge inside the library. Here, you can talk to a Wellness Peer, drink tea or hot chocolate, and (drumroll, please) pet a dog! St. John Ambulance’s Therapy Dogs are available 1:30-3 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and 1:30-2:30 on Thursdays. Pause your studying for some snuggling with these adorable canines!
Take a walk in Colliery Dam Park
Miss walking your pooch? Colliery Dam Park is the place to be. There’s such a variety of breeds here. I’ve seen terriers, border collies, and even corgis walking the trails. If you’re lucky, the owners will stop to chat and let you pet their fur babies.
It’s a mostly off-leash area, so if you’re uncomfortable with big dogs running around, then maybe stay closer to the on-leash entrance area.
Go to Kitties & Cream Cat Cafe
Last year, I wrote about Kitties & Cream, Vancouver Island’s first cat café. A lot has changed: only one of the original resident cats is now at the cafe, and many adoptable cats have come and gone. I’ve visited many times, showing classmates and new students this cat lover’s paradise.
If you want to spend just under an hour with a feline (or 12!), book a visit for yourself or a friend. Kitties & Cream also hosts cat yoga lessons and board game nights.
Need to de-stress? Want to fill community service hours? Why not volunteer with some animals?
BC SPCA is always looking for people, and the Nanaimo Branch has current openings.
Kitties & Cream is another option. The café is looking for people to feed and socialize cats, clean the lounge, or even foster them. In exchange, you get a chance to hang around cats for free and take a break from classes. It’s a win-win. To sign up, click here.
There may be other opportunities to be around dogs and cats that I haven’t listed. I encourage you to find them wherever you can—pets enrich our lives, and it’s only when they’re gone that we realize it.