It  seems to be a common stereotype that students do not make good pet owners. There a variety of reasons for this, but they all seem to boil down to the same refrain: we’re just not responsible enough. Every creature you buy in a pet shop comes with a responsibility and how people handle that responsibility is the crucial factor in what type of pet owner they are.

Perhaps this is why the staff of the only pet store in St Andrews, Acorn, have strict rules when it comes to allowing students adopt a pet. Only 3 of the 20 students surveyed on the street in St Andrews have owned a pet whilst at university.

Acorn’s main concern is that students’ living arrangements tend to be transient and that students don’t take this into consideration when they adopt. Acorn staff member, Gaye Guclu, tells that “every year at the start or end of semester we get animals abandoned on the doorstep or brought in because people haven’t bothered to think what happens to them after they leave.”

Written permission from landlords is a must when adopting; you must pass a series of questions designed to test whether you genuinely want an animal or have just come in on a whim. Living arrangements do make adopting animals difficult when halls and most landlords have a ‘no pet’ policy; everyone has heard the story of the friend of a friend who sticks the goldfish under the bed during inspections. Second year student Ashley Smith laments, “my flatmate and I would love a pet, but what would we do with it during the breaks when we both have to fly home?” There is no doubt it is a valid concern but does it necessarily make students irresponsible owners?

With larger animals, such as cats and dogs, there is a real concern  that the student lifestyle just does not allow these pets the time and level of care they require.  However, concerns over responsibility apply to the public in general, as well as students. It is the person that ultimately makes a bad pet owner, regardless of whether they are a student or not. There are as many pets with good student owners as there are pets with bad non-student owners.

Pets can be a welcomed member of any student household. As third year Hannah Williams attests, “sometimes it’s just nice to come home after a bad day and cuddle up with my cat, it always calms me down.” Animals can aid depression, as well as providing young adults with their first taste of responsibility for another creature.

The problem with stereotypes is that not everyone fits them, but as students, we tend to suffer the effects all the same. In this case, so long as careful thought and research is put into owning a pet, there is no reason why one should not be anything but a happy addition to any household, student or not.

Rachel Bell

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