My noisy, obese cat Mittens probably spends most of the day laying on the couch waiting for me to come home. I am the one person she finds comforting, and she jumps up on my lap to cuddle at every opportunity.
I am one of the lucky ones because I get to go home on the weekends. Mittens only has to wait four days before she can curl up in my lap again. For a lot of Mount Mary University’s residents, waiting only four days to cuddle with a pet would be a blessing. A lot of students are far from home or too busy to make the trip.
It can be hard. Pets are so much more than animals. They are friends, cuddle buddies and stress relievers. They provide unconditional love. Even in the four days that I am forced to be cat-free, I feel that I am at a loss. I cannot imagine what all the cat and dog owners that have to wait months to see their animals must be feeling.
A distance between you and your cat or dog does not have to mean a lack of all cats or dogs in your life. Here are three ways to stay in contact with the species you love.
1. Animal Shelter
By volunteering at an animal shelter, you can spend time with dogs and cats. It will not compare to loving your own pet, but it will definitely feel good to care for other animals. Cats and dogs in shelters feel hopeless and unloved and giving them your affection could mean a lot to them.
If you love cats, there is a nonprofit, volunteer-run cat shelter called Happy Endings about 20 minutes from Mount Mary. Volunteer opportunities include helping with special events, cleaning and spending time with the cats. They do ask that you remain a volunteer for three months and dedicate four to six hours per week. For more information, visit happyendings.us.
2. Pet Sitting
If you are hesitant to commit to an organization, pet sitting is another option. You can advertise your services online to find jobs near campus. One reputable site to make a profile on is Care.com. Once you make a profile, people can find you or you can find jobs posted by others. The site is nice because it is organized well, and you can specify and find the exact kind of job and animal you want. Not only is this a way to spend time with animals, but it can also be a good side job.
3. Therapy Animals
Twice a semester, students have a chance to pet therapy dogs and possibly a cat in an event put on by campus ministry, through an organization called Health Heelers. They come once before midterms and once before finals. I took advantage of the opportunity last semester, and I was not disappointed. One of the dogs was huge and very fluffy! The cat was surprisingly calm and was very good with being handled.
Leaving behind a pet can make college hard. For me, no other cat in the world could take the place of Mittens. As we work hard toward our education goals, we just have to take a deep breath and remember that we will see our pets again soon enough.