The life of a medical student is undoubtedly hectic, somewhat unpredictable and very, very stressful. Why add more to your plate? Pets are smelly, for one. They also make a lot of noise, demand a lot of attention, and cost boatloads of money. Sure, you can have Fido for company, but you’ll probably be doomed to eating half stacks of ramen and mayo for the next four years! Well, maybe…but let me make the case for Fido, because I think he also has a lot to offer.
Perhaps surprisingly, a lot of students at my school own pets. I, myself, am the proud pet parent of one very sassy feline and though the decision to adopt was not an easy one, I’m super thrilled my cat is in my life. That said, cats are different from dogs which are different from fish, etc. How do you decide if a pet is right for you?
First things first: not all pets are created equally demanding. A pet rock is relatively simple to take care of, save for the occasional polishing. A fish seems pretty low maintenance at first, but don’t forget that the tank will need attention. I don’t know very many medical students with fish or pet rocks, but I digress. A cat is pretty low-key, and quite a few of my friends have taken this route. Dogs seem to be the most popular choice according to my unofficial-in-my-head poll, though obviously, dogs require the most work. Take home message? In order of demanding-ness: dog>cat>fish/hamster>pet rock. Got it? Good. Moving on.
Some really good reasons to think about before you commit:
It’s all about the money, money honey. Pets ain’t cheap. When I first adopted my cat, vet bills rang in around $600. Nadia had a spay site infection that needed treatment ASAP, and I wasn’t about to leave her hanging! A good friend of mine had a kitten with a bad hookworm infection and needed a blood transfusion, stat. I’m happy to report the kitten made it out just fine, but whew, that’s a lot to deal with. Another good friend has a puppy that had painful lymph node swelling due to an autoimmune disorder. This friend of mine had to take out extra loans to finance treatment. Bottom line? Budget ahead of time and be prepared for unexpected expenses. That said, plenty of pets are perfectly healthy all the way through. But still be prepared for supply costs!
Tick tock! Pets take time. Do you have an extra hour or two a week to take Fido to the dog park? What about time to clean Miss Kitty’s litter box? Time spent caring for your pet takes away time you could be spending somewhere else. But! Before I go ahead and talk you out of a pet, think about how rewarding this time spent can be. It goes both ways, and again, budget accordingly.
What about holiday breaks? What do you do with Fido when you want to go home for Christmas, or to Sandy Beach Somewhere for Spring Break? I had to take Nadia with me all the way to Boston from Texas this winter break because it was too expensive to hire a pet sitter. On the bright side, she got to meet my family and I felt a lot more relaxed knowing she was safe with me.
That’s a lot to consider, so why even get a pet in the first place?
Sometimes, it is nice to just have someone to come home to. And roommates don’t count, because who wants the drama of that. People do not make good pets. Sure my cat can’t pay rent, but she doesn’t argue with me about what temperature to set the apartment at.
Having this sort of responsibility is a good thing. If you can manage to not kill your pet rock, then hey, you have proven that you are capable of caring for something other than yourself. Being a pet parent takes patience, dedication, and compassion – traits that are all super important in good doctors.
Stress relief! When you are playing with Fido, feeding Fido, heck, even cleaning up after Fido, you are doing something productive that will take your mind off of the everyday stress of school.
I must admit (as if you didn’t already know) that I am pro-pet. If my unwavering logic and witty charm have not convinced you that a pet (or two) is the way to go, then that’s totally fine – pets are not for everyone. But if you do have the slightest inkling that this may be something you want, then rest assured knowing that you are not alone. Medical school is undoubtedly stressful, but having a companion there to share the ride with is a wonderful thing.
Do you have a pet? If yes, have you found it to be a comfort or additional stress?
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All of the opinions expressed here are the author’s and hers alone, and do not represent necessarily those of Kaplan or its employees.