Prof: Pets may add or take away from the stress of busy college students


Junior psychology major, Lauren Pagan feeds her fish, Mr. Skittles.

By Hailey Kurth

Junior psychology major, Lauren Pagan said having a cat in her apartment keeps life interesting and is a great conversation starter when people come over.

“At the apartment we have a cat, hamster, fish and a tarantula,” Pagan said. “My cat Wednesday is a part of the family.”

Some students may decide to have a pet while at school. Animals can provide love and affection, but can also include extra costs and time, safety concerns and allergies.

Associate psychology professor Laura Pittman said pets can be beneficial for some students, but can cause problems for others.

“Because of their busy college lives, for some students the responsibility of caring for a pet may be just an added stressor, while for other students having a pet may provide the needed break that can be a stress reducer,” Pittman said in an email. “Thus, like so many things, the students’ response to owning a pet may vary depending on the individual.”

For some students, having a furry friend in the house can be beneficial.

“We’ve had our cat since school started, so only a couple weeks, but my roommates and I love it. We just sit down in the living room and watch TV, and it jumps up on our laps,” said junior art major Kyle Meyer.

Before diving into the decision of bringing home a pet, students should understand all pets come with a cost.

“The little ones are pretty low maintenance, its just pretty much food,” Pagan said. “With Wednesday, there is a vet bill here and there, but it’s mostly food and litter. It’s just a little bit of extra groceries.”

Pagan said she and her roommates paid $200 in pet deposits for the two years they will live at their apartment with their cat.

Health and safety issues also need to be addressed. All animals have the ability to injure their owners or others.

“As of this fall, we have not had any animal bites,” said Christine Grady, director of Health Services. “Any animal bites must be reported by law to the Public Health Animal Control Department. We treat the wound and file the report.”

Before signing the lease with a fuzzy roommate, students need to be sure there are no allergies to the pet, and if there are, they should take proper precautions.

“We do have students that come in for allergies, but we do not code diagnoses specifically as pet allergies,” Grady said. “They may be prescribed antihistamines,or if allergies are severe, they may be referred to an allergist.”

After considering the risks, students make sure they are living in or can find a place that allows large pets.

Pagan said she would find it difficult to move to an apartment that didn’t allow pets.

“We would definitely look into making sure we could have a cat in the apartment [if we had to move],” Pagan said. “There’s no way that we’d live without our Wednesday.”

If a student fails to find a place that allows pets, they may find themselves in a bad situation.

“A friend of ours had a cat that they had to give up because of where they lived,” Meyer said. “So we jumped on the chance to take it since our realtor allows pets.”


Finding a place to live that allows large pets can be difficult for students. Several realtors have strong feelings toward large pets and ban them from the get-go. Animal restrictions are built into many lease agreements.

“We only allow small caged animals such as fish, turtles or hamsters,” said Laura Gardner, leasing agent of Mason Properties, 120 N. Annie Glidden Road.

If renters are found with any prohibited animal, they can face a fine that varies from realtor to realtor. For Star Properties, 801 Lucinda Ave., the fine is $500.

“For example, if renters are found with a dog September 1, they will be fined $250,” said Caileen Donahue, leasing agent at Star Properties. “If we then find out they still have the dog Oct. 1, they will be fined $25 for each day in between.”

Pittsley Realty, 1005 Regent Drive Suite 1, is one of the realtors that allows larger animals in certain units, said manager JT Murray. They have an initial pet deposit of $150 and have tenants to pay an additional $30 per month. This still only allows tenants to have one large pet.

Also, office employees at Laing Management, 701 Lucinda Ave. Suite 100, said they allow cats in one location of their rental properties.

High Meadows, 1400 W. Lincoln Highway Suite G1, allows pets in all units. Tenants taking advantage of this are required to pay an extra deposit and a fee per month.

“Each apartment is allowed one pet,” said High Meadows employee Barb Berg. “We do limit the size and breed; it can’t be more than 25 pounds at maturity.”


After a student takes everything into consideration and decides to invite an animal into their home, they need to find their perfect companion. DeKalb offers pet stores and shelters for budding pet-owners.

TAILS Humane Society, 2250 Barber Greene Road, offers many pets for adoption. During an adoption process, employees from TAILS sit down and have an open conversation with potential adopters to talk about their lifestyle and what they’re looking for in a pet. TAILS wants to be sure adopters match up with an animal that best suits them and their routine.

“Instead of setting up an application process and making people feel like they’re failing or passing a test, we have a survey that’s about 15 questions designed to be conversation starters,” said TAILS Executive Director Beth Drake.

TAILS also accepts animals needing new homes. Drake said TAILS will take in pets depending on the space available. If it is full, it can put the animal on a waiting list and offer other options or places to help. Drake said it will always accept TAILS animals back for any reason.

If a student finds themselves yearning for an animal’s attention but in an animal-restricted living area, there are options to curb their critter-craving.

Those interested in interacting with animals can volunteer with TAILS, Drake said. About 15 to 20 percent of Some TAILS volunteers are NIU students.

“It’s common that [volunteers] live in dorms or apartments that don’t allow pets,” Drake said, “So they may be getting their cat or dog fix and are spending their energy helping the pets at TAILS.”

Also, TAILS and other animal shelters and stores offer smaller animals like rabbits, gerbils, hamsters, mice, guinea pigs and ferrets. But before a student decides on a little critter, they should contact their realtor to be sure it’s allowed.