Are college students responsible enough for pet ownership?


Linnea Cheng

Cat ownership has substantially increased since the start of the pandemic.

As students living off campus search high and low for roommates, many are turning to local animal shelters instead. Students are getting in the habit of adopting a cat quickly after they move into their own apartment. But do young college students have the abilities and finances to take care of a living animal? 

Before the pandemic, cat adoption rates were low. According to the Chicago Animal Care and Control, there were only 500-800 cat adoptions a year in Chicago. However, Covid-19 created a more significant need for a companion, causing adoption rates to spike to just over 1,000 adoptions in 2022.  

DePaul sophomore Janey Hynes welcomed a kitten named Chuck into their home a little over a month after moving into their own apartment. In early October, Hynes visited the Anti-Cruelty Society, an animal shelter in River North, with no intentions of adopting a cat that day. However, after connecting with a little black cat with an upper respiratory infection, they knew they were not leaving empty handed. 

Thankfully, Hynes is financially supported enough by their job to afford the costs that Chuck requires. Hynes expressed that their new addition has helped distract them from feelings of loneliness that comes along with living by yourself in a big city. 

“Being able to take care of something aside from yourself when you’re feeling depressed is something that really helps in those times,” Hynes said. 

Wesley Janicki, DePaul alum and employee at Family Pet Animal Hospital in Lincoln Park, adopted a cat after graduating but never had a pet while being a student. Janicki does not necessarily recommend adopting a pet so young but gave plenty of helpful tips for those who do. 

“Keeping up with preventative care, dental care, and adopting the right age cat as a college student are my biggest three tips,” Janicki said. 

Janicki recommends not adopting a kitten or an elderly cat, but rather a cat aged somewhere in between at about four or five years old. That way, the cat is most likely already vaccinated but not so old that it may start to have serious health problems that you cannot afford to take care of. While kittens have a way to capture our attention with their cuteness, a newborn may not be the best fit for everyone. 

Pet lover and DePaul sophomore Norah Gelhaus recently adopted a five- year- old cat named Wilson. Gelhaus fostered a cat back in October but decided not to adopt because she feared she was not responsible enough. However, after time away and conversations with her parents about pet responsibilities and finances, she decided she was ready to adopt. With some help from her mom, Gelhaus adopted Wilson from the Humane Society and welcomed him home with open arms. 

With Wilson being a bit older, Gelhaus says he is very independent and does not require much tentative care. This allows Gelhaus to not have to worry as much about his every move and leaves time for her to actually relax and feel comforted by his presence rather than stressed.

“Definitely just having someone that is always by your side is going to make you happy,” Gelhaus said. 

Gelhaus waited to adopt until she knew she was ready for that responsibility. She made sure it was the right choice for her and found the right cat who her roommate also adores. 

Another emphasis Janicki made was to not adopt on a whim. Even if you have been wishing for a pet since you were little, make sure you have the finances and support to take care of this cat for the rest of its life. 

With so many pets to choose from, it is our responsibility to pick the right one that you know you have the time and resources to care for, especially as a full time student.

“It’s easier to have a cat that’s going to be mostly independent at home versus having a dog that needs to be walked three times a day, and having to run back to your apartment between classes would be a lot more difficult,” Janicki said.

These pet owners have all emphasized the idea that their cat cares for them just as much as they do for their cat. They provide a level of comfort that even your best friend may not be able to provide. The fear of someone you love leaving your life does not exist with a pet. 

This fear was only heightened throughout the pandemic causing more adoptions than normal. With Gen Z having abnormally high levels of depression and anxiety, it only makes sense that pet adoptions are becoming a trend at such a young age of adulthood. 

Growing up can be so overwhelming that some people need that level of comfort just as much as one’s body needs food and water to survive. Cats being a more independent animal and able to care for themselves just seems to be the most appealing option for aspiring pet owners who are full-time students.