Small animals in dorms would improve mental health

When people decide to live on campus, it can be tough for many reasons, as they could be far from home, especially their pets. I know I struggled with this change, going from having pets around me all my life to being alone without a furry companion to care for.   

As of right now, Ramapo only allows you to have animals on campus if they are a service animal or an emotional support animal, unless you decide to get a fish — which, even then, you are limited to a 10-gallon tank.

However, that seems limiting, as taking care of an animal can be beneficial to all. I’m not saying we should allow all animals on campus, but perhaps it is time to change the rule: people should be able to own small animals, such as hamsters, mice, guinea pigs, geckos, bearded dragons, frogs and insects. There could be more on the list, but the point I am trying to make is it does not make sense that students cannot own pets that mostly live in enclosed spaces.

A 2015 study looked at how animals can buffer social stress. It found that both autistic and neurotypical children emotionally benefitted the most from interacting with guinea pigs.

College is a highly stressful environment with fast-paced work and strict deadlines. Having an animal to come home to could help alleviate this stress and encourage students to take better care of themselves. As they care for the animal, they can, in turn, take a moment to breathe and understand their stresses.

In October of last year, Lisa Bowman of The Guardian wrote a personal piece about the emotional support she received from her beloved hamster, Lucy Fur.

“She kept me company when I was housebound with a broken leg, and was someone to talk to (or at) during lonely days working from home. Antidepressants had stunted my range of emotions, but watching her hold vegetables in her tiny paws made my frigid heart swell,” she wrote.

I personally have a hamster at home named Laszlo, and I can attest to Bowman’s feelings that hamsters are useful for emotional support. Whenever I am overwhelmed or suffering through a panic attack, petting Laszlo and taking care of him helps center me. It is difficult knowing he helps me so much, and I can’t bring him to campus due to the current animal policy.

Here is an idea for a new policy: if someone wants to bring their small animal onto campus, they have to submit a signed contract explaining what animal they are bringing and that their roommates are okay with this. Then, during room checks, resident assistants can ensure the small animal hasn’t caused any damage or doesn’t contradict what the contract states.

In addition to helping the general student body’s mental health, it would also encourage socialization as people can bond over the pets they have and share tips. I know I would love to hear stories about other peoples’ hamsters and how they are with dorm living.

I cannot fathom how implementing this would be more harmful than helpful. Animals are amazing, especially small animals, and they could pave the way for a happier environment at Ramapo.


Featured photo courtesy of Sharon Snider, Pexels