Since is #NationalLoveYourPetDay I thought it would be only fitting to do a post on all of the positives (and a few of the negatives) of having a pet during PA school. Those of you who follow me on Instagram know that I have a very fluffy, very adorable cat named Callie. I got her almost 4 years ago during undergrad after going through a pretty rough patch – I had a stalker the previous year and felt incredibly alone and stressed out. I wanted something that would love me unconditionally and provide a stress outlet or just make my day a little better. And let me tell you, there has not been a day that goes by that I am not incredibly thankful to have her in my life.
She lived with me for a year in an apartment before heading back to live with my mom (this is where Fat Ginger comes in). My last year of undergrad I was living in my sorority house – which I highly recommend – and I knew after not having her for a year that I most certainly wanted to bring her to PA school with me.
Now that I’ve had her through all of Didactic year, do I still feel the same?
I’ve felt wildly alone during most of my time in PA school. I’m a 13 hour car ride away from my family, which is the furthest I’ve ever been. And, I don’t have the best relationship with my classmates. I feel very alienated from them, and honestly can say I probably will only talk to a few post graduation (#introvertproblems).
So having Callie has been a saving grace for me.
She’s ALWAYS there. I live in a tiny apartment (hello 600 square feet), so she’s always right up in my business. At night we snuggle, during the day she lays on the floor and demands attention. Most days I love it – I love coming home and feeling like I was missed – but some days it can be annoying when I just want to be left alone. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tripped over her, or almost run her over with my desk chair (she lays right behind it). Sometimes she just meows and meows at me and I don’t understand why. But mainly it’s nice. Because for every day that I feel overwhelmed and get annoyed by here, there are a ton more days that I just soak in her love. It’s a reminder I’m not alone and that I have someone I need to take care of.
and she’s always happy to see me.
Granted I provide her with food, but I would like to think that her happiness on having me around stems from the fact that she loves me. Every day when I come home, she’s waiting by the door to meow at us and say hello. When I watch TV, she’s sitting behind my head on the couch, or laying by my feet. If I’m listening to music on my laptop, she lays with me and tries to chew on the corners of my Mac. When I lay down to go to bed, she snuggles right up next to me.
Over the year, I have made different sacrifices because of her. Once I get home from my day, I stay home. I wanted to make sure that she gets the attention and love that she needs. So, I sit down at my desk and do my studying here. And let me tell you, she is a great study buddy. She never talks, is a great listener, and is an excellent source of distraction when I can’t handle studying any more. Granted sometimes she decides to lay on top of my study material, or steals my pens, but for the most part studying with her is easy.
Having Callie also keeps me from being overly stressed. She’s my constant reminder not to take things to seriously and to sometimes just enjoy the little things in life. We play with laser pointers, boxes, string, random dust particles that she sees and I don’t.
But the best part?
She’s never judging me.
(Okay, this one is a lie. She’s a cat – she’s constantly judging me.) But I would like to think that she’s not judging me on how well I’m doing in school. And honestly, that’s a big relief. No matter what kind of situation schooling wise that you’re in, it’s so easy to compare yourself to others. Having someone who loves you no matter what kind of grades you get is amazing. I know that even if I flunked out of school, I would still be her favorite person.
Downsides are that it can be very stressful to take care of a pet during school. I worry about her getting lonely or bored when I’m away at class all day. Not all roommates are going to be understanding of pets, and some apartment buildings make you pay a “pet rent” that can be crazy expensive. I have to think about my schedule in regards to her. I can’t just go on a random weekend without finding someone to take care of her. I ended up needing to send her home to live with my mom for my last few rotations since they have crazy long days and I would feel too guilty leaving her alone for that long.
Overall, having a pet during school is something I would do again in a heartbeat. Sure there are days that I find her annoying and wish that I didn’t have to deal with her (mainly when I’m trying to go shopping for her liter in DC with no car). But having her has made my life so much better.
With that being said, you need to think long and hard about whether or not getting an animal is right for you and your situation. This is a commitment, and not something that you can decide later on that you can’t handle and give away. Animals don’t understand being left behind, and the horrible thing about our humane system right now is that a lot of these animals do not end up getting adopted. Make sure to have a backup plan like I did for someone to take care of your pet for a rotation or two. And, if you do decide to get an animal, strongly consider adopting and not shopping for a purebred or fancy hybrid animal. Both my mom’s cat (Fat Ginger) and Callie are adopted, and we could not love them anymore.
Comment below on your thoughts about having a pet in school, or share your experience!
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