University can be a stressful time. Sure, this is the time when young adults have a great opportunity to experience their first real taste of independence. But it is also time when the pressures of work, of making new friends, and of being away from family and home comforts can pile up to become the root cause of certain stressful passages.
And what is one of the main home comforts that students might find themselves missing? One of the things must surely be that mysterious and magical phenomenon of there always being food in the fridge. And indeed missing mum and dad is sure to rank highly too. But on top of all that, what many students find that they miss just as much is the comforting, relaxing and mood lifting companionship with their pets who they have had to leave at home.
The pressures of student life are certainly ramped up at Cambridge University. As a top seat of learning globally, everyone is of course is given a great opportunity, but also a great responsibility in the amount of work they are set and the expectation of the quality of work which must be achieved. It is for this reason that there are now many opportunities at Cambridge to forget the pressures of the day for a moment in sharing a relaxing time with some animals who have been introduced into the university so that students can pet them and go on walks with them to relieve some stress.
To this end, many staff members have been encouraged to bring in their pets to college and this includes a deputy librarian’s three-legged cat Jasper, who has been entertaining and bringing a sense of cheer and relaxation to students at the Marshall Library of Economics for several years. Events such as ‘tea with Jasper’ have through the recent years attracted over 100 students, all seeking some calm and some spirit-lifting light-heartedness with their favourite studious little cat.
Four guinea pigs meanwhile have been introduced to Lucy Cavendish College and have proved equally as popular with students, who are able to pet them while they play joyfully and freely in the garden. Corpus Christi has its own spaniel called Jack, St Catherine’s a dog called Toby and Sidney Sussex College a Jack Russell Terrier called Twiglet, who are all there for students to go on walks with and, aside from Twiglet who has been characterised by many as somewhat single minded and sedentary at times, have relished taking on their roles in walking the students around.
Aside from being a fun and cheerful approach to college life, the introduction of animals into any situations whereby people may be stressed or worried does indeed have much backing as an actively beneficial remedy to certain common low to mid-level mental health issues.
Stephen Buckley, head of information at mental health charity Mind, says that many people “find that connecting with animals or caring for a pet can bring lots of benefits, resulting in a positive impact on wellbeing”, going onto explain that “Lots of people who experience a range of mental health problems report that playing with an animal or taking a dog for a walk helps them switch off from everyday pressures, helps clear their heads and relieves stress.”
Such observations too have been supported by Pets as Therapy who, in research conducted in collaboration with the University of Lincoln, found that results “clearly indicated that the pupils receiving an animal visit had far lower cortisol levels and therefore were much less stressed”.