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Like many students from the class of 2024, my first year started off online. Not quite the glamorous lifestyle I envisioned for my freshman year. But this is not a story unique to me. For many of my peers, the fall semester started out a bit rocky. This is why many college students turned to something that I like to call “pet therapy.” They got pets to ease the loneliness of online classes and quarantine.

Why Pets?

I adopted my cat the second week of freshman classes. Back then, she was an adorable kitten that slept in my lap during morning classes. Despite living at home, my cat taught me a lot about independence. All of her vet check-ups and pet food bills were my responsibility and I was tasked with keeping her out of trouble, especially when she was little. I learned about responsibility similar to what freshmen experience when they move away from home.

Yet in a lot of ways, my cat kept me company through the monotony of virtual meetings. Don’t get me wrong, classes and club involvement are a super important part of student life. But Zoom fatigue—the exhaustion from online meetings—is definitely real. When I got a pet, I was motivated to take breaks from schoolwork. 

Surprisingly, I am not the only student who found support for pets. Students spent time with their childhood dogs and cats, many of which made cameos during online meetings. Others, like me, went and adopted pets of their own. One of my friends even got guinea pigs to accompany her Zoom meetings!

Moving Forward

In the age of online classes, pets are integral in the virtual college experience. While pets may not cure Zoom fatigue, I know they’ve helped me and a lot of other people make it through this past year. While I had to make sacrifices, like having the litter box in my bedroom (which is about as delightful as it sounds), my cat encouraged self-care.

As a lesson from this whole experience, even as campus opens up, we must remember to take frequent breaks and do something as simple as playing with our pets.

Viterbi Voices