Mamma mia, here we go again. Some people thrive in lockdown. If you are anything like me (condolences) you get lonely and sad instead. You begin to think, wouldn’t it be nice to adopt a gorgeous fuzzy son/daughter? You’d have the benefits of pet therapy. You’d be giving an animal a home. You could put a photo of it in your Tinder bio, and every pair of undies within a 161km radius would go flying into the sun.
Don’t do it.
Pets are not a project. They don’t exist to keep you entertained in quarantine.
I have never been more stressed than when a boy gifted me a live goldfish in first year. I had to buy a big fucking filtered tank and oxyweed and food and medicine and change 25% of Rupert’s water every second week. I dedicated my life to that dinky fish and he still died of swim bladder disease, God rest his soul. The point is that too many people, such as the boy in this story, aren’t willing to realise that pets are living creatures that rely on us for literally everything. It just blows my mind that any student believes that, while studying in Dunedin, they are fully capable of giving those living creatures the life they deserve.
I’ve seen your student flats. They’re nasty as hell. They’re not good environments for anybody, human or animal. Most students can barely keep themselves alive, let alone a living creature who is entirely dependent on them for sustenance. Animals rely on routine. You must get up every morning and feed them breakfast, and then feed them again at nighttime, whether or not you’re hungover or have a kickass party to attend. No exceptions. Do you have the time in a day to give them attention, or thousands of dollars in vet bills saved up for emergencies? Probably not. Studylink barely covers rent and pizza as it is.
Many of us shudder at the idea of living in Dunedin for twenty years after graduation. Most of you will stick around for three years and then fuck off to Wellington (or Melbourne if you’re artsy), leaving your pet abandoned and confused. You could move your pet with you, theoretically — but you could also just hold off on adopting until you’re in a stable environment, saving not only the expense but massive amounts of stress for your pet.
At least you’ll give the animals a loving home for a while, right? More likely than not, the pet will grow attached to you and suffer greatly upon being relocated to a new family. During lockdown, you and your pet are together 24/7. They develop separation anxiety. Fostering is one option, but it takes a certain fortitude to love and care for your new child, only to eventually give him a new home. Most of us aren’t that strong.
Another huge thing to ask yourself: do your flatmates agree? If your cat pisses on your flatmate’s computer, or shreds up the landlord’s furniture, you must be willing and able to pay for the damages. Are you going to take full responsibility? Are you going to rely on your flatmate to dogsit every time you visit your parents for the weekend? Will you phone your flatmates any time you have a one night stand, asking them to feed your cat in the morning?
I knew someone who adopted pets over lockdown with the intention of giving them away after graduation. It was cute at first, but once lockdown ended, they became preoccupied with university and stopped taking care of them. Additionally, they would frequently spend the night at other people’s flats and stay there indefinitely, leaving the pets hungry and neglected. The responsibility of buying essentials, feeding, changing the litter box, registering with a vet, and spaying fell entirely on the rest of the flat — who hadn’t asked for pets in the first place. It sucked for the flatmates, but it sucked for the neglected animals so much more.
Some people say we don’t deserve animals. They are wrong. I am so excited to have a giant caucasian ovcharka and a fat ginger cat named Eggs Benedict one day. That day, though, is not today. Please wait until you’re an actual adult, perhaps even with a career and a (gasp) house, presuming you didn’t do a BA like me.
Lockdown isn’t forever. Student life isn’t forever. Pets are. If you truly love and care for animals, please, don’t get them just yet.