Four ways students can interact with animals to improve their lives


As depression and anxiety have run rampant through universities across the country, pets can be a saving grace. 

The picturesque college experience most people envision most likely involves a lot of laughter, drinking and exciting life adventures. Some may even look back on these moments and think, “That was the greatest part of my life.” 

Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Studies show that college students are becoming more depressed each year.  

Out of more than 4 million college students across the country, 41.6 percent reported being diagnosed with anxiety and 36.4 percent reported being diagnosed with depression, according to a American Psychological Association 2013 survey.

Interacting with animals and pets have been medically proven to have an effect on physical health.

Cumberland County Animal Shelter’s director of communications, Jennifer Vanderau, has seen this  change in people firsthand. She has also given helpful tips for anyone who is trying to better their lives with their faithful companions. 

The first helpful tip is exercise and physical engagement.

Taking your dog on a walk will benefit both you and your pet’s health with physical exercise, and release “good feeling” endorphins into your bloodstream. If walking just is not your thing, Vanderau suggests you take your dog to the dog park.

“Sometimes just watching animals play together can reduce your stress, for sure. I know I have watched outback [of the shelter] a number of times and it’s very helpful to me,” she said. “So, any kind of exercise that gets you outside and gets your animal outside and walking and socializing would be great.”

She also says catowners can play with their cats inside with their favorite toy to relieve stress. 

The second helpful tip is to just chill out on the couch.

Vanderau is a firm believer that the bond between humans and animals is where true therapy lies.

“Cats, particularly with the purring, has been shown to reduce blood pressure. Studies have actually shown that the blood pressure lowers. They’ve seen that in hospitals with pet therapy visits, that as you watch, the blood pressure on the monitor drops as someone is talking to a dog or pet a dog,” she said. 

The feelings of the soft fur against your hand are the perfect way to escape from the bustle of every day life and to let your pet feel the love. 

A third suggestion is to go to pet therapy sessions.

While the Cumberland County Animal Shelter does not have official pet therapy services, there are facilities that do offer services such as the Keystone Pet Enhanced Therapy Services, located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Shippensburg University students should keep an eye out during finals week. Vanderau said the animal shelter likes to bring some furry faces on campus to soothe stressed-out students. 

The last helpful tip is to do volunteer work.

Vanderau encourages students without access to pets to visit their local animal shelter and become a volunteer dog walker. 

“Animal shelters are usually always looking for volunteers to do that and help socialize their animals,” Vanderau said.

If you are not interested in walking dogs, there are also opportunities to volunteer in the kitten bonding room. 

What better way to relieve stress than giving sheltered kittens lots of love and affection? 

Related Media