What do you think of a smart rabbit at collage or university?
Many colleges allow students to keep fish in small tanks in their dorm rooms. It’s a lot more uncommon to find a college that allows more interactive pets to live with student owners. For students who feel they need a four-legged companion while they’re away at school, we have a link in the show notes to 15 pet friendly colleges.
There are five reasons why you should own a rabbit:
1) The cost. Are you aware that the cost of owning a rabbit is less than owning a cat or a dog? To own a dog or a cat costs roughly $2,000 a year! That’s a lot of bones. A rabbit, depending on how much you spoil it, costs roughly $400 a year. So having a rabbit even works within the most meager of college student budgets, and you still get your “warm and fuzzy” cuddle fix.
2) Their cuteness level. How can you say no to a fuzzy, cute little rabbit face? When you look up cute animals on Google, rabbits heavily dominate the internet cuteness category. Everything they do is cute no matter what. Rabbits are pretty kawaii!
3) Their social and friendly personalities. Not only are they great with people, they love hanging out with animal buddies.
4) The variety of the breeds. From the biggest Flemish Giant to smallest Netherland Dwarf, rabbits come in all shapes, colors and sizes.
5) Last but not least, you have a friend for life! Rabbits live up to 14 years and will be your buddy through all those years
College students leaving the comfort and familiarity of home for the first time can experience a lonely and stressful transition, but a small number of schools across the nation are making this potentially difficult period easier by allowing students to bring their beloved pets to reside with them on campus. Schools such as MIT, Eckerd College, University of Washington and Stephens College have designated pet-friendly dorms where students can cohabitate with their furry family members.
Upon seeing the success of these programs, the University of Northern Colorado (UNC) in Greeley launched a pet-friendly housing program in the fall of 2014. For UNC, the stakes for success are high. Enrollment is down, the university has lost 1,000 students in the past five years, and the university is looking for new ways to attract and retain students. Jenni Brundage, assistant director of Apartment Life and Operations, expects the program to be a great recruitment and retention tool: There is already a waiting list, and the university may add additional floors next year.
Americans have not only embraced the Shultz dictum that happiness is a warm puppy: They’re applying it to warm rabbits, kangaroo rats, pot-bellied pigs, cockatiels and ferrets. And for that matter, to decidedly tepid ball pythons, Cuban rock iguanas and Chilean rose hair tarantulas. The issue here isn’t the type of beastie; it’s that animals equate to happiness, whether you’re at home, in the workplace, or in the stressful milieu that is the modern academy. An increasing number of students believe they benefit from having pets for emotional support or comfort. And those with diagnosed mental health problems—including anxiety, panic attacks and depression—are asserting their right to keep them in university residences at campuses such as UC Berkeley.
Although counseling or psychiatric care may be necessary to address these real and growing needs, pets can be a valuable adjunct for restoring the emotional equilibrium of troubled students. Some of the evidence for this is simply empirical: Who hasn’t felt better stroking a furry cat or feeding a carrot to an equable equine? Though still relatively scant, there is scientific evidence for the positive effects of animal propinquity. A recent article in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, for instance, concluded that “animal-assisted intervention” may prove a good complementary therapy option for trauma.
Nobody claims the dorms are evolving into petting zoos. But animals are gaining a toehold (clawhold?) in Cal residences.
Which is all well and good if you’re cool with critters in general—but what if you’re afraid of dogs, allergic to cat dander, or freaked out by snakes, even the benign non-venomous kind? Is the French lop rabbit down the hall just the camel’s nose under the tent, a harbinger that the residences will soon teem with—well, camels?
Probably not. Berkeley allow animals in the residences under guidelines established by two laws, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act. But the criteria for each are fairly explicit.
“The Americans with Disabilities Act covers people with psychological disabilities, and only authorizes dogs and in some cases, miniature horses,” says Aaron Cohen, a staff psychologist for Berkeley’s residential and student service programs. “And the animals must also be trained to respond to specific patient needs. For example, they can alert patients who’ve missed their medications. Or a dog could be trained to put its head in the lap of a patient with bipolar disorder who’s on the verge of a manic episode.”
By contrast, emotional support animals, covered by the Fair Housing Act, can be any species, says Cohen.
“You’d require a diagnosis (from a qualified professional) of your condition and documentation establishing that it would be difficult for you to live in a stable and comfortable fashion in the residences without your animal,” says Cohen. “But the animal doesn’t have to be trained to perform a specific task.”
That doesn’t mean the animals are accorded carte blanche to act like utter animals, however. They are expected to conform to the same rules applied to human residents: No biting or mauling, spitting venom or defecating in hallways, let alone blasting music at 3:00 am in accompaniment to a beer pong tournament.
Adam Ratliff, Cal’s critical communications manager, emailed California that “If the animal’s and owner’s behavior becomes a nuisance or danger to other community members (e.g., noise, lack of waste pick-up etc.) then we do contact students to help mitigate the community impact.”
One freshman at Washington State University was allowed to bring a 95-pound pig into her dorm—and, because the pig refused to use the stairs and was stressed out by the freight elevator, wound up staying in the second-floor dorm room and using a litter box. “The other students thought the pig was kind of cool, “ Hannah Mitchell, the dorm’s residential director at the time, told The New York Times, “but less cool when it began to smell.”
It’s easy to poke fun at the idea of housing swine or alpacas or Komodo dragons in the dorms, but as Ratliff indicates, requests are generally for more compact pets—felines, small dogs, and perhaps rabbits, guinea pigs or white rats.
Since the beginning of this school year, he continued, the university has approved all documented requests for both service and emotional support animals: 33 so far. All are either dogs or cats, wrote Ratliff, adding, “The type of animal does not impact our process or review.”
For some students, the university can be a bleak and lonely place, and that seems especially the case for top, highly competitive institutions. According to the American College Health Association, almost a third of students found themselves so depressed at some point during 2014 that they couldn’t function. Around 15 percent of Cal students used campus counseling services last year, up from 10 percent five years ago; at UCLA, that figure has spiked to 20 percent.
Throughout the UC system, student demand for mental health services has jumped 37 percent in the last six years.
As a way to reduce overall student stress, Berkeley’s University Health Services has partnered with Tony LaRussa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) to bring pups to Sproul Plaza once a month, with bonus visits during finals. These “Pet Hugs” events are open to all passersby, and very popular. “Cal is a highly competitive campus of 37,000 students and we at UHS are always looking for ways to help students manage their stress levels,” the health services website explains. “Petting an ARF dog offers instant stress relief.”
Cohen says he first heard of emotional support animals in 2004, “so that’s a long time to have a conversation about the subject.” And even now, he says, evaluation guidelines are not deeply detailed. “It’s easier to determine (qualifications) if you’re looking at psychological disability rather than emotional support,” he says.
So is there potential for abuse? Can someone who is in every way well-adjusted and anxiety-free bring a kitty cat to the dorms just because he or she really, really likes cats? Of course, says Cohen.
“But there’s the potential for abuse in many areas, and I really haven’t seen much of it in our system,” he says. “Emotional support animals are gaining acceptance. Even on the airlines, anyone can bring an emotional support animal for a fee, though I recall an incident where a guy with a huge pig was walked off a plane. It’s a balancing act. We need to maintain guidelines, but we also want to support students. Further, it’s the law. Under the Americans with Disabilities and Fair Housing Acts, service and support animals must be accommodated if there is documentation of need.”
In Berkeley’s dorms, no one seems to be getting in much of a lather about the issue. The general attitude seems to be: As long as no roommate is allergic or otherwise severely stressed by our four-footed (or six-or-eight-footed), winged, finned or scaled planetary associates, bring ‘em on. Some students told California that a good alternative might be a separate floor for animal owners, or a “pet place” where the animals could be housed and visited regularly.
“I think (students) should be able to have emotional support animals because Berkeley is a stressful place,” says Danny Chera, a freshman majoring in microbial biology. “Animals are a way of getting away from reality and kind of having something close to them. I have tons of pets at home, dogs, fish, birds. They keep me sane. I would love to have them here. I think it would help me a lot.”
Even undergrads who aren’t wildly enthusiastic about the emotional support concept generally are supportive.
“I personally would not want to have a pet,” says Hosefa Basrai, a freshman in pre-business. “Woofing would make me uncomfortable, especially at night. (But) I think if they need it, they should have them.”
As for critics who complain that comfort animals are infantilizing students? Dorm residents apparently beg to differ.
“You could be 30 years old and still want the support of animals,” says Chera, “because the bond you can share with animals you can’t really get with people. Everybody deserves whatever they need to cope.”
How Pets Came to the University of Northern Colorado
Exactly why did UNC create the program? “We allow our live-in staff members to have pets, and a lot of students asked for pets themselves,” Brundage says. “We were getting an increasing number of applications for students to live with emotional support or therapy pets. There is a lot of off-campus housing that allows pets, and piloting this program opens the door for more students with pets to live on campus.” My practice, Sheep Draw Veterinary Hospital, serves as veterinary advisor for the program. In essence, we are the first line of care if the university has concerns about the care of the students’ pets. The hospital also provides education to students and staff about pet wellness and cares for many of the pets as patients. As a veterinarian, I was particularly curious about how this would work once the program began.
Student with cat
Student Sarah Hammer finds her cat, Robin, to be a great support.
When Dr. Merideth Early, a colleague at Sheep Draw who is also president of the Weld County Veterinary Medical Association, sat on an advisory panel for the program at its inception, she says she was impressed with the level of care and responsibility demonstrated by the university. “The staff and students were interested in my input about making this a good experience for everybody. They really thought about everything, including not using the elevators so that students who have allergies won’t be affected by pet hair or dander in the elevator.” (Another way the school protects students with allergies: Laundry facilities have designated certain washers and dryers for the pet community. Everybody is free to use them, but the signs help pet-allergic students avoid contaminated machines.)
Putting the Program Into Action
The pet program encompasses the second and third floors of Lawrenson Hall, an imposing 16-story building in the middle of UNC’s campus. Students live in two-bedroom, apartment-style suites; there is a maximum of two animals per apartment. Each apartment has a sign outside the door with a picture of a dog or a cat and a number indicating how many of each pet is in the apartment. (This signage helps the UNC police department, facilities and maintenance staff know the type and number of critters to expect if they need to enter the premises.)
For now, the only pets in the program are cats and small dogs, none of whom weigh more than 40 pounds. The pets must stay in the apartments at all times, unless they’re coming or going from the dorm. It’s recommended — but not required— that pets be housebroken or litterbox trained. What’s more, all pets must be spayed or neutered, vaccinated against rabies, be registered in Weld County and be on a leash when out on campus. Finally, students are required to buy liability insurance, which costs about $15 a month.
UNC’s Lawrenson Hall has two floors that are pet friendly.
A Tour of the Pet-Friendly Residences
To see how the program is progressing, we took a midsemester tour with Corey Friend, director of Lawrenson Hall.Friendis a pet lover himself and lives in the dorm with his dog, Kirby, a tiny, happy,fluff ball mix of Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Bichon Frise.
Our first impression was that the pet-friendly hallways smelled clean — kind of like cranberries. Not one stray animal hair or piece of poo was spotted: Even the gated gravel outdoor dog run and elimination area was spotless. “Some of the other hall directors are jealous because they think the pet-friendly floors smell better than the pet-free ones,” Friend says about the cleanliness. “The students are very good about cleaning up after their dogs: They know that if there is a problem, they could be asked to leave the program. Our custodial staff cleans this area as well.”
What Students Are Saying
On the tour, we met Lawrenson resident senior Sarah Hammer and her rescue cat, Robin. Hammer is studying English with a minor in history, and her story is interesting in that it highlights the unconventional way this program is helping people succeed. She considers Robin a therapy cat. “Back in 2013 I was having a really hard time, so I got a cat, and she really helped me, made me feel like life was worth living again.”
Overall, the program is going very well, according to Hammer. “The only time I heard a bunch of dogs barking and freaking out was during the fire drill, which is understandable. I think there is more community because we have to work together to make it successful.”
Student with cat at UNC
Morgan Monroe was thrilled that she could take her 17-year-old family cat, Bootsie, to school with her.
Colorado native Morgan Monroe is another cat-loving participant in the program. She lived in Lawrenson last year. When she first went away to college, her parents cared for her 17-year-old feline, Bootsie, who experienced depression without Monroe and the cat had to go on medication. So when Monroe heard about the program, she signed up right away. “I am so happy to have Bootsie with me. I love him,” she says as she fusses over the furry senior citizen. “Everybody makes fun of me because I talk about my cat on a regular basis,” she says with a laugh. “He is like a family member. He is the unofficial mascot of my sorority, because on Tuesday nights we have dinner in the apartment and he hangs out with everyone.”
So Far, So Good
As far as dealing with issues with aggression or house-training, Brundage says, “We honestly haven’t had to cross that bridge yet, but the plan is to deal with issues on a case-by-case basis. The students are taking this privilege very seriously and are active advocates for this community.”
When asked how they ensure that the pets aren’t abandoned at the end of a semester or left unattended for an unreasonable amount of time in the dorms, she explains, “We do have an overnight policy: If a student is going to be absent overnight, we require a pet sitter, which could be a roommate, and we require that all pets are taken home for winter break. Most of the pets come from home and are family pets, so this hasn’t been an issue yet. Again, part of the purpose of this community is teaching students how to be responsible pet owners, and responsibility doesn’t stop with the end of the term.”
UNC will promote the groundbreaking program at the regional college housing conference in November. If the enthusiasm of the staff and student participants and those on the waiting list is any indication, this program will continue to grow in popularity, and we may see similar programs extend to other universities.
If you’re in the market for an untraditional pet that’s still dorm-sized, here are some things that you should know about bunnies before you adopt.
1. Energizer Bunny
You can’t just keep bunnies in a cage all day long. If they’re in a confined space for too long, they’ll get super wiry and start to act out. If you have an open cage, they may even attempt (and eventually succeed) to escape and get into things they shouldn’t.
If you’re not home most of the day, I would recommend getting a cage with a playpen area on it, so the bunny is able to have more space. But when you are home, make sure to let them have some free roaming and exploring time.
2. Everything’s a Chew Toy
Bunnies have super sharp teeth, and they need to keep them filed down, so they’ll chew on whatever they come across. Some bunnies are better than others, but when the hoppy child is exploring the house, make sure to hide all of your chargers and wires, because they’ll snap them in half with one bite.
They’ll also chew on carpeting, wood and blinds, so I recommend having them confined to areas of the house where they’ll cause the least destruction, or, if that is unavoidable, keep a close eye on them while they’re out of their cage.
3. Vet Problems
Yes, just like cats and dogs, bunnies need to go to the vet regularly, but many vets lack experience with rabbits. The carrot crunchers are super prone to getting cancers, especially reproductive ones, so make sure you get them fixed ASAP if they aren’t already, as doing so can extend their lives by years.
If you choose not to get them fixed, don’t anticipate your rabbit living for more than three-to-five years. If you do get your furry friend snipped, they can have the life expectancy of cats and dogs, sometimes even longer, depending on the breed.
4. Tricks Are for Rabbits
Rabbits can be trained to do almost anything. Litter training can be difficult before they’re fixed, but with some work, it can be done, to the point where they’ll do their business in the same corner of their cage/litter box each time.
Aside from litter training, you can teach your two-eared friend commands just like you would a dog. Some respond to her name and “no,” and she can beg and “stay” for a short amount of time. They’re pretty smart animals.
5. Hidden Figures
Bunnies can take a while to adjust and open up to you. Don’t be surprised if they hide in their cage for the first few days after bringing them home. If you end up moving at some point, do not be surprised if they repeat the behavior again. The bewhiskered breeders feel vulnerable in unfamiliar areas, and they’ll take a while to realize it’s safe and that they can start exploring their new area.
Same goes for their owners. They’ll typically warm up to one or two people rather than the whole family. If there are younger kids in the house, they’ll typically stay away from them as well.
6. Territorial by Nature
Rabbits can be very territorial and temperamental. If they’re in their space chilling and don’t want to be bothered, they’ll let you know. If you approach them, don’t be surprised if they growl and charge at you. If you ignore that, don’t be surprised if you get bit.
Their moods can change instantly—one minute you can be petting them and giving them all your love, and the next they’ll want to be left alone. Don’t be surprised if they growl and charge you while you’re trying to feed them as well; if you try to remove their food bowl, they get super mad, and if you reach into their space, they may think you’re trying to pick them up (which they hate, FYI), so they’ll try to defend themselves.
Eventually, they’ll know you’re not trying to hurt them, but to avoid such violent behavior, try to make sure the same people interact and feed them on a regular basis. If a stranger tries to care for them, the bunny will flip out and possibly attack, which will stress everyone out. If you go on a vacation, make sure the caretaker is introduced to your pet beforehand.
7. Eat Like a Rabbit
These Easter mascots eat more than carrots. A typical diet is a small amount of rabbit feed each day, along with plenty of hay. Most foods have dried veggies in them, which are crucial to their health and make a nice snack. Fresh fruits and veggies also make great treats. Avoid iceberg lettuce though, because too much can be harmful to their diet, whereas blueberries, bananas, apples (minus the core and skin), yogurt and basil make great treats.
8. Bone Up on Bunnies
Though this is general information, there are many different rabbit breeds, and they come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s best to know which breeds will work best for you.
Some rabbits will grow to be the size of cats, while others will only grow to be a few pounds. Get to know a little bit about each breed before you visit the shelter, so you know you won’t be bringing home the wrong rabbit. Though bunnies take a lot of work, with some of your time, patience and love, they can become your best friend and an amazing pet.
Rabbits, the College Girl’s Best Friend: 5 Reasons Why You Should Own a Rabbit
Pet Therapy: Students Increasingly Bringing “Emotional Support” Animals to College
Are Pet-Friendly Dorms Working?
Why Rabbits May Be the Perfect College Pet
Word of the Week: Romp!
The Young Man who was Saved by a Rabbit and a Fox.
There dwelt a couple in the woods, far away from other people,–a man and his wife. They had one boy, who grew up strong and clever. One day he said, “Father and mother, let me go and see other men and women.” They grieved, but let him go.
He went afar. All night he lay on the ground. In the morning he heard something coming. He rose and saw it was a Rabbit, who said, “Ha, friend, where go you?” The boy answered, “To find people.” “That is what I want,” replied the Rabbit. “Let us go together.”
So they went on for a long time, till they heard voices far off, and walking quietly came to a village. “Now,” said the Rabbit, “steal up unseen, and listen to them!” The boy did so, and heard the people saying that a kewahqu’, a cannibal monster, was to come the next day to devour the daughter of their sagamore. And having returned and reported this to the Rabbit, the latter said to the boy, “Have no fear; go to the people and tell them that you can save her.” He did so, but it was long before they would listen to him. Yet at last it came to the ears of the old chief that a strange young man insisted that he could save the girl; so the chief sent for him, and said, “They tell me that you think you can deliver my daughter from death. Do so, and she shall be yours.”
Then he returned to the Rabbit, who said, “They did not send the girl far away because they know that the demon can follow any track. But I hope to make a track which he cannot follow. Now do you, as soon as it shall be dark, bring her to this place.” The young man did so, and the Rabbit was there with a sled, and in his hand he had two squirrels. These he smoothed down, and as he did so they grew to be as large as the largest sled-dogs. Then all three went headlong, like the wind, till they came to another village.
The Rabbit looked about till he found a certain wigwam, and then peered through a crevice into it. “This is the place,” he said. “Enter.” They did so; then the Rabbit ran away. They found in the cabin an old woman, who was very kind, but who, on seeing them, burst into tears. “Ah, my dear grandchildren,” she cried, “your death is following you rapidly, for the kewahqu’ is on your track, and will soon be here. But run down to the river, where you will find your grandfather camping.”
They went, and were joined by the Rabbit, who had spent the time in making many divergent tracks in the ground. The kewahqu’ came. The tracks delayed him a long time, but at last he found the right one. Meanwhile the young couple went on, and found an old man by the river. He said, “Truly you are in great danger, for the kewahqu’ is coming. But I will help you.” Saying this, he threw himself into the water, where he floated with outstretched limbs, and said, “Now, my children, get on me.” The girl feared lest she should fall off, but being reassured mounted, when he turned into a canoe, which carried them safely across. But when they turned to look at him, he was no longer a canoe, but an old Duck. “Now, my dear children,” he said, “hasten to the top of yonder old mountain, high among the gray rocks. There you will find your friend.” They fled to the old gray mountain. The kewahqu’ came raging and roaring in a fury, but however he pursued they were at the foot of the precipice before him.
There stood the Rabbit. He was holding up a very long pole; no pine was ever longer. “Climb this,” he said. And, as they climbed, it lengthened, till they left it for the hill, and then scrambled up the rocks. Then the kewahqu’ came yelling and howling horribly. Seeing the fugitives far above, he swarmed up the pole. With him, too, it grew, and grew rapidly, till it seemed to be half a mile high. Now the kewahqu’ was no such sorcerer that he could fly; neither had he wings; he must remain on the pole; and when he came to the top the young man pushed it afar. It fell, and the monster was killed by the fall thereof.
They went with the squirrel-sledge; they flew through the woods on the snow by the moonlight; they were very glad. And at last they came to the girl’s village, when the Rabbit said, “Now, friend, good-by. Yet there is more trouble coming, and when it is with you I and mine will aid you. So farewell.” And when they were home again it all appeared like a dream. Then the wedding feast was held, and all seemed well.
But the young men of the village hated the youth, and desired to kill him, that they might take his wife. They persuaded him to go with them fishing on the sea. Then they raised a cry, and said, “A whale is chasing us! he is under the canoe!” and suddenly they knocked him overboard, and paddled away like an arrow in flight.
The young man called for help. A Crow came, and said, “Swim or float as long as you can. I will bring you aid.” He floated a long time. The Crow returned with a strong cord; the Crow made himself very large; he threw one end of the cord to the youth; by the other he towed him to a small island. “I can do no more,” he said; “but there is another friend.” So as the youth sat there, starving and freezing, there came to him a Fox. “Ha, friend,” he said, “are you here?” “Yes,” replied the youth, “and dying of hunger.” The Fox reflected an instant, and said, Truly I have no meat; and yet there is a way.” So he picked from the ground a blade of dry grass, and bade the youth eat it. He did so, and found himself a moose (or a horse). Then he fed richly on the young grass till he had enough, when the Fox gave him a second straw, and he became a man again. “Friend,” said the Fox, “there is an Indian village on the main-land, where there is to be a great feast, a grand dance. Would you like to be there?” “Indeed I would,” replied the youth. “Then wait till dark, and I will take you there,” said the Fox. And when night came he bade the youth close his eyes and enter the river, and take hold of the end of his tail, while he should draw. So in the tossing sea they, went on for hours. Thought the youth, “We shall never get there.” Said the Fox, “Yes, we will, but keep your eyes shut.” So it went on for another hour, when the youth thought again, “We shall never reach land.” Said the Fox, “Yes, we shall.” However, after a time he opened his eyes, when they were only ten feet from the shore, and this cost them more time and trouble than all the previous swim even they had the beach under foot.
It was his own village. The festival was for the marriage of his own wife to one of the young men who had pushed him overboard. Great was his magic power, great was his anger; he became strong as death. Then he went to his own wigwam, and his wife, seeing him, cried aloud for joy, and kissed him and wept all at once. He said, “Be glad, but the hour of punishment for the men who made these tears is come.” So he went to the sagamore and told him all.
The old chief called for the young men. “Slay them all as you choose,” he said to his son-in-law; “scalp them.” But the youth refused. He called to the Fox, and got the straws which gave the power to transform men to beasts. He changed his enemies into bad animals,–one into a porcupine, one into a hog,–and they were driven into the woods. Thus it was that the first hog and the first porcupine came into the world.
This story, narrated by Tomah Josephs, is partly old Indian and partly European, but whether the latter element was derived from a French Canadian or a Norse source I cannot tell, since it is common to both. The mention of the horse and the bog, or of cattle, does not prove that a story is not pre-Columbian. The Norsemen had brought cattle of various descriptions even to New England. It is to be very much regretted that the first settlers in New England took no pains to ascertain what the Indians knew of the white men who had preceded them. But modern material may have easily been added to an old legend.
The terms grandchildren, grandmother, etc., do not here signify actual relationship, but only friendship between elderly and young people.