PhD Pets

Have you heard of the physicist F.D.C. Willard? He published in Physical Review Letters in 1975. Did you know he was a cat? Felix Domesticus Chester Willard… doing better than many of us early on in the PhD in the PhD journey.

Pets are an important part of our lives, however the question is, should you take on the responsibility of a pet during your PhD?

Pets are good for your health

Many studies have shown that owning a pet can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. Also, they can reduce your risk of dying of heart disease. When we are going through the struggles of a PhD, anything that can boost your health should be considered.

Pets are good for your mental health

Pets can make you less lonely, provide a buffer against stress, and improve your executive functioning (i.e., a set of mental skills that allow you to think flexibly, use your working memory, and also manage your self-control). Your mental health is very important during this time, so perhaps having a pet should be worth considering.

Pets can make you more productive

Although most of the studies I read about this discuss bringing pets to your workplace, if you are working from home a lot (as many PhD students do) then I think this would equally apply. Pets can reduce workplace stress and nurture productivity. Having animals around can help you put things into perspective

As this blog post points out, getting a furry research assistant (AKA therapy animal) may have many trickle down benefits that aren’t immediately apparent. The unconditional love of an animal may get you through those tough times.

I spent the last year of my PhD living in a house without a pet, and it was tougher than I expected. I didn’t realise how much I depend on stroking a cat’s back (or forcing him to cuddle me) to improve my mood. I’m pleased to report that I have now rectified this situation and adopted a new furry research assistant to see me through my post-doc position.

Fluffy white cat sitting in front of a desktop computer

I know this was a brief post, but I’d like to know, do you have a “research assistant” to keep you company? How have they improved your life?

– Alessa

3 thoughts on “PhD Pets

  1. Aww, great to read/see that you now have some feline company!!

    I’m due to start my PhD this November and will be living in a house with PhDs/professionals for my first year. I’m hoping to adopt a cat in the near future though when my partner and I move in together!


    1. In the meantime I recommend “borrowing” pets. I visit friends just to see their pets or offer yourself for pet sitting. It’s a great way to get the benefits of having a pet, even for a short time. Good luck for November!


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