Our classmates’ dogs, cats, bunnies, birds, geese, and even a snake.
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On Having a Cat

Rachel R., M1

Rachel and her kitten, Lola.

I adopted my cat, Lola, right when I moved to St. Louis. She’s the cutest, best, most wonderful kitty in the world (I swear). A cat is the perfect pet for a med student — they’re low-maintenance, inexpensive, and make great study buddies. I spend less than five minutes per day taking care of Lola. I scoop her litter box once a day, which takes about two minutes, and give her food and fresh water twice a day. I also have to vacuum pretty frequently because she tracks litter around the house. The rest of the time I spend with her is pure enjoyment. She cuddles me every night, follows me around the house, and brings me her toys when she can tell I’m stressed. Cats can also be left alone for the entire day if necessary, so I can stay at school or with friends as long as I want.

I adopted Lola from the Humane Society of Missouri when she was 12 weeks old. They have older cats as well, if you’d prefer a more mature companion. Her adoption fee was $85 and the process took about two hours. I still take her to the vet at that facility; they’re great and really affordable. I spend probably $20-$30 a month on food and litter and I’ve spent less than $250 for all her vet care, which is more than most because she injured her eye running into something (goofy kitty). Another cost to keep in mind is pet rent — most apartments charge a pet deposit and pet rent. If you qualify for an emotional support animal (ESA), these fees are waived. WashU’s mental health service providers can write letters for ESAs.

Overall, I highly, highly recommend getting a cat, especially if you live alone. Raising Lola has been one of the best parts of med school so far, which is saying a lot because med school is pretty great.

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On Having a Dog

John D., M1

John’s dog, Kai.

As a dog owner, I have loved living in St. Louis! So far, the city has been much more dog-friendly than where I lived before. There’s literally an endless supply of city parks (i.e. Forest Park, Tower Grove, Lafayette, just to name a few), hiking trails (Laumeier Sculpture Park, Babler State Park), and more! Boarding is pretty affordable here too; I usually take him to daycare twice a week, and he loves it. All in all, I couldn’t be happier to have brought my dog here to St. Louis.

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On Having Various Exotic Pets

Vera T., M1

Vera’s boa, Muffin.

When I was choosing a med school, there were so many factors to consider, but one that played a not small role for me was where I could house my exotic pets. This was me at various schools in cities on the coast:

Me: Where do most students live? How do you keep things affordable?

Student host: Oh, we all mostly live in student housing, it is subsidized.

Me: Does student housing allow pets?

Student host: Oh yeah, you can get an emotional support animal letter and submit it.

Me: …….. (visualizes trying to explain why a seven-foot long boa constrictor named Muffin is essential for emotional stability while in med school).

It’s not just the boa constrictor though; my fiancé and I also have a ball python, iguana, and about eight tanks full of all kinds of fish (another one might have snuck in since the last time I counted). While presenting these as an official accommodation might be straight up funny, it’s absolutely the case that each and every one of our pets is a valued source of support to my fiancé and I. My fiancé deals with PTSD from his military service and there is just something healing about the presence of animals and the day-to-day rhythm of taking care of them. When I’m feeling stuck in a loop of stress about school or something else in life, taking a break to watch our pets go about their life is one of the best ways to snap out of it. Does the iguana let a looming Anatomy exam stress him out? Absolutely not. He’s got his mouth stuffed with leafy greens and everything in his world is lovely.

One of the really great things about living in St. Louis is the housing market is reasonable, so there are lots of affordable options to rent or buy a place without relying on student housing, which might have a lot of restrictions about what pets you can have. My fiancé and I bought a house, and we were able to get one that fit us exactly and has space for every one of our exotic pets, plus some new ones. Our new yard came with a chicken coop, and during orientation week we welcomed three tiny fluffy ducklings. They lived in our mudroom for the first few weeks and now live in the coop in our yard. In another month or so, they should start laying eggs!