As I studied on lower field the other day, something strange happened: I was approached by a small, golden cat. As it turns out, this cat’s name was Keanu—yes, after the famous actor. His owner, a McGill student, frequently walks him to campus, often drawing crowds of admirers.
Cassia Nasralla, U4 Arts, adopted the one year old Abyssinian in early January 2021. She spoke with The McGill Tribune about how having a pet helped her cope during the pandemic.
“I really needed a ‘COVID kitty’ because I was down in the dumps and not feeling too good being locked up and isolated,” Nasralla said.
Though Nasralla is a full-time student, she doesn’t find that pet ownership interferes with her academics. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
“It’s very nice to be able to […] just take him out for walks,” Nasralla said of Keanu. “I get that break between my class time and then bring my cat, so he helps keep the work-life balance.”
Aside from helping Nasralla manage her time, her cat—who once provided much-needed companionship in a time of isolation—now gives her a sense of purpose.
“It’s so nice to just come home to someone who loves you,” Nasralla said. “That’s the best thing and then when you wake up in the morning, you’ve got this other being to look after on top of yourself, and it just keeps you going […] because they need you and you need them.”
Nasralla isn’t the only student who recently adopted a cat—Eve Cable, U4 Arts, and Chloe Maclagan, U3 Arts, have been fostering their cat Sundae since the summer. Cable, who had wanted a pet ever since she was little, decided that it was the right time to foster a cat after moving in with Maclagan.
Whereas dogs require a lot of attention, cats are more independent. Researchers at the University of Bristol found that degree-holding adults tend to own cats rather than dogs, because cats better suit those who commute and work late.
“Cats are definitely more manageable in university,” Maclagan said. “They can be left alone [longer].”
The experience of looking after an animal is also something that Maclagan and Cable cite as an important step toward independence.
“I feel like it’s a really rewarding thing to do, especially as students [are] gaining a bit more independence for the first time,” Cable said. “I think having your own cat is really one of the first steps in adulthood.”
Both Maclagan and Cable also appreciated the experience of cat-ownership.
“It’s like having a silly little kid around who makes a lot of the mess,” Cable said. “She loves to play with yarn, which is a very traditional thing, but […] she has hours of fun with just a piece of string. I bought her some cute, nice toys and her favourite thing is just this piece of yarn with a hair tie.”
Each animal also comes with its own quirks and discovering these traits can be a small pleasure amid the stress of university life.
“She likes to sit at the window and look out […] which is kind of cute, because you can see little kids sometimes stopping and pointing,” Cable said. “She [also] likes to eat her food when you’re in the room with her. I feel like she really appreciates us.”