So, in my post “To Live Alone or with Roommates?” I expounded on the new-found joys of living alone. You can clean, cook, shower, and sleep on your own time with no one to distract you or inconvenience you. After three weeks of living alone in my one bedroom apartment, I’m already looking into finding roommates for next year. It’s not just the fact that sharing a space can lower costs by over $100 easily. It’s that living along can be, well, lonely.
I currently have a bipolar relationship with living alone now. Sometimes, I’m loving leaving my painting supplies out and knowing that I am the sole arbitrator of the air conditioning/heat temperature. The next I’m desperate for some interaction with anyone or anything.
I’ve made an effort to schedule the occasional study date with a friend or to invite people over for wine nights or accept invitations to meet out for a drink. Yet I miss the laid back interactions of having roommates. I miss having someone to talk to without having to call them on the phone or drive/walk across town. So, while I’m going to enjoy whatever benefit there are of living alone for the rest of the year, I’m definitely looking for roommates for next year.
This is also why I made the big decision to get a pet to cohabit my one-bedroom apartment with me. A lot of thought went into this, but it was still a difficult decision. My roommates and I had an adorable panda bear hamster last year in our apartment and even though he was small, nocturnal, and not very cognizant of himself as a social being, I loved having him around.
This time around I had a strict criteria for what I was looking for in a pet and I had a good idea of what would or wouldn’t work:
A favorable work to rewards ratio.
By “work” I mean the amount of effort, training, and cleaning the pet requires, and by “rewards” I mean how social, loving, and friendly the pet is. A dog for example requires a lot of training, attention, and effort, but once the work is accomplished a dog is one of the most (if not the most) attentive, loyal, and rewarding pets. Conversely, a fish requires little to no work, but also provides little in the way of rewards. Both a good and a fish would have a good work to reward ratio, however, because both animals give as much as you put into them.
In my opinion, most exotic pets have an unfavorable work to rewards ratio. Your boa constrictor might require a ton of space, a lot of money, and gruesome live feeding requirements, but that animal will never love you and appreciate you like a dog or a cat. Some people get a lot out of the act of caring for animals like this – if you do, good for you. But I wanted an animal that was social and pretty well-domesticated.
There are certain types of animals that know when you are sad and purposefully try to comfort you. They respond to you coming in the door and, given the choice, they would run to you rather than away from you. While I liked to hold our little hamster last year, I had no delusions that the animal was cognizant of my presence and preferred being out to being in his cage running on his wheel. I could get another pet just to be a little source of responsibility and enjoyment, but that type of pet wouldn’t fill the void that being alone all the time creates.
Not particularly noisy.
I am easily annoyed by repetitive noises that I cannot turn off. I don’t mind the occasionally woof, meow, or other noise, but I’ve learned that I have a low threshold of patience with little dogs that yap at every sound or birds that squawk incessantly.
Appropriate for my living conditions.
Unfortunately, this one ruled out a dog. Not only does my apartment not allow dogs, but even if I could find a place that allowed dogs, I would be seriously limited as far as future rental places are concerned. Plus, a large to medium sized dog would probably not be happy in a one bedroom apartment with no yard. So even though I’ve been a “dog person” all my life, I felt a dog was better saved for when I get my first house.
This also meant that the pet could move with me into another living condition with roommates. The landlord would have to allow it, but also my future roommates would have to be willing to live with it.
I decided to get a cat from the local shelter. Now, this flew in the face of years of dog-loving, but I’d seen and interacted with friends’ cats and found that they could be loving and social creatures as well. And frankly – a cat’s reputation to be more independent and aloof is not a bad thing when it comes to fitting into the graduate school lifestyle. I have a bit of an irregular schedule, which might mess with a dog’s feeding times or being able to establish a routine.
So far, my kitty has been getting along wonderfully in my apartment. I had to do a bit of problem solving on issues like where to place the litter box in a one-bedroom apartment, but so far the challenges have not been insurmountable and the rewards have been great! (More on this to come later…)