How to cope with missing your pet while studying abroad

by Jaclyn Nelson

Don’t fret if you’ll miss your pet!

When I decided to move to Scotland for my Master’s degree, I knew I would miss family and friends but one thing I didn’t anticipate was how much I would miss my beloved, Dylan. Dylan is a large, black and white cat whose breed may be a rag doll, or possibly a Norwegian forest cat. We can’t be sure. What matters is, I miss him. 

So to help fellow animal-loving international students, I thought it might be useful to share some information on bringing pets to the UK as well as how to cope if you have to leave your furry best friend at home. 

Bringing your pet to the UK 

Dylan and I

When I first started to plan my move to Scotland, I went back and forth on the idea of bringing Dylan with me, but there were a few issues that would have made that difficult. One is that it’s difficult to find a rental property in the UK that allows pets – something worth bearing in mind for students studying abroad. The other is that, as I mentioned above, Dylan is pretty big. Small pets can be stowed in a pet carrier under your plane seat, but larger animals (like Dill) need to be placed in cargo for what can be upwards of a 6-hour flight. 

I decided to leave him with the best caretakers I could think of, my parents, and with some gentle persuasive tactics, I was able to convince them to take care of my Dylan for the year while I was away. No sooner had I left him, I began to yearn for him almost immediately, I missed our furry interactions and his general good company. ‘How would I survive a year without my cat?’

Cat cafes 

So, what do you do if you can’t bring your cat with you? There are a few options for lovesick cat and dog owners in need of urgent animal contact. One of these is the fabled ‘cat cafe’, something I’d heard of in the past but had never been to. For me, Glasgow’s  Puuuurple Cat Cafe was just minutes from campus, so after a quick visit to their website, I booked a table online and was ready to get my cat fix. 

Gilbert from a cat cafe – Dylan’s replacement for a year

I’d somehow convinced my partner – a closeted cat lover – to join me in my adventure. When we arrived for our appointment, we rang the doorbell to be greeted by a ‘cat attendant’ who laid out the rules for interacting with the cats. At this point I was so excited, I kind of just wanted him to get on with it, but the rules are there for the cats’ safety. When we finally entered, I felt like a kid in the candy store, cats were EVERWHERE, approximately 20 of them. The cafe had cat tunnels and cat bridges all around. We were given a table and a menu, my partner remained seated while I scoped out all the cats. I was in my element. Just being around cats made me feel better about leaving my pet behind. I still missed Dylan like crazy, but I was able to get what I feel like is the next best thing.  I visit Puuuurple Cat Cafe regularly and I will continue as the year goes on.

Therapets

Another way to deal with missing your pet while studying abroad is to arrange a visit with one of the therapy animals that visit universities during exam time. Animal contact has been scientifically proven to calm nerves and anxiety, a known issue with students and in 2013, Paws Against Stress, a campaign to bring in ‘therapets’ to universities was launched with great success. In 2017 alone, PAWS held 99 sessions in 47 universities or colleges across Scotland (CCST).  Dogs are the primary choice of therapy animals (sorry, cat lovers!) and although this campaign is specific to Scotland, campaigns similar to PAWS are popping up all over campuses in the UK so you don’t need to fret if you miss your pet.

Hopefully, this article has shed some light on how to deal with missing your pet while studying abroad in the UK. The opportunity to study abroad is such an experience and if you are having trouble with the thought of leaving your pet behind, the tips mentioned can help with that.  If you have any further questions, your friendly Across the Pond representative would be more than happy to help with that.