The University of Southern Mississippi Honors College invited students to enjoy the company of playful kittens during its first Kitten Therapy Day on Friday, Sept. 7.
The Honors College wanted to give students a time and place to relieve stress while they adjust to college life. Dean of the Honors College, Dr. Ellen Weinauer, expressed how important it is to provide a space for students to relax from the stress college.
“College students are stressed out, and Honors College students are sometimes more stressed because they have got more responsibilities and obligations,” Dean Weinauer said. “We are committed to student wellness, so we commit to this to help students manage their stress. And we see that for sure.”
The Honors College regularly partners with Southern Pines Animal Shelter to put the event on. Originally, the Honors College planned to host “Puppy Day,” as it has in the past. However, all the puppies had been adopted from Southern Pines. This led to Southern Pines offering to bring kittens to campus in the place of the puppies, establishing the first ever Kitten Therapy Day.
The first Puppy Day was held in 2014 and has since become an established and frequented event for students. The Honors College feared the last minute change to kittens would result in low attendance.
However, Honors College office manager Jessica Francis was pleasantly surprised by the number of students who came.
“This has been a great turnout,” Francis said. “It is better than we expected. We thought not many students would come from fear of disappointment.”
Freshman Sarah Jane said it was the best part of her day while another student said she loved the kittens so much she wanted to cry.
The students passed around the kittens while sharing stories of their own pets back home.
“I have six cats at home. I wanted to bring one with me, so it ended up great to have this today,” freshman English major Matti Dunn said.
Southern Pines Animal Event Coordinator Haley Ridpath said she visits campus frequently with animals for the shelter.
“It’s good for the puppies to come out. It gives them socialization and a connection to others. I have to watch the kittens though. This is their first time, so I have to make sure they’re not getting stressed.”
While the Honors College hosts the event, students of all classifications are invited to attend.
“It’s community building,” Weinauer said. “The students come together. We have seniors and freshmen, so it creates a community across the classes. We are serious about academics, but we also like to have fun.”