The internet is flooded with cute, fluffy animals and the temptation to get a pet of your very own while at college can be tough to resist. But is it a good idea?
Here are seven important questions to ask yourself before adding a furry roommate to your new digs.
1. Are you even allowed to have a pet?
A study showed that college students who spent just 10 minutes enjoyed reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol. A pet can definitely help if you’re dealing with mental health conditions. However, before getting a pet, consider whether you have the appropriate environment for it, starting with whether you would even be one. Most college dorms do not allow pets, and any that do have strict restrictions as to what types or sizes are permitted. If you live off campus, you need to check with your landlord. Many landlords are equally strict, and even if they do allow pets, many charge additional fees, so get the low down. And, if you’re wondering whether concealing a pet might be a good option, the answer is no! Pets are cute, but you have your whole life to enjoy pet ownership and it’s not worth losing your lease over.
2. Do you have the space?
Even if your dorm or apartment is ‘pet-friendly’, that doesn’t automatically make it an ideal environment in which to house and adequately care for a pet. At college, it’s common to get accustomed to limited space, but animals aren’t always so adaptive. Some dog breeds would be immediately out of the question and even cats might not have enough space to feel comfortable. If you are really determined to get a pet but have little space, you should consider sticking to a pet that is happy in a cage or bowl.
3. Do you have the time to care for a pet?
The amount of daily care that pets needs can differ greatly – cats can be somewhat self-sufficient, whereas dogs need daily walks, play times, baths etc. But even cats and most other pets also require regular attention, veterinary appointments and of course, daily feeding. This might be fine until your friends ask you to stay out late or go on a fun road-trip.
Having a pet means considering their needs every day and planning around them. It’s a big commitment, and the time you can devote to them is an important consideration when deciding if you are ready for pet-ownership.
4. Are your roommates okay with it?
It’s best to be thorough when discussing your pet plans with your roommates. Whilst they may seem fine with it initially, the realities of sharing a property with an animal might wear a bit thin. Dogs bark in the night. Puppies mess on the floor. Pets take tolerance.
Discuss the possibilities upfront, as well as any expectations for sharing the care of the new family member. It’s also important to prepare yourself for being respectful as a pet owner with another roommate. You may need to ensure that your pet does not go into their room, and that you will foot the bill if your pet pees on, chews or somehow destroys something belonging to them.
5. Can you afford to support a pet?
College life usually means living on a budget. Whilst you may already have some budgetary sacrifices in mind to afford some cat food, the costs don’t end there. As well as food, there are other costs such as grooming needs and general vet care. Vaccinations and chipping bills all add up – and that’s not taking into consideration any emergency expenses.
Unexpected vet bills can crop up at any time due to accident or illness and these can be extremely expensive for anyone on a budget.
6. What will you do with your pet during college breaks?
If your family lives close enough to school that you will drive home, then it’s possible that you could take your pet home with you during school breaks – so long as your family agrees! Otherwise, school breaks could pose a problem. Unless you plan on staying at college through your breaks, you’ll need to either arrange care or potentially expensive travel arrangements for your pet. School breaks are a time for de-stressing and having to worry about a pet could significantly impede your ability to relax and enjoy some downtime.
7. What kind of pet will you get?
If you are determined to get a pet, then at least carefully consider what kind to get based on the above points, as well as some other considerations. For example, temperament, shedding and allergy/hygiene considerations must be placed above their cuteness factor. Depending on what you get, this could be your pet for many years to come. Remember, a dog may be for life and not just for Christmas, but a pet is also for life, and not just for college!