Moving away from home can be a big step for many college students. To fill the void of missed parents and friends left behind, many students invest in a pet to keep them company throughout their college experience. While owning a new pet can be a very positive experience, there are many factors to take into consideration when deciding if a pet is right for you.
First things first- Check with your housing offices to make sure animals are permitted. Many apartments and houses allow pets for free or a one time deposit, while others charge a monthly fee or may not allow pets at all. Once you clear the details with your housing manager, check with your roommates. Kelsey Sprang, college pet owner and UK senior to a Yorkie named Olivander, stated, “Make sure you have help from your roommates to tag-team caring for your animal. It makes it much easier on you and your pet.” If your roommates have no pet allergies and are on board with your decision, it is time to decide which pet is right for you.
For many individuals with very busy schedules, a large pet may be too much responsibility to handle. Fish are a low maintenance pet option and are permitted in most residence halls on campus. UK graduate student Katherine Avra, owner of a gold fish, Bentley, and an emerald catfish named Gumpert, says, “I love my fish because they are happy, get along, and are fun to watch.” There are thousands of types of fish available at pet stores and just the presence of an animal in the room can lift your spirits. Other small pets suitable for college students include hamsters, turtles, lizards, and rabbits.
Hamsters, like most college students, are nocturnal. They require minimal care, but can be very fun playmates. Hamsters come in many sizes/colors and, if not woken up during their sleep cycle, can be very friendly pets. Turtles and lizards are perfect for pet lovers with hair allergies. They may not be cuddly, but they can be an interesting companion for many students. They are relatively inexpensive and require a small cage with little maintenance.
If you feel you are up to the challenge of a larger, more dependent pet, a dog or cat may be an appropriate choice. When determining if you are ready for such a responsibility, factor in the costs such as vet visits, food, heartworm medicines, etc., the demand of your class and work schedules, and if there will be someone to care for your pet in case you are caught with an emergency. Sprang says, “Make sure you are financially stable. Pets get sick unexpectedly and a trip to the vet can be expensive.”
Cats are great for college students because they can be litter box trained and would not require you to leave class to let them out. They are loving and sensitive and most are very calm. While they may not be a guard for your house or apartment, they are very quiet, allowing you to study while enjoying their company.
Dogs can be a little more work, but are considered man’s best friend. Certain types of breeds are better than others when it comes to college living and choosing the dog perfect for your situation is extremely important. If you are living in a spacious house, a Labrador or Golden Retriever can be a perfect companion. Most college students, however, have limited space and a medium to small sized dog would be more appropriate. Saving a dog from your local animal shelter is always a respectable choice. John Hughes, UK senior and owner of a Chocolate Labrador, says, “I saved my dog from a shelter and in return she has taught me a huge lesson in responsibility and care.”
While having a pet in college may not always be easy, if you can handle the responsibility, it’s definitely worth the work. Sprang says it perfectly, “It’s hard to leave him everyday, and it can be stressful letting him out between classes. But, he’s such a goofball and it’s fun knowing I have him to come home to everyday.”
So weigh your pet options carefully, examine your financial and time responsibilities, and decide if a pet is the right choice for you!