Do’s and Don’ts of Getting a Pet in College

I love animals. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a group of furry friends running around my house, and they bring a little bit more joy into my family’s world. From cats and dogs to horses and guinea pigs, we’ve loved all of the creatures and critters! That being said, when I came to college, it was a big adjustment to go from a household of loving animals to a dorm room with only plushies. While I love my stuffed animals (including my squishmallows), I’ve missed the friendship of a pet. 

It’s a big responsibility to get a pet at any point in time, but especially in college. Attending university is one of the most hectic times of most people’s lives—from all nighters at the library to late nights at a friend’s house, most college students’ schedules aren’t predictable and stable enough to support life with a pet. The pandemic has given me a lot of time to reassess my schedule and think about if I’m ready to get a pet. I’m heading into my senior year, I live off-campus, and know that my schedule is steady enough to support a cuddly pal when I want to get one (spoiler alert: I’m getting a puppy in May!!!)—here’s how I made that decision.

  1. 1. DO get a pet if you are capable of financially supporting it.

    person holding $100 Dollar bills

    Pets can be expensive; from food to vet bills, the costs of a furry friend can rack up quickly. I saved up money over the course of the past year to make sure that I will have enough in reserve to cover an emergency vet bill for my pup if the time ever comes. While I don’t like to imagine the worst, it’s best to be prepared for whatever situation comes up. 

  2. 2. DON'T get a pet if it isn’t okay with your roommates.

    Three women talking with flowers

    Nobody enjoys roommate drama, least of all a person who faces the risk of relocating with a cat or dog in tow. It’s hard to find affordable housing in Boston, even more so a building that allows pets. Be sure to check with your roommates if it’s okay with them; you want to create a comfortable living environment for everyone involved, especially because you don’t want anyone mistreating your pet while you’re gone. 

  3. 3. DO get a pet if you’re able to set clear boundaries within your household.

    friends at a coffee shop

    Assuming your roommates are okay with you getting a pet, be sure that you are able to define who the pet belongs to. While it’s great to have roommates who are willing to help out with your pal, it can lead to an awkward conversation in the future if everyone wants to take the pet with them upon move-out. Set boundaries before you bring your new friend home, and make sure everyone in the household knows about the rules regarding your pet (feeding schedule, what treats are allowed, if it can be let outside, etc.).

  4. 4. DON'T get a pet if you don’t have the time to nurture it.

    laptop, coffee, writing

    This is perhaps the most important rule for every college student who is considering getting a pet. College schedules can be frantic, hectic, and ever-changing. A healthy and happy pet requires stability—puppies require walks at the crack of dawn, cats require clean litter boxes, and every pet requires routine amounts of socialization. From feeding schedules to training routines, it’s important to be consistent when it comes to bringing a pet into a new household. I’ve heard horror stories of roommates getting a pet together, only to leave the pet alone all of the time, without any comfort or socialization. Adopting a pet means assuming responsibility for a living creature, so make sure you have time to do so (and consider your schedule for after the pandemic is over… will you really be home that often?).

  5. 5. DO get a pet if it brings you comfort and joy.

    Pets aren’t just sources of entertainment, they’re friends and family, too. Having a cat, dog, or anything else you can fit in your apartment can bring you endless amounts of joy. Pets can be a great source of emotional support for life during the stressful period of college (exacerbated by the pandemic), and they can bring a smile to your face in an instant. If you’re capable of all of the above, and you’ve really thought over all of the responsibility that comes with getting a pet, then go for it!

I can’t wait to get my own pup in a few months, and I’m confident in saying that I’m 100% ready to give him the time and energy that he deserves. Pets are one of life’s greatest joys, because they always know how to make people smile. 

For those who aren’t sure if they are ready to commit to a pet for life, but who fit the criteria above and want a furry friend, fostering is always a great option. There are thousands of animals who deserve amazing, loving, and stable homes—maybe you can provide that special place. 

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