A Pet is a College Student’s Best Friend

This semester, my sister asked me if I could look after her kitten at my apartment for a few days. I was nervous at first because I’ve never had to take care of any pet, let alone a little kitten, by myself in college.  My roommates and I had always talked about how great it would be to get a pet for our apartment, but the logistics never seemed to work out.  We couldn’t decide who would take it home for break or who would keep our pet after we all graduated and moved out.

Having this kitten for a few days made me realize that what I thought having a pet in college was not 100% true.  Having a pet is fun and a great stress reliever, but it’s also a lot of work to have a pet--especially one that is a baby and needs constant attention.

There are definitely benefits to having a pet and plenty of local places where you can adopt and foster from,  but there are also things, positive and negative, that youshould keep in mind before making the commitment to adopt a pet.

Yes, puppies and kittens are cute, but they are hard work

When my sister first introduced me to her kitten, I couldn’t get over how cute he was. After watching him, I still think he’s adorable, but I now also realize how much work he is.  The fact that kittens already know how to use their litterboxes makes them easier to take care of then puppies, though. But still, kittens are babies that need lots of love and attention.

When I was watching my sister’s kitten, he would chew on everything, wires included. He would sleep all day and then get the biggest energy burst right when I was going to bed.  This tiny kitten even learned how to catapult himself onto my lofted bed when I was asleep and climb all over me and wake me up.

This energetic behavior was kind of stressful to deal with when it wouldn’t let me sleep peacefully the day before a big exam I had. I think if you are considering getting a puppy or kitten in college you should be ready to care for it like you would a baby. My sister’s kitten would cry loudly if he was left alone for even two minutes while I went to the bathroom, and he would only calm down once he could see me again.

If you have the time and patience to deal with a younger animal that needs more attention than an older one, a kitten or puppy might be the right choice for you. But of not, I suggest getting an already grown--or at least somewhat matured--cat or dog to keep you company. If you're not sure what you're ready for, you could try fostering! 

Fostering vs. adopting

Fostering a pet is a great opportunity to see if you can handle having a pet at the same time as being a college student, and it also allows you to help provide a temporary home for an animal in need.

What’s great, especially for us broke college students, is that most places that you can foster for provide you with the food, veterinary care, toys, leashes and anything else you might need to make sure that your pet is healthy and well taken care of.

The process to apply to foster a pet is also not as complicated as you might think.

Samantha Anderman, a fourth-year student at the University of Florida, and her roommates fostered a puppy this fall semster. They sent an email to the Humane Society asking if they were able to foster, and the organization quickly got back to them, letting them know htere was a puppy they could pick up the next day. 

Adopting a dog or cat is a bigger responsibility than fosteringbecause you don’t just it for an allotted amount of time and  then return it to the shelter so that they can go to their permanent home. Adopting is meant to be permanent, and you're committing to giving the dog or cat a permanent, loving home.  

There are also typically fees associated with adopting a dog or cat. For dogs, it's normally between $100 to $200. For cats, it's a little cheaper, usually between $75 to $125. 

But, when you own a pet, the price of the adoption fee is the least of one’s worries. A pet is a commitment, and you’ll have to pay for their vet appointments, vaccines, food, toys and anything else they might need.

In college, having enough money and time to properly care for a pet might not be super realistic for everyone.  If you want to have a pet to help with your mental health in college, but are not sure if you are ready financially or otherwise to adopt, I suggest bringing your family pet up to school with you for a while.

This is exactly what Demi Iglesias, a fourth-year student at the University of Florida, did.

"It’s easier to have a grown dog up here with me instead of a puppy," Iglesias said. "My dog helps me take breaks and get up out of my desk and get my steps in. She helps my physical and mental health.”

Demi also said that when school picks up or she knows she will have an extra busy semester, she leaves her dog at home with her family.

Local places to foster or adopt from

There are so many amazing, local places in Gainesville that can help you if you want to foster or adopt.  Three local places that are also non-profit 501(c)(3) organizations are the Humane Society of North Central Florida, Haile’s Angels Pet Rescue and Faithful Friends Rescue and Rehoming.

Both the Humane Society and Faithful Friends websites have information on how COVID-19 has impacted their organizations and the services they still have available.  All of the websites are very informative and user friendly and will allow you to see the pets they have available for adoption.  All the websites also include ways to contact them and what to include in your email if you have a specific question about a certain pet or process. 

There are so many wonderful animals at these local shelters.  If you have the time, money and ability to commit to a pet, then consider checking out these amazing local shelters!

Even though it was more work than I thought it would be to watch my sister’s kitten, there were still moments where I was so grateful to have him here.  This semester has been very tough for me, as I know it probably has been for many people out there, and when I was exceptionally stressed or lonely, it was nice to cuddle up with a kitten and feel pure happiness for even a second.

Pets are hard work, especially in college when we all have so much going on, but if you’re able to handle having a pet in college, the moments of stress relief and happiness make it all worthwhile.