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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Utah chapter.

A pet sounds like a great idea in college. You’re finally living on your own, you’re somewhat “independent,” and what better way to make this new college experience feel like home than making one of your own? The glamour of getting a dog, cat, lizard, or even fish in college sounds appealing, but there is a lot that goes into it that you wouldn’t think of until it was already too late — so I’m doing the hard work for you.

I got a dog with my boyfriend in August of this year, so it has been a little over a month and it has definitely been … interesting, yet rewarding and great at the same time! We got a pitbull/lab mix named Indy, (see below to see her cute face) who was about 9 months when we got her. 9 months is still very young, but maybe not a “puppy puppy,” or so I thought… turns out she IS a “puppy puppy.” 

dog lying on the floor
Original photo by Justine Nguyen

So before you follow that impulse to submit an online application for a pet, make sure to consider these things:

  1. Do you have time for a pet?

As a college student, time is not high on the list of things available. With clubs, schoolwork, parties, games, and so much more, can you afford to make time for this attention-seeking pet? The time commitment obviously varies depending on what kind of pet you get — a puppy requires being taken out almost every hour and having a strict schedule, while a cat is pretty autonomous once you have gotten in the groove of training it. However, there are so many other variables that come with a pet’s personality! Your pet may not be the only thing in your life, but you are the only one in theirs and they need you!

Some of the biggest questions you wouldn’t think of are: will you be able to make it home every night? Can you provide a stable living situation and schedule for your pet? Will they be getting all the exercise and attention they deserve? Especially when living in the dorms and with nightlife just picking back up again, answering yes to all these questions is difficult, but doable if you make it so. 

And you probably haven’t even thought about winter, spring, or summer breaks! Who can watch them when you go home? Are you able to take your pet home? Is flying a pet home possible and ethical? Where are they going to live if you go home for three months?

Pets live a long life and you need to be sure you can commit to them. They put their full faith in you, and you don’t want to be irresponsible just because you’re feeling lonely and spontaneous.

  1. Can you afford a pet?

You know how it goes — we are all broke college students and there are so many costs that go into getting a pet that again, you won’t even think about until you have one. Pet insurance, initial costs: crates, fish tanks, litter box, bowls, leashes, potential boarding, grooming, and so much more like vaccines and emergency surgeries and all the toys you will want to get them that they probably don’t need. It all adds up. I suggest doing the math and creating a spreadsheet where you write out all the possible expenses so that you are prepared for the worst. If you have the expendable income to give this pet the best life they can have, then definitely go for it! As long as you have the time.

  1. Do you really need a pet?

Wanting a pet is an entire lifestyle change in itself, but make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. If you cannot afford a pet or make time for them, be realistic with yourself and do not get one. There are always other options if owning a pet does not seem feasible; visit the dog park, volunteer at a humane society, or apply to foster animals! There is no harm in getting a feel for having a pet before you commit up to 20 years to a living thing! 

But also, do not underestimate yourself based on what everyone around you is saying. Think about this rationally, and if you answered yes to all three of my questions, then I say go for it! I spent countless nights crying about a homeless dog in the shelter who maybe didn’t need me, but I needed her. I managed to let the concerns and questions of my family and friends make me feel unqualified to own a pet. I sat and stared at the wall thinking wondering if my dad was right when he said I was too irresponsible and did not have the time. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t just feeling lonely. And honestly, I needed to ask myself these questions because adopting a pet is a big decision, and I needed to be mentally prepared for it. Questioning myself only showed me how much more prepared I was to get Indy, and how if I wanted to make it happen, I knew I would do everything in my power to ensure it did. 

And I did it! I have a happy, healthy dog who is spoiled in every way. If you confidently answered all three questions above, I suggest adopting a pet — especially from West Valley Animal Shelter, they have tons of cuties!

Okay, so now you’ve decided, or maybe considered, adopting a pet, so what now? I am only a month into this thing, but here are some of the hard truths I’ve learned:

  1. Your time is no longer your own

Whether you like it or not, your time is not yours to throw around! Whenever you want to go anywhere or do anything, you will have to think about who will watch the pet when you’re gone, how long your pet can be left alone, etc.

It is a lot harder than you might think to just bring a pet along with you when you leave. They are in a new environment and want to explore everything around them, not sit and chill out while you’re catching up with a friend. And if you get a puppy like me, they will not be very patient about you keeping them from exploring all the new wonders that surround them.

You become a lot less independent and can no longer have the “I can do whatever I want whenever I want” mindset because now you have a living thing relying on you to survive.

  1. You want to get them more toys than you can afford

The amount I’ve spent on toys in the past month is no joke. Halloween toys, cute costumes, funny-looking plushies — these will hit your heart AND your wallet. Just remember, are you really getting this for the dog? Or because you think it’s cute? Especially when it’s ripped up to fluff and popped squeakers within ten minutes.

  1. Not everyone will be happy about your decision

It is inevitable. You’ll get lectures from your parents, weird stares at the dog park, or just people questioning your validity as a pet owner considering you’re a student. It is not enjoyable, but don’t let it get to you. You got this pet because you knew you were prepared, and you are more than willing to do everything and anything to give this animal a great life. Focus on yourself and your new friend, and eventually, everyone will come to learn how ready for this you truly were. 

  1. Always hope for the best, but prepare for the worst

I got lucky because my dog has had only a few medical issues and has been well-behaved so far, but I am still prepared for the worst. I’ve heard stories of puppy blues, shelter animals coming home and acting completely different, and existing medical conditions that shelters don’t tell you about. Being financially and emotionally prepared for the worst is essential when welcoming a new pet into your home.

Clearly, I’m not an expert on this pet-raising thing just yet, but I have dedicated a lot of time and research to make sure I do it right, and I highly advise you do so too! If a pet is something you can handle, then I say do it, because one less pet in a shelter makes a huge difference. And don’t forget to visit your local animal shelters and humane societies before you head to a breeder. I wish you the best on this pet journey!

Her Campus Utah Chapter Contributor