College is a time where we are finding ourselves and maturing into a person who we didn't know existed. During this period of change, almost everyone goes through a phase where they feel they are 100% capable of not only taking care of themselves, but also taking care of an animal. Whether it be a kitten, bunny, puppy or fish, we all have experienced “pet fever” at some point in college. You are finally free from being under your parent’s roof and it is hard to restrain yourself from driving to the local shelter and getting the perfect puppy you’ve always wanted, but what students forget about is the responsibility and commitment it is to have a pet in college. Below are five things to consider before making the life changing decision of getting an additional, furry roommate during your college years.
How much space do you have?
Deciding where to live is an exciting but stressful process. There are so many factors involved including cost, location and number of rooms. Where you live is also dictated by whether you have an animal living with you or not. Most students think they can just adopt a puppy and bring it in their tiny, three bedroom apartment complex, but it is much more complicated. Many apartment complexes do not allow animals unless they are registered as a service pet. Getting this registration takes time and money, not to mention if you do not need a service animal, you will not qualify. If you end up deciding to live in an area that allows animals, service or regular, there is a fee for having a pet in your home. These restrictions limit your housing choices and may make it difficult for you to not only find a place to live, but find people to live with you given the specific housing you need to be in.
Do you have the time?
College is already stressful enough and finding time for yourself is difficult, let alone finding multiple times throughout the day to walk your dog, feed your cat or let your bunny out of its cage. Creating a schedule in college is usually based around you and only you, but once a pet is in the picture you need to be sure you have long enough breaks throughout the day to come home and let your animal out or to check on them. No animal can be left home alone all day, especially while they are young, so it is necessary that you make time for them. Many people who adopt dogs find this part of having a pet one of the most stressful. If you are in the middle of studying for a huge test later that afternoon, you may have to leave halfway through to drive and let your dog out. It can be a difficult situation, and can become even worse if they dog is left indoors all day. This can lead to an animal using the bathroom inside or ruining pillows or furniture.
How will you financially support it?
In college, we are living on a budget. Adding in the factor of a pet may create an issue when it comes to having enough funds to support the animal’s needs. Before you decide to jeopardize your own purchases, you need to be aware of what it costs to have a pet. Vet bills, food, toys, grooming and a pet deposit on your lease are just a few of the costs associated with having a pet. All of these expenses add up, not to mention any emergencies that lead to unexpected payments. Once you have a pet they are your responsibility and priority and if they are sick or an accident happens, you have to pay whatever the cost is to ensure they are okay. The last thing you want to do is end up in a situation where you have to choose between paying your rent and taking care of your pet, so it is important to closely examine your funds before adopting a pet.
Are your roommates okay with having a pet?
A crucial thing to consider before getting a pet, especially if it is in the middle of the year and you are in a lease with other people, is if your roommates are okay with a pet in the house. Although your roommates may seem on board with you getting a cute puppy, their opinions may change once the dog is barking and crying to go outside at 4 a.m. and they have a class at 8 a.m. Even though this pet is technically yours, once it is living in a house of four girls, it is everyone's responsibility. If you have class from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and cannot come home between classes, it is your roommates duty to take your dog out to the bathroom for you. In rare cases, your animal may also end up ruining or chewing on something of your roommates, causing tension in the house. It is always a good idea to be upfront with who you are living with and be sure they are 100% okay with having an animal in the house.
Where will your pet go during breaks?
Beyond just finding time for your pet during a normal week of classes, you will also have to figure out where your pet will go during breaks, such as spring break or long weekends. Breaks are meant for relaxation and de-stressing from the priorities of daily life, but it is hard to de-stress when you are struggling to find a place to temporarily house your pet, or looking for someone to come take care of it. If you live close enough to school and plan on driving home over break, you can probably take your pet with you. Otherwise, you’re most likely going to need to make other arrangements. If you don't think you can find a temporary pet-sitter or pet-sitting service, it might not be realistic for you to get a pet.
After considering all of these factors before making the decision to get a pet, hopefully you have a clearer idea of whether or not it is the right decision for you at the moment. Just because you do not have a pet in college does not mean you can never get one. Once you graduate and live in a more stable environment with a solid income, it may present itself as a better time for you to add to the family. Maybe, though, you feel as though all of these factors are doable and you are fully prepared to take care of a pet in college. No matter what you choose, it is always good to consider the pros and cons of the situation before making any quick decisions.