Through out the whole last year, I have been taking care of my 2 incredible animals: my two cats while being in College. I had brought them together with me to the U.S. from Europe because I felt like they were my family and that I couldn’t abandon them. I really love my two cats and think that they look super cute. However, owning pets is a huge responsibility and will cause for you to have certain inconveniences while being in College.
Your pets will require your time, attention, and money. They are like young children. They can’t provide for themselves and so you will have to provide for them. You have to understand this concept before you decide to bring your pet with you for College. Pets cost money and they also cost time. If you know that you will not be able to afford to have a pet while in College (due to not having money or not having time to take care of the pet), you should not buy yourself a pet in College or bring your pet a long on your college journey.
With this point/disclaimer out of the way, here’s how I have been taking care of my pets and some things that you have to keep in mind/tips that I can give about being a responsible owner of a pet (or pets) while being in College.
Place to Live
Most College dorms will not allow for you to bring your pet with you. This means that if you plan on owning a pet while in College, you should forget about living in a College dorm and rent out an apartment, instead. If your College forces all Freshman students to live in a College dorm there first semester, your only options are 1.) to not go to that College or 2.) not bring your pet with you. I chose option #1. Therefore, if your seriously plan on owning a pet starting your freshman year, this will have to be one of your considerations when choosing a College. And do not even think about braking the rules on this one. If your RA finds out about your cute little puppy, he will not have a lot of options but to confiscate it. And you do not want that to happen to your animal.
Some apartments that were made for College students will allow for you to have a pet. However, most of them have a one pet restriction. So if you own two cats like me, you will have to look for other options. If your College is in a big city, finding a pet friendly place to rent out will not be a problem. Although, you will most likely have to rent out a normal property that was not created for College students and find a roommate on your own to split the bill with. Unless your parents are rich. In which case, you can live on your own without a roommate and have your pets as your roommates. Keep in mind that you will probably end up spending more on housing with a pet than without it. You will also need to pay pet deposit fees and pet rent (although a lot of places allow for you to get away with it if you don’t). Some pets will also require for you to have a certain climate in your apartment. In this case, you will end up paying more for electricity. If your College is in the middle of nowhere, however, it might be hard for you to find pet friendly housing options. Therefore, this should be something that you have to consider before choosing a College as well. Once you get accepted, you should search for different pet friendly options and if you can’t find anything and are set on owning a pet while being in College, you will have to pick your other options.
Also, owning a pet might prevent you from being able to live in a sorority/fraternity house or significantly limit your options. Some sororities/fraternities do not allow pets while others might still have hazing. I personally do not understand why a person would choose to get hazed in a sorority and not simply walk away but you getting hazed is one thing. Having your pet hazed is another thing. You do not want your pet to get hurt because of some stupid initiation ritual that your brothers/sisters came up with. This would be incredibly irresponsible of you. So if you are really set on greek life, owning a pet might not be the best idea for you.
The second thing that you have to understand is that your pet will be a recurring cost. Unlike make up or clothes, you can’t just decide not to buy food for your cat tomorrow. Your cat will starve if you do that. You will have to spend a certain amount of money on your pets every single week. How much you will have to spend will depend on the type of pet you own and where you live. For cats, your recurring costs will be pet food (both can and dry), sand for the litter box, and maybe medication (if your cat needs it). You will also have to buy at minimum a liter box, cat dishes, and have some extra money saved in case you will need to take your cat to the vet. You will also probably want to buy toys and accessories for your cat (but those are not necessities. You can have your cat play with shoelaces or other improvised toys). At minimum, one cat will cost you about $30 per month for food + litter. For the fixed costs, it will be about $200. However, if you are bringing your pet with you, you can bring the litter box, cat dishes, etc… and not have those fixed costs. You also will need to either buy pet health insurance (which will cost you $175 per year) and/or have $1,000 to $2,000 in savings separate from the rest of your money that you will not touch under any circumstances. (I chose option #2 due to my distrust of insurance policies and my believe that the best insurance is cash. Cash doesn’t have “I cover this procedure but I don’t cover that procedure” after all. Even if you do decide to go the pet insurance route, I will still recommend to have about $500 that you will not touch, in case your pet will need a procedure that the insurance will not cover). If you do not have $30 per month to spend on your pet (or do not have a sound plan of making an additional $30 per month), than you should not buy yourself a cat. The costs of owning a dog or other pets will be different and I can’t say anything about those expenses because I do not own those animals.
Whatever that cost will be, you will need to make sure to set that money aside accordingly and not spend it on other stuff. What I mean by this is, if you have a part time job that you use to pay for your cat, you can’t just decide to spend that $30 on clubbing instead of buying your cat food. Also, if your part time job is your only way of paying for your pet and than decide that you don’t want to do it anymore, you will have to come up with another idea for paying for your cat before you quit. Remember. Your cat is like a really small child. It can’t provide for itself and it’s your responsibility to provide for it.
Taking Care of the Pet
This one will depend on the type of pet that you own. For cats, you will need to feed it 2-3 times/day with canned cat food. This is not too hard to do, since you can feed it one time before heading of to class in the morning and one time in the evening when you come home. You should also give your cat dry cat food in the morning so that it will have a “snack” to eat through out the day. You will also have to clean out your cat’s litter box. How often you will have to do that will depend on your cat. I clean it out after my cats every day. The good thing is that doing all of those activities will take you a maximum of 1 hour/day. This will obviously be different for dogs and other animals.
If you have some free time, you can also play with your cats, brush their fur, etc… You also have to remember to regularly shop for their food. I often buy their food online and have it delivered to my apartment. I find it more convenient than physically going to the store and buying it. After you figure out your routine, it should not take you a lot of time to take care of your pet. After a while, taking care of your pet will become a routine and it will not cause you a lot of stress or issues. It will even make you feel more put together.
With this said, you have to remember about your pet. You can’t just go our partying and forget to feed your cat or take your dog out for a walk because you are hungover. You also can’t ignore your pet’s needs because you have an exam tomorrow and are pulling an all nighter. So you if you are really bad at time management, a pet might not be the best idea.
This part is a bit controversial and depends on what you want to do with your pet. Some people take their pets for check ups to the vet once a year (or more often). Other people choose not to do this. I used to take my cats to the vet in the past but due to a situation that happened with one of my cats (that I do not want to discuss because it’s too private), I do not do this anymore. If an emergency happens, I will take my cats to the vet. I’m not crazy. However, I do not want to cause unnecessary stress to my cats by having the vet come once a year or taking them to the vet. My cats don’t like strangers or being moved from place to place too often and having this interaction with the vet causes unnecessary stress for them, which I do not believe is worth it.
With this said, the vet question should be based on what you think is best for your animal and not on what you can or can’t afford. If you believe in taking your pet to the vet once a year, you should find the money and time to do this. I would recommend doing this during one of your breaks and definitely not before exams.
If you choose to live with roommates, they have to be made aware of you owning the pet (or planning to own one). Your roommate might have allergies or be scared of your pet. Or you might have cats and your roommate might decide to get a dog. All of this situations are bad for both of you. You do not want to anger your roommate. For this reasons, you should discuss this matter with them. If you are unofficially choosing a roommate, choose someone who is OK with you owning your pet and who will not get a pet that will make your pet unhappy. For example, if you own a cat, don’t get yourself a roommate who owns a large dog (or is a dog person).
On the other hand, your roommate might get really excited about your pet and will want to pet it, play with it, etc… Wether you allow for your roommate to do this or not is up to you. My recommendation is, if your roommate decides to consistently play with your pet, he should share some of the responsibilities of taking care of it.
Also, you will have to decide if the pet will only stay in your room or will be allowed in your roommate’s room, what will happen if your pet damages your roommate’s shoes, etc… Your roommate might like animals and will be OK with “sharing” the pet or he might be OK with you having the pet but will not want anything to do with it. All of this questions have to be discussed with him/her. If you are choosing your own roommate to split the bill on your own somewhere in the city without an RA, than you should choose somebody who will ideally like your pet and help you out. In this case, you have more options.
Once you own a pet, you are not alone anymore and it’s your responsibility not to abandon it. This means that if you decide to transfer to another University, intern in another town, or do study abroad, you will need to figure out what you will do with your pet. You might find someone to take care of the pet and pay them a monthly fee to do so until you come back, if you plan on interning. Currently, there are a lot of legitimate firms that provide this service. They will come to your house, feed your cat, clean up after it, and play with it. If you plan on transferring, you should bring your pet with you. If you plan on doing study abroad, you will also have to think things through in terms of what to do with your pet. If you will be doing study abroad for semester to a year, you should either bring your pet with you or not do it. Or realize that your pet will get incredibly lonely and upset about you being gone for so long.
So here are the major points of having a pet or taking care of a pet while being in College. It will make your life a bit more difficult and expensive. But you will always have a furry friend with you and I can almost guarantee that your pet will make you feel less stressed out before exams (and about life in general).
So think things through before brining a pet with you,