Pets in college – is it right for you?

Megan Salo

“Should I adopt a pet?”

This is a thought that crosses a lot of college students’ minds – but it’s important to really think this through before you adopt any little creature. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you hit the animal shelter or pet store.

How much room do I have/can I afford an animal?

If you’re living in the dorms, you don’t have enough room for a dog. Plain and simple. Even if you live in the den, the answer is still no. Even if you’re planning on getting a puppy or a smaller breed of dog, it’s still a no. Puppies will get bigger and any breed of dog that barks (all of them) will annoy you, your roommates and anyone that lives in your hallway when they’re trying to study or sleep. 

You also need to think about what kind of space your animal will need. Will your dog or cat honestly be happy in a tiny dorm where they only have a small square to explore and one window to look out of? Probably not.

Because most animals (besides emotional support animals) are not allowed in the dorms anyways, the only animal that is honestly fit for a dorm is a fish.

Also, remember, animals aren’t cheap. If you can’t afford to feed yourself your first couple years of college, you definitely can’t afford to feed another being. 

How much time do I have to commit to this animal?

So, you’re out of the dorms and think you have the space for a pet to live comfortably, but do you have the time?

College is hard. There are a lot of things that you have to worry about – classes, a job, rent, a social life, etc. Will you have enough time between all of this to train your animal? To take them to the bathroom? To love them? 

Imagine you want to go out to the bars one weekend and no one is around to let your dog out. Are you willing to possibly pay for an Uber to bring you home so you can bring your dog to the bathroom?

Are you willing to miss out on weekend trips because no one can watch your pet? 

Are you willing to be home every morning and night to feed your animal?

Even if you’re willing to miss out on fun times with your friends in order to have a pet, you also need to think about the other things that you would need to do in order to spend proper amount of time with your animal.

You’d need to come home every so often throughout the day in order to feed/walk/bring it outside. That means that if you don’t live super close to campus, you’ll need to work your class schedule around so that you have enough time to go home during the day. 

Not to mention your work schedule. It may be easy to rearrange your class schedule or skip a class every once in a while to go home, but your work schedule might not be as easy. 

“I can come home to feed him/her between classes for lunch and then in between class and work for dinner!” Okay, that got the feeding and probably bathroom breaks out of the way, but what are they going to do in between that time? Sit and stare out the window waiting for you to come back? That’s no life for an animal. 

If you are too busy, you can’t have an animal. 

Does the place that I’m living even allow animals?

This is a very important question to ask before you adopt.

Yes, great! You and your animal are best friends – you have enough space and time to care for them, but you need somewhere for the two of you to live and if the building that you signed with doesn’t allow animals, you have a problem. 

Always make sure your animal is allowed to live with you before adopting. 

Although all residential buildings have the right to bar their residents from keeping pets in their units, they cannot bar their residents from owning emotional support animals under the Fair Housing Act. 

Do I qualify for an emotional support animal?

Emotional support animals are defined by Iowa State as animals that provide well-being or comfort that eases one or more identified symptoms or effects of a disability. 

In order to register an animal as an emotional support animal, you will need to discuss your need with your doctor or counselor and receive a letter of recommendation/need. 

What are my plans after graduation?

Animals aren’t temporary. Although college may only last four – or five, no judgement – years, doesn’t mean that your animal will. If you aren’t willing to bring your animal with you after college – don’t get one. Simple.

As much as you think you need an animal in your life, you need to think about how much it will affect you to care for an animal on your own and the quality of life that animal will have before you adopt.