“It’s been a while since I left home and I miss my cat.” “My dog must really miss me and wonder where I am.” You might be asking, “Can I keep a pet in the college dorms?” Some schools have strict policies against college students having animals on campus, while others are on the forefront of allowing family pets in dorms. Pets improve student health as they provide young adults comfort during the stressful parts of college life. Here are some top points to keep in mind when considering a pet at college.
College pet policy
Each college is different, so check your school’s policy. Some allow small animals appropriate for a dorm, including fish, hamsters, gerbils, rats, snakes, lizards, turtles, birds, ferrets and rabbits.
Pet policies discuss:
- Kinds of pets
- Animal size, weight and age requirements
- Breed exclusions
- Number of pets allowed
- Proper containers (crate, cage, aquarium)
- Inoculation, spay/neuter and medical requirements
- Pet owner responsibilities and proper care
- Roommate consent and complaint policy
- Damage policy
- Emergencies and evacuation procedures
- State laws
Benefits of pets
Kaplan, the test prep company, surveyed college admissions officers to learn that 38% of colleges have housing where pets are permitted. Of those that allowed pets, the types of animals most often permitted: fish, 99%; reptiles, 25%; dogs, 10%; and cats, 8%.
The benefits of pet ownership are well documented—people who have loving relationships with their pets have lower blood pressure and less anxiety. The companionship pets give and the sense of responsibility for another living thing will boost your spirits. Pets also give students a sense of home as well as a sense of community with other pet owners. Colleges are realizing the emotional boost and confidence students get from interaction with pets.
Responsibility and cost
For many college students “their first pet is not just a loyal friend, but a symbol of independence and adulthood…Love and affection aren’t enough to sustain most animals; you also need to factor in the cost of food, toys, medicine, check-ups and unexpected costs,” said Dan Melnick in “Picking a pet for college students a big expense,” March 18, 2010, in DailyFinance.com. Melnick added, “Decide on the level of maintenance you can both commit to and can afford. It’s harder to keep a dog than a hamster. Obviously.”
Remember that you’re responsible for your pet. Don’t let your busy academic and social life distract you from your duties to feed, clean, amuse your pet and have the finances to provide medical care. Buy pet food appropriate for your animal (don’t feed it french fries). Clean the cage, container or litter box regularly so it doesn’t smell up the room (or the dorm/apt and drive your roommates crazy). Provide play time and appropriate toys so the animal does not get bored. Be observant to any unusual behavior or sickly conditions your pet has. Make sure the animal has medical care when needed.
Who is the most pet friendly?
Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, FL, has one of the oldest pets-in-residence programs in the country. Its successful program is based on the school’s administration of its strict policy and students’ willingness to abide by the rules. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has designated cat-friendly areas in four of their residence halls.
According to the August 31, 2012, article “Back to School: 10 Pet-Friendly Colleges” by Cheryl Lock in Petside.com, other colleges that allow pets include: Stephens College in Columbia, MO; Stetson University, DeLand, FL; Washington & Jefferson College, Washington, PA; State University of New York at Canton; Lehigh University in PA; California Institute of Technology; Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH; University of Illinois at Urbana-Campaign; and Principia College in Ilsah, IL.
Or maybe not
Then again, maybe it is not such a good idea to bring a pet or have a pet at college. You will need to make an informed decision. “8 Reasons NOT To Bring Pets To College,” June 22, 2011, on HuffingtonPost.com says, “While it may seem like a cute idea at first, there are plenty of reasons why a college dorm room is possibly the worst place for an animal.”
These reasons include:
- Dorm rooms are small and an animal with its food, bed, cage or aquarium will make it even smaller
- Fur, feathers, scales and poop create bad smells and waste in a small room
- Roommates and visitors may fear rats, mice, snakes and other less-than-cuddly animals. Some guests may even have a fear of dogs or cats.
- Dorms can mean high-foot traffic; animals can escape and get lost or harmed
- Animals are expensive.
Remember to always consider the needs and health of the pet you are considering bringing to your new home away from home. While it may calm you to have them around, it could be a stressful situation for them. But if the cards are all in you and your pet’s favor, take good care of each other and enjoy the fun road ahead!