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College and Pets

Is It a Good Mix?


School is in session and many students may consider acquiring a pet to keep them company while they’re away at college. After all, a pet will provide an instant companion and help deal with the stress of homesickness, right? If you are a student, or a parent of one, before you answer “yes” to this question, you will want to think it through carefully.

Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, has allowed students to bring their pets to live with them for years. However, in the past, pet owners had to live in designated halls. The school recently added their first pet-only dorm, nicknamed “Pet Central.” Many students are choosing Stephens College specifically because of its pet-friendly policies. And it’s not just dogs that Stephens allows. The doors are open to dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, rats, mice, gerbils, sugar gliders, guinea pigs, lizards, and birds. What’s great about Pet Central at Stephens College is the fact that students can foster pets through Columbia Second Chance, an animal rescue organization. CSC has agreed to keep the fostered animal during breaks and will provide food and medical care.

If you are a college student with a pet, before you get too excited, Stephens College seems to be the exception to the rule. Most universities have provisions against students keeping pets on campus. Even those students who choose to live off campus may have difficulty finding housing that will allow them to keep a pet. Still, if a student finds that his or her living situation allows a pet, is it a good idea to bring one? If a pet already exists in a family and it’s a matter of the student bringing that pet along, that’s one thing; but if a college student decides to acquire an animal that they don’t already have, that’s another issue entirely.

An 18-year-old is officially an adult. At 18, a person is allowed to vote, serve our country in the military, buy a shotgun, get married, sign a legal binding document, and qualify for a credit card, among other things. So why shouldn’t he or she be allowed to adopt an animal and take it to school? Well, there are many things to consider.

First of all, before adopting an animal, a student will want to consider the long-term commitment. A pet’s lifespan can be 15 years or more, considerably longer than the time spent in college. Aside from housing constraints and possible commitment issues, it takes a great deal of time to care for a pet.

Between classes, homework, and not to mention parties, the student needs to consider whether or not he will have time for the pet. Keeping a goldfish as a pet is one thing, but a dog is quite another story. Most dogs require two 45-minute walks a day, which can be a big commitment for anyone. A cat, however, could make a great companion for a college student given the right circumstances. Cats don’t require walks, they pretty much litter train themselves, and they do better when left alone. I would highly recommend that the cat be kept indoors, as there are too many dangers for cats in college towns. The student should also become educated about cat ownership and must realize that cats can live longer than dogs—sometimes up to age 18 or 20, so he should be willing to make that commitment. But what will happen to the cat after school ends? This needs to be answered first.

Here are more questions students need to ask themselves before adopting a pet:

• Why do they want a pet?

• Do they have time for a pet?

• Can they afford a pet (and not just food but medical bills as well)?

• Are they prepared to deal with the special problems a pet can cause?

• Can they have a pet where they live?

• Is it a good time to adopt a pet?

• Are their living arrangements suitable for the animal they have in mind?

• Do they know who will care for the pet while away on vacation or break?

• Will they be a responsible pet owner?

• If the student has roommates, do they all agree on allowing a pet in the dorm or house? And will they follow the same rules as the pet owner, i.e., not letting the cat outside?

• What will they do after school ends—if moving back home, will their parents allow a pet in their home?

• Are they prepared to keep and care for the pet for its entire lifetime?

Living near Santa Barbara City College for the last six years, I’ve noticed that many students have pets. In my experience, college students will move in with a cat and then move out without their pet. These cats are abandoned and forced to fend for themselves. Those that aren’t spayed or neutered create a much bigger problem.

If you visit any area animal shelter you’ll find many young pets—victims of irresponsible pet owners who allowed their pets to breed. But what you’ll also find are adolescent pets—pets who were obtained when they were young, were possibly never trained properly, and then were relinquished to shelters as adolescents—which can be a difficult age to adopt. These were animals who were adopted by people who didn’t think through the responsibilities of pet ownership.

So what’s the answer? Should a college student adopt a pet? If a student is thinking about getting a pet while at school, the pros and cons must be weighed carefully. The questions above must be thought through carefully. Students must educate themselves in regard to proper care for the particular pet they are looking to adopt and most importantly they need to make a lifetime commitment.

What are your thoughts on college kids adopting pets? Post your answers online following this column.

Announcements

The Great Ball Drop & Dog Festival

Join K-9 PALS for their Second Annual Great Ball Drop & Dog Festival at Elings Park Saturday, September 11, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Events include group costume contests, agility demonstrations, booths, and vendors, and the Great Ball Drop where you can win prizes, including a grand prize of four free nights at the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea! For more information, visit K9PALS.org.

Nighttime Stories for Dogs

Need something to read to your dog at night? Check out these bedtime stories for dogs in The Walk of Life by Jenan Mujkic. For more details, visit tailofjoy.com

Roscoe
Click to enlarge photo

Roscoe

Adoptable Pet of the Week

Roscoe is a two-year-old, 58 pound, pit mix with tons of energy, and a love of life. Roscoe wants to join a home with active folks who are calm and assertive and who’ll give him plenty of exercise. He likes other dogs, passed his cat test, and would do well with kids ages 13 and up.

To meet Roscoe and all his doggy pals, visit us at K-9 PALS, 5473 Overpass Road, or call 681-4369 or visit k-9pals.org.

Lisa Acho Remorenko is executive director of Animal Adoption Solutions.

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