Caring for Pets in College
Not everyone should have a pet in college.
It is a huge responsibility and it requires at least a certain degree of effort. Whether you get a dog or cat, a fish or a bird, you’re basically caring for another life that can’t take care of itself.
On the other hand, owning a pet can help you develop into a responsible person, a character trait that you might be keeping dormant within yourself.
There are also perks to owning a pet, especially if you have a disability. A pet can help you deal with the stress of college and, especially with a dog, help you meet people. And a pet can be your best friend. I always think how crazy it is that we can be best friends with another species, without ever having a conversation with them. A pat on the head or a lick to the face can go a long way in a human-animal relationship.
I got my first dog (as seen below) when I was 19, so basically the summer going into my junior year. I was living in an apartment at the time.
Looking back, I think I was not ready to own a pup but I felt the need for one. So I spent a sizable amount of money on him and all the accessories required: kennel, food, toys, leashes, etc.
The first thing I learned is that you better make sure your finances are in place and that you can afford to spend money on your pet. In addition to all the stuff, there are trips to the vet that can cost hundreds. Taking proper care of your pet relates to responsibility, and I learned to be responsible very quickly.
Another factor to consider is you can’t sleep in all day, especially with a dog. You need to take your pet out for a walk or to relieve itself starting in the morning. You’ll have to clean a cat’s litter box frequently and all pets want to be fed on a regular schedule. That can be hard if you’re used to waking up whenever you like, maybe with a hangover at 3 in the afternoon. Then there’s travel. You can’t just leave a pet and go off with friends for the weekend. You’ll need to arrange for a pet sitter or pay to put your pet in a kennel.
Pets in general require a lot of responsibility and owning one helped me kind of grow up. I guess you could say the added responsibility that I assumed for my dog transitioned into my daily life and even into my college life. You rethink going out, spending money on impulse and more.
I know that owning a pet is something that most people want to do in college, but you need to really think that option through before committing to it. Pets need love, care and attention like you wouldn’t believe. Sometimes, you just might not be ready to make the effort that is needed for an animal.
If you aren’t willing to put in that effort, I say do not get a pet or maybe start out with something small like a goldfish.
If you decide to own a pet, it will have a big impact on your life. That effect can be negative or positive and that is entirely on you.
The exception to my advice about owning pets is, of course, service animals. If you are living with a disability, a service dog might be a good option for you. We’ve all seen how great they are at guiding people who are blind and there are a number of other ways a trained service animal can help someone with a need. A service animal is there for your benefit as much as you are there for its benefit.
Overall, I think owning an animal is a great choice but, for those of us still in college, maybe only if you actually need a service animal or are prepared to take on the years-long responsibility of providing for one.