Should You Get a Pet in College?

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Remember when you were eight(een) and wanted every pet in the store, but your stupid, lame mom said no? Well, look around– no moms in sight. But before you buy out the store, think about the responsibility. Just like with a new baby, new owners need some parenting 101 on how to keep their pets alive and healthy.

Decide if “Pet Owner” is the hat for you

Do your research before you decide what to get. “Owning a furry friend is a long commitment. Of course the babies are cute but they do become adults. Really think long and hard before taking the step,” said Veterinary Technician and Kennel Manager of Shores Animal Hospital, Kate Estes. You may discover you don’t want to get a pet after all. Think about the cost (both initial and ongoing), health and care of your pet. Before my family found my dog Diamond, she was adopted and returned. And then adopted and returned. Adopted and– Do not do this to your pet. Know the responsibilities of your choice before making a commitment.

Choose your companion wisely

Cats and dogs or fish and rodents? Animals that wander around the house or stay in their tank or crate? Do you need to take them out on walks, or buy them an exercise wheel? Consider the amount of free time in your schedule.“Is it fair for the pet if you are always at class/work/friends/studying?” asked Estes. If you want a dog or a cat, that means a lot of exercise and attention. If you want a species that needs that little attention, stick with a goldfish. Imagine a goldfish as the training wheels of your first bike. It’s a great introduction to and confidence boost to taking care of a pet’s basic needs. Plus, Nemo won’t care if you spend the entire day studying for finals.

Take advantage of the trial period

A lot of the time when you adopt a pet, you’re given a trial period in which you can bring the pet back if you don’t think things will work out. It’s not me, it’s you.“Some of the most common mistakes people make when adopting their first people is not understanding the demand and activity level that a pet can have,” said Estes. I don’t encourage you to pick any random pet because you know you can change your mind, but if you can’t keep up with your pet, don’t make the mistake of keeping it and making things complicated for you both.

Weigh the pros and cons of shelter versus pet store

When it comes to larger pets,  you have to make a decision between adopting from a pet store or from a shelter.“I’m a huge believer in adopting through the shelter but mainly through reputable rescue programs. Most specific breeds have their own rescue programs as well. So if you have done your research and really want– for example– a pug, you search for pug rescue.  If the demand was smaller at pet stores, it would put puppy mills out of business.” The animals at shelters have nowhere else to go. They may not be as young or as marketable as the pure breds in pet stores, but they need homes just as much­– if not more.

Strive to be the ideal pet owner

Getting a pet is a great idea for those who have the time, energy and dolla dolla bills.  As someone who’s had pets all her life, I promise they’re well worth it. My first year of college, my dorm didn’t allow pets. Besides, I needed to make sure I could take care of myself on my own before I took responsibility for a pet. The summer after my first year, I adopted my kitten Milo, an orange and white fur ball that likes to wake me up at 6:30 a.m. and attack the furniture. Still, I love him to death. When I sit down to write or work, he curls up next to me, earning a pardon for all past and future crimes.

Marcie is a sophomore English major at the University of Florida. She loves traveling, writing, and dancing, as well as her orange cat, Milo.

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