Party Animals: Pets in College

Posted originally in April 2014

Having pets in college.

Last night The Roommate’s dog had explosive diarrhea all over the living room and my cat threw up in the kitchen. We believe they had a grass eating party while we were gone and shit got crazy, literally.

So I thought now is an excellent time to discuss having a pet in college.


Having pets is not easy. Caring for a pet on your own is even harder. If you are willing to put the work in, having a little dude around is extremely rewarding and it’s nice to have something that loves you no matter what. A lot of people choose to have animals, and that’s awesome. But if you want to have an animal you better be a forever home.

I had fish (guppies and neon tetras) through my whole sophomore year of college (my boyfriend’s dad took them later, they still live!) and now I have a tuxedo American bobtail, Dodger. The Roommate has a (we think) Corgi and Australian Shepard mix named Oliver, who she has had for three years. Just in case you wanted to know, and yes they are totally named after Oliver Twist/Oliver and Company.

So usually, I say stuff about your own experiences and things of the like, but today I’m telling you straight up. If you want to do things your way, cool. But hurting an innocent animal because you want to be selfish is not okay. If a lot of this seems obvious, it’s not. A lot people take on the responsibility of a pet themselves without properly understand what that endeavor entails. So read and be educated.

Pets have personalities and personal problems

Oliver loves to cuddle but has terrible separation anxiety. Dodger’s favorite place is the red storage cube in my room but he is really passive aggressive. Animals are just tiny people who can’t speak the same language as us, but they try. You have invited a tiny furry person to live with you who either shits in a box, in a tank or in the grass. They develop as individuals and really no two animals are the same despite breed restrictions that animal planet talks about on Dogs 101.

You have to be able to deal with both your pet’s sass and any issues it has, especially if you adopt a rescue. You have to be patient and form a bond with your animal like you would a friend and because they belong to you, you have to have to accept all their weirdness.

Pets are messy

See first sentence for reference. Animals are still animals, and they don’t really have a concept of cleaning up, or sanitary, or don’t throw up on the designer bag. But to keep your pets healthy you must be willing to clean a lot more. Sometimes its actual places your pet hangs out like a terrarium, tank, cage, crate or backyard. You also have to be okay with shedding of all types, cleaning up excrement as well and cleaning things you are not sure of their origin. You also might come home to destroyed furniture, books, or everything you own but hey your little buddy is pretty happy to see you!

Some of this can be trained away, some of it can’t. If you are a clean freak, might I suggest a fish?

Pets are work

I figure one of my greatest accomplishments last year was training Dodger to come when called. It works about 75% of the time, so success! He also knows the words “no” and “get down/away from there you little shit.” Remember, you are the person who has to take care your animal. You are solely responsible for this creature. Some animals are pretty easy to train, while some animals you can’t really train, but they all learn over time (especially when it concerns food). College is also a lot of work. Are you willing to put more work on top of the things you are already obligated to do to be successful? Remember, your parents aren’t here to do any of the hard work for you, or pick up the pieces you leave behind. They aren’t there when you feel too tried to walk you buddy, or give them gross smelling canned food. Having your very own pet in something adults do. Be an adult.

Pets are expensive

The Roommate is a sucker for soft, fluffy and sad. Oliver was one of the sickest puppies at the shelter and she scooped him up and saved his little life, but it cost a pretty penny to do so. Again, animals require care, food, and tons of other things which requires money. My mom told me she would not pay for me to have a pet, and if I wanted one I need a full time job, which I did. In college, a lot of us haven’t exactly mastered the art of budgeting. We learn over time, but it can take a while. Unless of course you are willing to share your pet with your parents, guardians or anyone else you have to be able to fund your animal endeavors. It’s not cheap, and ranges from a minimal financial hit to sucking up your savings. If you aren’t willing to sacrifice something like currency for your new friends, don’t have a new friend.

Pets need medical care

You have no idea how much it pisses me off when I hear people say “well I haven’t gotten my (whatever) fixed/vaccinated/a simple routine checkup because it costs too much/I don’t have the time.” Are you joking? You got an animal you know needs care to keep it healthy and you got it knowing you can’t give it that care? If you read one thing about pets today read this; Animals need healthcare to stay well. Animals need healthcare because they have medical emergencies.  Animals need healthcare as much as people do. If you think that the health of a pet is not so important, then you are dead wrong. Furthermore, if you can’t take care of yourself, you sure shouldn’t be taking care of a pet.

Pets are a priority

Here’s the thing with animals. They are real living beings which need attention and care. Especially young animals. A kitten under 4 weeks needs to be fed every two hours. You have to make sure you have the time for an animal and that you have time to make a bond with it. When you choose to get an animal you choose to make that create one of the top priorities in your life.

Friends asking you out for a drink right after class? Sorry, have to go home and make sure the snake got fed.

Want to go away for a weekend? You can’t because your dog needs a sitter.

Oh, your cat wants to be fed at 6 am? Get yourself out of bed and give them the good stuff.

Your animal is like a child and you can’t be selfish. Pets are not toys, they aren’t fashion and they never, ever are temporary. I understand there are unforeseen circumstances in life, but that doesn’t mean you need to put a pet through hell because you don’t have your shit together. If you can’t put a pet near the top of your priority list you should not get a pet.

Pets are amazing

Having a pet is one of the best things I ever did for myself and for Dodger. I gave a cat a devoted home where he has everything he needs and I got a loving friend who will be there for me. Having any animal is great. Cat, dog, tarantula, fish, snake, cockatiel, turtle, you name it. The best things come from working hard.

Having my own pet is great and I would never change it, but could I have handled it two or three years ago? It’s hard to say. Its a personal choice you need to make if you can handle an new friend while you are in school. I can’t tell you when it’s time or if you will be a good parent. But hopefully this has helped you get some insight to what it really means to have your very own pet that you are responsible for.

Be the person your pet thinks you are.

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