Perhaps you picture the happy, wagging tail every time you walk into the room, or maybe you crave a furry, purring companion to binge-watch the latest Netflix series with. Whatever it is, you know you want a pet. For college students, pet ownership can have real benefits. Researchers at the Ohio State University found that pet ownership can help combat stress and loneliness. But as a college student with a busy schedule, limited budget, and often crowded living situations, you need to think long and hard before you take on the long-term responsibility of pet ownership. Here are five things every college student should consider before bringing home a new animal friend.

Will your schedule allow pet ownership?

Let’s face it, college life is busy. Between your class schedule, studying, work and social life, there probably isn’t a lot of time left over. Think about your busiest days, and then consider where you might fit pet-care into that schedule. Try to picture your life not just now, but a few years down the road, and think about whether an animal will fit into that life, too. Are you hoping to spend a semester studying abroad or traveling around the country in the summers? Pets, especially dogs, need and deserve a lot of love and attention, so really think about whether you have the time and energy to devote.

Is your living situation conducive to a pet?

Look at your living situation now and think about what it will be for the foreseeable future. If you live in a dorm, or with a lot of roommates, you probably shouldn’t add a pet into the mix. What kind of space do you have, and is it big enough for a pet to comfortably live? If you want to get a dog, do you have a yard or are you close enough to parks that will allow the breed to get the exercise it needs? If you want a cat, do you have room for something like a cat condo to keep your kitty busy while you’re away?

See also – Best Dog Breeds for Apartments

Is your college pet-friendly?

Some college campuses are more pet friendly than others. Not many are like Eckerd College, where students can apply to have an animal such as a cat, dog or duck in their on-campus housing, or Washington and Jefferson College, where students in the Pet House dorm can live with their pets. You do want to make sure your campus has nearby resources like a dog park, vet clinic, and pet supply store.

Do you have the budget for a pet?

There is nothing wrong with being on a shoestring budget as a college student, in fact, it’s almost a rite of passage. But owning a pet costs money, and it is wrong to own a pet that you can’t afford. When looking at the type of pet you want to have, make sure you factor in all costs before deciding if you have the budget. In addition to food, look at healthcare costs (such as spay/neuter surgery and routine vet visits), boarding, grooming and all necessary accessories (like a leash, food bowl, cat condo, fish tank, etc.).

What type of pet is right for you?

After you’ve given it a lot of thought, if you decide that you have the time, space, resources and budget for a pet, now you get to decide which type of pet is right for you. While a dog is the most popular choice, dogs also require the most time, space and money. A fish doesn’t need the constant attention or space of other pets, but it also might not satisfy your need for fuzzy companionship.

Having a pet as a college student can be a wonderful, enriching experience, but it is a responsibility that should only be taken on after careful consideration of your schedule, living situation, available resources and budget.

See Also – Friendliest Small Dog Breeds