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The college experience can be filled with many different emotions.  It is exciting to be striking out on your own, even if it is in a small way and a little bit scary.  For many students, going away to college may be the first time they have ever been away from home for an extended period of time.

Home Away from Home

Living in a dorm room also has its moments.  It’s your own space away from Mom and Dad, a mini adventure into the grown up world.  However, a dorm room can seem cold and sterile in an institutional way.  Even surrounded by memorabilia from home, it’s still sort of empty feeling.  What if you could bring along your childhood pet, or adopt a new one?

Many schools allow caged pets like birds, rabbits, and hamsters, but some schools are beginning to allow larger pets, like cats or dogs.  At the University of Northern Colorado, the 2014-2015 school year ushers in a trial policy of allowing dogs and cats in the dorms, with certain restrictions.  If the program is a success and allowed to continue on, other schools may soon follow suit.  Many schools already allow cats and dogs even if the policy is not advertised, so students should check with the Office of Resident Life to see if your pet is allowed.

The Advantages of Having a Pet

Certainly, the companionship is nice for the lonely first-timer, but there are other benefits to students that come with having a pet.  You will likely have a roommate, but occasionally she may be away for the weekend or the night.  For students not used to staying alone at night, a pet can provide a greater feeling of security.  It is not quite as nerve racking staying alone when your pet is there with you.  He won’t talk back, but Fido is a good listener!

A pet is a good ice breaker.  If you have trouble making friends, a pet is a good conversation starter.  Dogs are great stress busters.  Simply petting a dog or cat reduces your heart rate and helps your whole body to relax.  Some colleges even provide therapy dogs during finals week for this very reason.

Fostering is an Option

Russ Boles, Animal Welfare Advocate and Co-founder of, cautions against making an impulse decision about getting a pet while in college.  He emphasizes, “Many students are on a tight budget, so they need to have a well thought out plan for costs associated with boarding and routine medical care or emergencies”.

Instead, he encourages students to consider being a foster home for a pet rescue organization or animal shelter.  You still get all the benefits of caring and bonding with an animal.  This also allows you to take a “test run” before making the long-term commitment of caring for a pet. An additional bonus – you can add this as volunteer service to your resume.

Adopt – and Have a Plan

If you are still set on getting a pet, here are some additional tips and considerations:

  1. Try to allow time for you and your new pet to get used to one another before heading off to school or settling into your school routine.
  2. There are literally millions of homeless pets, so PLEASE consider adopting.
  3. Your pet may have to be alone for long periods while you are in class or attending other activities, so either make sure your pet will be okay on his own for a bit, or set a plan with your friends who may have differing schedules to play with or walk him. If you are truly going to have a super busy schedule, cats may be a better choice over dogs.
  4. Who will care for your pet during school breaks or emergencies? You will need to either take them home with you or find a pet sitter or kennel while you are gone. These can be expensive options, so plan ahead and save up.
  5. You also have to think of the routine costs, such as food and vet bills, and consider if you are able to take on the financial burden. On a yearly basis, you should expect to shell out around $1,500 for dogs and roughly $1,000 for cats. Find some complete and balanced yet affordable dog diets here.
  6. Keep in mind, you’ll still have your pet after graduation, so your post-college lifestyle will require some planning too.

Weigh Your Options

There are many things to consider when having a pet at school.  Explore your options and seriously think about all that having a pet entails before you rush into anything.  Good planning makes a better situation for both you and your pet.  Check out Wag Brag for additional pet info and adoption tips.

Would you consider having a pet in college?

photo via iStock

WagBrag’s co-founder, Russell Boles, has a deep history in animal rescue, welfare and pet therapy.  For the past ten years, Russ has served in various roles with two Atlanta-based animal advocacy organizations focused on rescue, training and education.  He has also served on the Board of Directors with one of these organizations for the past six years.  In addition, Russ led a local rescue volunteer team into New Orleans immediately after Hurricane Katrina, assisting the Humane Society of the US and the ASPCA in their efforts to rescue and care for stranded animals.  This experience changed his life, and animal rescue and advocacy will always be a part of everything he does.