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Getting a new puppy or kitten can be very tempting as a student. You’re on your own for the first time with your own place, making your own decisions. You don’t quite have the demanding schedule of someone in the workforce and a furry friend could make a great addition to your roommates. While some students choose pet ownership, it’s important to remember that it’s a life-changing decision for both you and the animal you choose to bring into your home.

Despite being a great companion, owning a pet is a huge responsibility. It’s no surprise pets take up a lot of your time, but they can also be very expensive. As a college student, you most likely don’t have a lot of discretionary money to spend and the annual cost of pet food and pet care can eat up your budget quickly. You also may have a lot of commitments when it comes to time, between studying, going to class, and balancing your social life. The environment you live in may not be suitable for pets if you’re renting a place that isn’t pet-friendly or doesn’t have outdoor space for pups to roam.

pet in college

There are many pros and cons to owning a pet and if you’re considering adopting or fostering a dog or cat, it’s important to know all that you’re signing up for. Pet ownership can teach a lot of responsibility, keep you on a schedule, and provide you with a loyal companion.

The Cost of Pet Ownership

Depending on how you plan to acquire your pet, you may need to consult your wallet. There are many shelters and rescue groups that offer dogs and cats of all ages and breeds at a much lower cost than a breeder would.

The annual first-year cost of a dog can range from $445-$2,500 with all of the vaccinations and supplies they need to be healthy and happy. Surprisingly, although cats are known to be generally lower maintenance, the annual first-year cost is similar to that of a dog at $380-$2,370. Along with food, cats also require litter on a daily basis, driving the cost of care up.

It’s important to note that these costs don’t include any emergency care, training, or grooming costs. Also, even if your housing complex allows pets, you can usually expect to pay a pet fee and/or monthly pet rent just to have your animal.

When you consider the life spans of cats and dogs, you can see how the lifetime cost of a pet can have a big impact on your budget. As a college student, it may not be the best time to get a pet unless you are financially prepared to raise one.

Pet Costs for Student Renters

Many college students rent houses or apartments near campus. Despite having your own place, you may share with roommates and having a pet can cause conflicts if you don’t take care of them properly. To avoid disputes, make sure all roommates are on the same page about having a cat or dog and that the responsibility to care for them (including taking care of messes) is clearly assigned.

Renting with a pet, you can expect to see many of these items on your lease agreement:

  • Pet deposit (refundable)
  • Pet fees (non-refundable)
  • Monthly pet rent
  • Breed restrictions
  • Weight restrictions
  • Number of pets allowed
  • Renter’s pet insurance
  • DNA testing and sample

If your student housing changes frequently, including over summer or winter breaks, you need to consider alternate living arrangements for your pet. If you plan to travel overnight, you have to board your pet or find a sitter. Many students forget to consider their next housing when it comes to their pet and overlooking that detail is an irresponsible mistake.

pet in college

Is it the Right Time to Get a Pet?

If you’ve carefully considered the commitment of being a pet owner and decide you want to get a pet in college, there are lots of steps to prepare your home! Start by picking up essentials for your pet like:

Dog Essentials:

  • Bed
  • Crate
  • Food
  • Treats
  • Bowls for food and water
  • Potty pads (for puppies) if needed
  • Waste disposal bags
  • Toys
  • Collar
  • Leash
  • Harness
  • ID tag

Cat Essentials:

  • Bed
  • Food
  • Treats
  • Carrier
  • Bowls for food and water
  • Scratching post
  • Litter
  • Litter box and scoop
  • Toys
  • Collar
  • ID tag

Next, pet-proof your home by picking up all wires, decor, and items chewing reach. Cats can be adventurous climbers so don’t forget to pack away valuables or breakables.

Once you bring your new dog or cat home, follow these steps to raise a happy and healthy pet:

Visit the vet for wellness checkups

Many cities have low-cost vets that provide quality care. On a college budget, this could be a great option.

Attend training classes

Classes can carry a heavy price tag but any training investment always pays off later.

Get routine vaccinations

Most housing complexes require up-to-date shot records for your pet so make sure you are seeing your vet regularly.

Use preventive medicine

Avoid any cleaning costs or pest treatment expenses by keeping your pet on their flea and tick medicines.

Bathe and brush regularly

Keep your pet’s coat nice and healthy by practicing good habits.

Find a pet sitter or boarding facility

Find a trusted friend to watch over your pet for times you have to be away.

pet in college

Avoid toxic foods

You and your roommates should all be aware of the foods your pet can’t have. Make sure everyone knows the toxic foods to avoid

Socialize your pet with people and vaccinated animals

Make friends with other pet owners but make sure they are staying healthy too!

If you’ve decided college is the right time to get a cat or dog, use these downloadable checklists to prepare for your new pet. Self Lender created a checklist for first-time pet parents and a budget template to help you control costs. Pet ownership can be one of the most rewarding experiences and develop one of the greatest friendships you’ll ever know.