Owning a furry friend at school can be tricky

By Jenette Sturges

Kali is roughly 58 pounds of pure, scary-looking American Pit Bull Terrier. She strikes fear into the hearts of many, and she would theoretically make a great guard dog for my single bedroom apartment. Too bad she only gets excited, barks and runs in circles whenever someone walks within 30 feet of the door.

But I wouldn’t recommend keeping her on campus.

Pets and college life don’t mix well – even if your dog is like Kali and doesn’t mind the occasional Corona in her water dish. There’s the walking, the cleaning, the feeding and the vet bills.

Even if you do keep a relatively low-maintenance pet, you have to be prepared for Fluffy’s dirty looks when you’ve been out partying all night and haven’t been home to clean the litter box.

I typically advocate owning all the pets you can. They bring joy and comfort and, unless you own a cat, unconditional love. But sometimes, college life and pets just don’t mix, and any volunteer or staffer at the Champaign County Humane Society will tell you that the majority of their pets end up there because their college student owners simply couldn’t keep them anymore.

But if you’re determined for some four-legged or aquatic companionship, here are some tips to help you and Rover get along:

  • Pets are not allowed in the residence halls, sorority houses or most apartments. In the University Residence Halls, the most you’re going to get is a beta fish in a bowl. (Goldfish need air pumps in their tanks and are not recommended.) I knew a guinea pig and a rat who both got evicted, creating headaches and hurt feelings for their owners.
  • Pet-friendly apartments are hard to come by. And when you do find one that is suitable, it will cost you. I’d like to adopt a cat next semester, but in addition to adoption fees, vet bills and food, I’d be paying an extra $100 to my landlord. If you have a pet, your first priority by October should be finding housing to avoid sending Kitty to the shelter.
  • Your pet may stifle your plans for studying abroad, moving in with friends who may be allergic, or going on spring break trips. Think long and hard about whether you’re willing to be responsible for another living being.
  • Your parents do not want your pet. And if they are willing to take it, they’re not usually going to be willing to pay for it. My parents have agreed to take in Kali the pit bull on the condition that I pay for pet insurance and vet bills. And, if they are nice enough to take your pet, they’ll raise it their way, not yours. In my case, this means that when I’m not around, my dog eats at the table and wears a sweater when it’s chilly.

In the end, you may still want something furry to cuddle up with at night. That’s great, but remember that responsible pet ownership is your duty and it’s not always an easy task. If you’re going to get a pet do your research, adopt (don’t buy), and always have your pet spayed or neutered and microchipped.