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Choosing a Pet for College

Going away to college is a time to experience independence and see how well you can take care of yourself. After you get the hang of feeding and bathing yourself on a regular basis, life can get a little monotonous and lonely. Many college students find themselves looking for pets. What kind of pet is best for a college student?

The college environment can differ immensely from apartments to dormitories to houses and roommates to bunk beds to house parties and part-time jobs -maybe more than one! Sounds like a lot!

It’s imperative to remember to be there for pets, just as much as they are for you.

Finding the right pet that keeps you company and that lives in and creates a stress-free environment is important to mental and physical health.

The Benefits of Owning a Pet

The process of choosing which pet may be only half the battle. If deciding whether or not to own a pet in the first place is the other half, there are many pros of what pets can do for you. College is full of stress, anxiety, class, homework, meeting new people, and being in a new environment. It is a lot for one person to take on all at once. Pets provide something to pet. It’s been shown through research that owning a dog, cat, ferret, etc. can be beneficial to blood pressure, anxiety, and can improve moods. Many times, during exams, fraternities and sororities or the campus itself will bring puppies in for students to play and relieve stress.

Pets also provide a companion. It’s easy to get lost in all the events on campus. It’s also easy to find yourself constantly stuck inside and feeling alone. A pet is someone to cure that loneliness and someone to talk to. A pet is also a great way to meet people. Taking them out for walks, or outside for a little vitamin D can attract people and be a conversation starter.

College can also become a big time warp. All of a sudden it’s the end of the week and it’s hard to remember the last time the night was actually used for sleeping. Pets help create a routine, and once they know it, they will keep on it. Ever heard the saying, “There’s no snooze button on a cat who wants breakfast?” It’s true. They’ll know when it’s time for you to get up.

The ASPCA uses animal therapy programs in hospitals and nursing homes, and has for the past decade proving that owning a pet can be beneficial for overall mental and physical health.

There are a few pets that could fit well into a college lifestyle. Some, like fish or small reptiles, are simple to take care of. Bigger animals, and ones that require a lot of attention and space, are slightly more difficult, but provide a little more companionship.


All you need is an appropriate size and heated tank, some fish food, and a way to clean it.

Fish don’t require too much attention or money and according to University of Pennsylvania researchers, watching fish swim eases stress and may offer benefits to high blood pressure. And, as many college students know, classes and homework pile-up the stress.

The con of owning a fish, especially when living in a dorm, is travel. Many times, students are not allowed to stay in the dorm over holiday breaks.
Travelling with fishcan be a bit tricky, but not impossible. However, the more travel that happens, the more stress is put on them. Finding a foster home for them for the break might be best if the travel time is too long.

Also, look at African Dwarf Frogs for college – if fish don’t quite tickle your fancy. They require just about the same amount of money and care, and a snail can do your cleaning. The only con of that, is that some snails are asexual.

Dog or Cat

Dogs and cats are little more time consuming and expensive. The first year with a dog or cat is the most expensive.

Dogs require a lot of outside time, attention, exercise, and food. But, they’re called man’s best friend for a reason. Dogs are great at knowing when you’re stressed or upset and having them around can be beneficial to everyday anxiety. Dogs are also great exercise partners, which is essential for limiting and treating stress.

Cats don’t require near as much attention and can be indoor felines. Cats can almost take care of themselves as long as the food and water are available. In some cases, they might just act like another roommate in the house – doing as they please. However, cats can be a bit smelly. The litterbox is a necessary evil that can make or break a house. If you live in a small apartment or dorm (if allowed) the smell is a definite problem. It’s also important to have a place for proper waste disposal.

Often times, dogs and cats are not allowed to be housed in dorms or apartments. If the housing is dog and cat friendly, it’s important that they are trained, fairly quiet (fairly, meaning still protective), friendly and clean.
Dogs and cats may require a bit more effort, but they have more personality and other stress-relieving benefits than fish.

Lizards, Hamsters, and Other Caged Pets

Hamsters, guinea pigs, lizards, other reptiles, chinchillas, and other caged pets are about medium price range. The initial cost of the animal may be the most expensive depending on what size or kind you want. The bedding and cage would be the most if not.

These caged pets are a little more money and work than fish, but a lot less than dogs and cats. They don’t require too much attention, if any at all. Certain reptiles may require a heating lamp. Of course, they all require food and cleaning. But they are just as much companions and conversation starters as any other pet!

For more information on pets and figuring out which may be best to take with you through your college experience, check out some of’s other articles about choosing pets and how to care for them!