Studies show that individuals who have pets, dogs in particular, tend to have better physical and emotional health. They tend to get more exercise, socialize more, have reduced stress levels and enjoy more regulated moods. These benefits of pet ownership can extend to college students, too, but you should ensure that you are ready to take on the responsibility for another creature, before you commit to its care. Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind if you are a college student who is considering getting a pet.

Does Your Housing Allow Pets?

College dormitories are subject to a number of restrictions, one of which may be a prohibition on pets. Even off-campus housing may forbid pets, so make sure your apartment or house allows pets and find out what kind. Some leases restrict the number, size or type of pet allowed.

Consider the Time Requirements of a Pet

Cats are generally independent and don’t require a great deal of interaction with their owners during the day. Dogs need to be let outside every few hours and tend to bond with their owners emotionally, so if you are away for long periods of time, the animal could become very unhappy. Other pets, such as guinea pigs, hamsters, fish or birds also require regular care that you will have to build into your daily schedule.

Do You Have Money to Support a Pet?

If you are on a very tight budget, a pet may not be a good idea for you. Pets require food, equipment and veterinary care that can add up to thousands of dollars during the year. However, if you feel you can afford to take on the support of an animal, the rewards are considerable.

Can You Arrange Backup?

If your roommates are animal lovers, they may be willing to provide back-up care for the pet. Otherwise, you can connect with someone on-campus that misses their pet, back at home, and will enjoy spending time with your pet, when you are tied up with classes or work. This back-up will also help for veterinary care your pet might need. Pet anesthesia can take hours to wear off. If you’re not available for a number of hours because of your class schedule, do you have someone that can stay or look in on your pet?

What Will You Do with Your Pet on Breaks?

If you go back to your family home where pets are welcome, bringing your pet with you may not be a problem. However, if you plan to travel during your break or can’t bring the pet with you, you will have to make arrangements with a local pet-sitter or reputable kennel. This can cost hundreds of dollars, depending on how long you will be away.

A pet can be part of your “home away from home” while you’re at college, but it requires a commitment of time, money and thought to provide a safe and humane environment. If you love animals and are willing to provide all a pet needs, follow these suggestions and you will then be in a position to have a loving companion to share your college adventure.