Every year students go off to college, whether it be their first year or fourth, excited to be on their own and begin (or continue) making "adult" decisions. Many of these decisions are made with little thought of "what would mom think?", or to put it more simply, the question becomes overlooked because lets face it, we all think we're adult enough to already know what's right, regardless of what mom says. I can speak for most anyone when I say that I love animals, but don't always love the upkeep they require when in my possession. Unfortunately, students don't consider much of the care many animals will take to live a healthy, happy life in their home. Here are some factors to consider the next time you get the urge to purchase a new furry, scaly, slimy, feathery, or aquatic friend.
First and foremost, this is the number one factor that most people don't take into account when purchasing a pet, especially college students. All animals cost a substantial amount of money, no matter what size. Some pets like dogs, cats and birds can have significant health costs, especially if they get ill or injured.
You don’t want to be in a position where you can’t afford the regular and unexpected vet costs for a pet. It's extremely unfortunate when pet owners have to give up their animals just because they can’t afford the cost of pet care. If these innocent animals cannot get new homes, they are often euthanized as a result.Pro Tip #1: Talk to existing pet owners to find out what their average annual veterinary costs are.
Many pets like puppies and kittens are so cute that people can’t help but bring them home. However, the realities of pet ownership soon set in when one realizes the great responsibilities involved in their care; time.
The most common domestic pets such as dogs and cats require considerable time for them. This is especially in the case for dogs as they are not happy if left alone for long periods of time, especially without another furry companion. If you can’t devote enough daily time to play and interact with your pet, do not get one that requires a lot of time (or in my opinion, don't get one at all. Every animal needs some interaction).
Pro Tip #2: Consider pets that are less time demanding such as fish. But remember, you still need time to clean and maintain fish tanks. So part of your research should be looking at the amount of time and maintenance required for each type of pet. Be totally honest with yourself as to just how much time you can devote to a pet.
3. "Cannot Resist" Syndrome
Different pets require different suitable "dwellings". Although cats, fish and gerbils can be happy in almost any type of residential or office dwelling, dogs do better in certain environments. Dogs can be quite happy in both houses and high-rise buildings as long as there is access to outdoor parks or trails nearby, or once again, you make time to take them out regularly.
You also need to be mindful of the size of your animal. No matter how much you take them outside, don't force an animal to live in an enclosure that is uncomfortably small for them. It's like putting a child in shoes that are too small for them.
Pro Tip #3: Not all buildings allow dogs so make sure that you check with your building rules regarding pets before bringing one home. There is the noise factor, as you don’t want your dog to annoy your neighbors. This is the same for birds as well.
4. Appropriate Environment
Pro Tip #4: Some breeds of dogs and exotic animals might not be appropriate in places with infants and small children. Again, do your research to assess the suitability of specific animals and breeds for your family.
5. Travel Time
Related to the amount of time you have available for a pet, is the amount of travel you do. If you have other family members, friends, or people like pet-sitters who can come and look after your pet while you are away, it might be OK.
However, if you have to end up boarding your animal for two weeks each month during your trips home, this might indicate that you should not become a pet owner. Especially if your family doesn't know about your pet and that's why you can't take them home with you. A few days of boarding here and there are okay, but anything more is not really fair to your pet.
Pro Tip #5: If you have to travel a lot and still want to be a pet owner, consider having animals who might not miss you as much (like fish) and those who are easy to take care of by other people while you are away.
Another area you really have to be honest with yourself is your own ability and time required to train a pet. Some pets (like dogs) require a lot of training while others (like gerbils or hamsters) will not involve any training since they stay mostly inside their cages. Many dogs have been abandoned because of ignorant owners who failed to properly train their dogs, or just became outright fed up with their disobedience, even when the owner didn't take the time to train them.
Dog experts claim that there are no bad dogs. Instead, there are bad dog owners who did not adequately provide the right training for their dogs.
Pro Tip #6: If you are a potential dog owner, make sure that you get proper obedience training, which means education for both yourself as well as your dog. Training also includes house training for dogs, cats, rabbits, and ferrets.
A pet should never be bought for "fun". It’s not fair to the animals, especially if they end up getting abandoned and/or abused. Do adequate research on what is required in order to be a successful pet owner and prepare for a lifelong commitment to the pet (because some can live with you your whole lifetime!).
The rewards of pet ownership are great, however, there are great responsibilities as well. As long as you are realistic about them, the personal growth and happiness you will have with your pet are limitless.
Pro Tip #7: Research the average lifespan your desired pet can have in captivity to ensure how much time you will realistically be caring for the animal.
To all you college students and future pet owners out there: Pet ownership should never be on impulse. Animals are a great stress reliever and super fun to have, but considering all of these factors is a must! Every year when colleges get out for the summer, the population in humane societies everywhere SKY ROCKET due to students leaving for home and (apparently) finding no better way to get rid of their animal than to let them go "free". While this would be a good idea had they been nurturing an injured animal that originally came from the "wild", this is untrue for most household pets. If caring for your animal becomes an issue for you once school gets out (or money gets tight), please reach out to places such as craigslist, your local pet store, or even some friends that you know will be staying in town over the summer to ensure a happy, healthy life for your pet. All animals deserve to be treated fairly and be tended to according to their needs. The truth is, we have voices and they don't; it's our job to try to understand what they're saying and be the voice for them.