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Five Tips for Having a Pet in College

Lori Johnston | July 21, 2010

If you can’t bear to leave behind your dog or cat when you go to college, there are ways to make it work. Some schools are paying more attention to the connection students have with their favorite animals by creating pet-friendly residence halls, which have their pros and cons.

But for those of you still trying to decide whether bringing your pet to live with you at school is a good idea, here are five things that two University of Georgia students have learned about having their furry friends with them.

1. Don’t forget Fido in your plans.

The biggest adjustment that Jessica Floyd, a statistics major, has had to make is planning her day around making time for dog, Bruiser.

“I made breaks in my day to walk Bruiser in the morning, at least once in the afternoon, and then in the evening,” she says. “So you have to plan class, work, whatever else, so that you don’t have surprises on your floor.” It’s the same way when you’re wanting to take a road trip with friends. If you can’t bring your pet with you, you’ll want to make sure people are willing to watch the pet or that you have money saved up to board your pet.

2. Plan ahead of time for a new pet.

If you’ve always wanted a dog and you figure college is the time you can get one on your own, or if you miss your family pet so much that you want one, certain times of the year are better than others to add an animal to your life. So think about that when you see a cute stray.

Emily Davis recommends getting the pet early in the summer and setting aside that time for socializing, behavior training, and potty training. Your apartment and neighborhood should be chosen with the pet in mind and you should bring the pet to those places before school starts and the craziness of classes, work, and other activities begins, she says.

3. Set aside spending money.

Jessica learned to budget differently to include food, treats, toys, a crate, and grooming for Bruiser. Also, you need to put away extra cash for unexpected trips to the vet or the groomers, says Emily, who is majoring in biological sciences. Money and schedules are obstacles that must be faced as a pet owner, and it’s amplified when you’re a college student, Emily says.

4. Protect your place.

Also add into the budget money for furniture protector so that your pet won’t destroy items in your dorm or apartment. Emily says she’s learned from experience that it’s a good investment. If your pet ruins something owned by a roommate, you need to replace it, Jessica says.

5. Get your roommates’ honest approval

Give special thought and consideration to roommates who may or may not have been honest with you about their fondness for or familiarity with pets, says Emily. Because of her conflicts with roommates, she rethought her decision at times to have her dog, Wally, in college. But overall, “he’s been very therapeutic and a joy to come home to every day.”

Be upfront with your roommates about the character of your pet, such as if they bark a lot or are messy, Jessica says. “Be respectful, and don’t let your pet in their room unless invited.”

–Lori Johnston

Lori Johnston

Lori Johnston is a freelance writer based in Athens, Ga. She is a former Associated Press reporter and has contributed to many publications, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Atlanta Business Chronicle, and People magazine. A 1995 graduate of the University of Georgia, Johnston also serves as an adjunct professor in the school’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications.

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