Pets: we all love them, and studies show that having one can reduce stress in our daily lives. Dorm residents will dismally inform you, however, that — excluding goldfish — pets are a quick way to get yourself smacked with a housing violation.
Regardless, students may choose to get a furry best friend. If you consider it worth the risk, here’s a short guide to pet ownership in college.
Things You Should Consider:
The first thing you should ask yourself before buying a pet is whether you can afford it. Buying your pet means buying a cage, tank, bowls and toys. You should also take into consideration their food and bedding every month with occasional vet visits. Puppies need their shots and kibble to live a happy life, so wait until you can afford it.
All animals require some kind of attention to stay happy. A lack of playtime can lead to separation anxiety, and your pet may act out by damaging the room or even themselves. Luckily for those considering smaller pets like rats and hamsters, buying a playmate or carrying them around in your hoodie pocket is an easy way to deal with this neediness. Larger pets like dogs need frequent attention, otherwise they might start barking and blow your cover.
Whiskers just barked and the RA heard it. What’s your plan? Do you have a small kennel under some inconspicuous pile of clothes? Are you going to shove him inside a drawer? Don’t just shove your dog in a drawer, you animal. At the end of the day, proper planning and stealth can make the difference between whether you lose your housing privileges. So before you get your pet, invest in a concealable cage or kennel and take the time to plan accordingly for fire marshal and room inspections.
There are tons of sweet dogs at adoption agencies all over Houston that are sold for next to nothing. Consider making your new best friend a rescued or adopted pet.
Looking at the Options:
Rats are smart, social animals who are small enough to hide easily. They tend to be pretty chill pets—content to hang out on your shoulder or in your hoodie pocket while you do homework.
A downside to owning a rat is that they may smell. Regularly changing their bedding alleviates this problem. Rats are prone for respiratory infections, so owners have to be selective about the type of bedding they use, and they should avoid aerosol fresheners. Potential owners should also be wary about buying a female rat—most are prone to mammary tumors later in life, and vets for rodents are hard to come by.
Rabbits are the perfect dorm pet. They’re calm, quiet and clean enough to easily conceal. They are also still big enough to really play with and cuddle. They don’t require an excessive cage setup either, and you can improvise food by occasionally raiding the salad bar in the dining halls.
While I understand the appeal of having a puppy in your dorm — mine occasionally stays overnight with me — it can be stressful when they start whining at 3 a.m. Puppies need a lot of maintenance, playtime and training, so consider how well you can provide those things before adopting.
If you do get a dog, try setting up a small kennel for them in your closet with a “pee pad” and food. With a bit of work you can train them to sleep in there, and when the fire marshal comes by just toss a blanket over the evidence.
Buying a cat is the same as being Miss Colombia in the 2015 Miss Universe Pageant. Sure, you may have some form of documentation saying that you own it, and maybe someone even congratulated you about it, but really the whole thing is symbolic at best. Yes, the kitty may be cute, but you can kiss the concept of placing items on shelves goodbye. Worst of all, unlike a dog, cats won’t give you much of a hint that they have to poop, so unless you train them well, it’s going to end up in some random corner or crevice of your room.
Dwarf Hamsters are extremely small, affordable and adorable. Speaking from experience, though, buying more than one is a gamble. Many pet stores can’t tell the difference between males and females, meaning your pet ownership will probably follow a 5 step process:
- Buy two hamsters
- Notice that one of them is getting fat.
- Aw look at that, the hamster gave birth. Look at all the cute baby hamsters.
- Oh my god, she’s eating the babies.
- Never play with the hamsters again.
Geckos, Chameleons, and Other Amphibians
These scaly friends aren’t so complicated to take care of, as long as you have a heat lamp and a proper habitat. If you have a heat lamp, the pet can even stay in your closet indefinitely. The only problems are that owning one can be expensive to set up, and they are a bit dull to play with. Between the cost of an aquarium, heat lamp, and food, you could be paying upwards of $50 before even buying the pet itself.
5 Pets You Should Definitely Not Have in Your Dorm
They need large cages, smell like vomit and bark loudly all night long.
They are prone to shedding their quills, and those quills are prone to stabbing feet.
Any sort of spider
Statistically, you are at least 3 feet from a spider right now, so just settle for that.
Husky, Great Dane, or other large dogs
“Talkative” dog breeds should be avoided at all costs.
Please just don’t do it, it’s not worth it.
Tips for Fish Owners
Just because you don’t want to break the rules doesn’t mean you can’t have fun.
Why not get creative with your fish breeds? Walmart is selling puffer fish for under $10, and their tank requirements fit with most housing rules. Other viable options include small koi, loaches and moon jellyfish, so don’t think you have to settle for bettas and goldfish.
There was a kick starter a while back for a remote-controlled car for your fish. The project is still iffy on delivering results, but it means that you might be able to take your fish on legitimate walks.
A google search for “goldfish in a party hat” delivers a depressing lack of results. There’s a whole untapped market of dressed up goldfish pictures that you could get in on. Why not become an internet sensation?