Having decided to get a pet in college, you must now decide what type of animal friend is best for you! Here I will go through the most popular pet choices for college students.
Cats and Dogs
If you live off campus or in a senior house, a dog or cat is a plausible option. (While I have heard of some people fostering one of these lovelies in their dorm room, few if any of these situations are beneficial to the pet.) They really are a companion, and a great way to keep things in perspective while at college. That said, they are a lot of responsibility. Both require cleaning, exercise, and companionship. If you and your housemates have agreed to get a cat or dog, consider adopting one that is older so it requires less training and a bit less stimulation. It is crucial that you establish who has what responsibilities, and who will care for the companion over breaks and when you move out BEFORE GETTING THE PET. Once your furry friend enters your house, it may be hard to establish who gets/has to keep it come the end of the year.
Reptiles are not an often discussed option, and I am not completely sure why. They can be smart, interesting, and surprisingly affectionate. They are generally quiet and not even that smelly. My guess is that most people are uncomfortable with or cannot provide live meals for reptiles. While I am not a reptile girl myself, note that smaller reptiles do not need anything bigger than a cricket, and larger reptiles only need one meal every few weeks.
Also on the low maintenance end of the spectrum are fish. Although I was raised to believe every fish needed a filtered tank and monthly cleanings, some species are incredibly durable little fellows. Last year my roommate had a beta fish in a classic fish bowl of bottled water, and seemed quite content. He even endured her two hour trip home every few weeks with admirable strength. Of course, fish are not exactly the most fun pet you can have, but if you are living in a single for the first time in your college career or even your whole life, knowing there is someone there is quite relaxing.
I did not expect to find these at college, but I can think of three people off the top of my head who have owned one while at university. These little guys appeal to college students partly because they are such curious little creatures you didn’t even know could be a pet as a kid. They are very shy and don’t need much space. They can be quite intelligent and are relatively easy to paper train. One of their big drawbacks is that they are nocturnal, and we will see quite a bit more of that.
Chinchillas are another common, nocturnal pet option in college because they are just so darn cute! They proudly hold the titles of softest fur and cutest baths, and they can be quite comfortable in relatively small enclosures. While their enclosure can be small, they do need exercise and a stable environment that is not too hot. There are also a huge commitment as they can live for up to ten years. If you are thinking of a chinchilla and are not sure about your plans after college, consider adopting one that is older.
Of all the pets included in this list, I am most apprehensive of the choice of many to take a rabbit into their care during college. Rabbits need tons of space, attention, and general care that college students rarely have. Although rabbits can potentially be litter trained, they are quite messy and known to be especially smelly. They can and should have their own (large) cage, but should also have access to a sizable room free of wires and other hazards where they can get exercise. They are also quite social and benefit from interactions with other rabbits. Yes, there are individual rabbits that are exceptionally lethargic and antisocial, but unless you come across one, rabbits are not great for college.
Guinea pigs are spectacular option for college students for a number of reasons. They tend to nap throughout the day and so they are not exclusively nocturnal, and when they are “active” they are still quite lazy. They can be content in a medium sized cage, but they will always benefit from more space. Guinea pigs are social animals, and it is highly recommended that they live in pairs, which requires more space and care than may be ideal for a college student. Like chinchillas, they are prone to a number of serious illnesses that demand more veterinary attention.