Furry friends provide joy, challenges to pet parents

Photo courtesy of Spencer Lowery

Photo courtesy of Spencer Lowery

Maddie Gall | @gall_maddie, Contributing Writer

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Choosing to have a pet in college should be a well-thought-out decision, but potential pet parents don’t always consider the responsibilities that come with their new furry friend.

Many college students highly anticipate moving into a house or apartment and bringing home a new furry companion – a friendly face to come home to at the end of a long day in classes. But, being a pet parent comes with its own challenges that some of these students are learning for the very first time. 

Cheyenne Hayes, a junior majoring in communication studies, sites loneliness as the main reason she got her cat, Luna. 

“I got tired of coming home and having no one to talk to,” Hayes said. 

While pets can greatly assist with feelings of loneliness, before students commit to their companion, they must first consider the responsibilities that will come with it.

One of the first hurdles students have to cross when considering their potential pet is where to house them. Many apartments near campus are “pet-friendly” after paying a fee. Spencer Lowery, a junior majoring in fashion retailing, went into signing a lease with his dogs in mind. It was important to him to have a place where having the dogs wouldn’t cause any problems.  

Another factor to consider is the amount of time a student will have to devote to their furry friend during a busy student schedule.  Lowery and his girlfriend split time caring for their two dogs, Remy and Henry. 

“Knowing that we were living together and had our schedules set for the next year, I knew I would have enough time to set aside for a dog,” Lowery said. 

And the fees don’t end at the leasing office; pets require their own veterinary visits, supplies and extra funds to stay comfortable and healthy, which can get pretty pricy. 

“My girlfriend and I split the cost, and I try to save and make sure [I always have] enough,” Lowery said.  “[My parents and I] tried to estimate the cost of having a dog, such as going to the vet and medicine.” 

While Lowery has assistance with his expenses and other needs, ultimately his dog is his own responsibility.  

“I try to be as responsible for my dog because it’s my dog and not someone else’s,” he said. 

However, not all students consider the responsibilities or the long-term nature of owning a pet. Many breeds of cats and dogs can live for up to 20 years, so pet parenthood will likely outlast any college stint. 

“I would tell [pet owners] to make sure they have the time … And think about what happens once college is over,” Hayes said.

Rebecca Kilpatrick, a junior in the Multiple Abilities Program, and her roommate are working on establishing a schedule of time spent with Waffles, Kilpatrick’s 9-week-old kitten. To manage her time, Kilpatrick plays with Waffles while she works on homework.

“We try to make sure the cat has a lot of interaction with humans to avoid separation anxiety,” Kilpatrick said. 

Kilpatrick isn’t the only one who makes sure her pet has plenty of interaction. Hayes makes sure her furry friend never gets bored inside of a stuffy apartment by taking her cat on “adventures.”

“I travel with her,” Hayes said. “I don’t want her to ever stop moving and get too used to being in the house, so I take her out in the car and we go explore places.”

Hayes said that caring for an animal made her realize the weight of being responsible for another life.

“I sympathize more to people who have children in college, and I realize how much responsibility another breathing, eating thing really is, ” Hayes said.

Though on a smaller scale than children, pets are a long-term investment, and Lowery thinks it’s okay to be selfish when considering getting one. 

“A lot of people think in the short-term and don’t think in the long-term,” Lowery said. 

After thinking about the investment, pet parenthood may be a fit for some college students who want a companion.