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How to handle having a pet in college

Valerie Smith, Senior Staff Writer

While having a pet can be a fun experience, it is important to make sure that you are best suitable to take care of furry friends such as these above. 

For college students, it can be difficult to adjust to the new environment away from home. Five years later, I still feel the heartbreak when I’m pulling away from my dad’s house, knowing I won’t see him until Thanksgiving Break. It’s never fun, but that doesn’t mean you have to become a year-long

sad sack. Sometimes you just need to find the right thing, person or being to get you back into the swing of things.

Some people have “baes” and others tailgate like it’s 1981. But for me, there is nothing like coming home after a long day to a fluffy mass of fur licking the side of my face. One of the best decisions I’ve ever made was adopting a pet. But, like with everything else, there’s always going to be a few ups-and-downs to having a fur baby in college.

During my freshman year, I adopted my chubby orange excuse of a kitten. I fell in love with his eyes and his innocent persona. He gave me a reason to be excited about coming home while I was conquering my first year here. It was wonderful not having to sleep alone anymore and to not be so depressed. Pets work wonders when you’re feeling down. 

However, that year, I was in the Bridge program, and having a pet in your apartment was a no-go. My three other roommates were totally accepting of the new kitten and it didn’t hurt that I had screen-shots of their texts to back me up (yeah, I’m that person). We had agreed to keep the kitten a secret. Even with my planning, chaos

still erupted. 

Eventually, one of my roommates told me I needed to get the kitten out of the dorm. There is no way you can argue with an RA over a rule you broke to begin with, unless you want a one-way ticket out the door. I moved the kitten into a friend’s home until it was time for me to leave the dorms. 

Don’t do something as risky as adopting a pet when it is against the rules. If

you are truly that lonely, I’ve heard Clemson dorms are accepting of fish in a certain sized tank. 

I say all of this because you really don’t want to risk it in that situation. Having that friend who could keep my kitten was a life-saver. The shelter-life doesn’t work for animals just as much as it doesn’t work for the party-too-hard-to-compensate-for-lost-time kids you see your freshman year. Plenty of stray cats roam all over campus and nearby apartment complexes abandoned because some kid couldn’t handle the responsibility of a pet. And this isn’t Disney — singing won’t help them get off the streets. 

On the flip side, if you have your own apartment and love animals, consider adopting a puppy. They’re guaranteed to get you out of

the house. Take them to dog parks and strike up conversations with other people doing the same thing. You might just find your new best friend, partner or enemy, but at the least you’ll have someone to add to the list of people you know.

Dogs and cats live between 10-20 years, so make sure you can care for an animal for this long. It is really sad to see an older dog brought into a shelter from someone who can’t care for it anymore, with the dog’s chances of

being adopted challenged by a litter of puppies in the next doggie cell over. The average four years of college can feel like an eternity, but it is a really short timeframe compared against the lifespan of a pet. 

Want to know how my decision turned out? It’s been five years since I’ve adopted my kitten. I live in my own apartment and pay a monthly fee for any damage he may cause to the carpet or walls. He is still just as energetic as when I first adopted him and our bond grows stronger everyday. However, I travel a lot. Typically, cats are not the type of animals who embrace change — they’re very traditional animals that like to stay home. I have to ensure that a friend has the time to come into my home when I’m gone to make sure he has plenty of food, water and a clean litter box before I make plans to leave. Nevertheless, my cat probably felt lonely while I was gone, so I adopted another kitten to keep him happy. 

Pets aren’t all around good or bad decisions. You just have to take responsibility for the actions you make and remember that another furry family member’s life depends on these actions. If you think you can handle the benefits and disadvantages of having a pet, then there is no reason to stop you from adopting.

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