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It's that time of the year again. Students have entered another
phase of their academic lives, and there is so much to take care of
at once- excelling in academics and sports, eating healthy and
staying stress-free. Many students live away from their homes
during college, and a pet can be a great companion when students
miss having their family around.
But a big question remains: Is maintaining a pet while at
college a good idea? "Having a pet in college has its challenges
but it is not impossible," says Dr. M. A. Crist, clinical assistant
professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine &
Biomedical Sciences (CVM).
Students need to think about a number of factors before deciding
to own a pet. A very important consideration is the amount of time
the owner is prepared to spend.
"Pets need to be walked, fed, and socialized and this can take
up quite a bit of a student's free time," explains Crist.
Hence, aquarium pets like fish, which only need regular
maintenance, are a good choice - especially when sharing apartments
Similarly, cats make great indoor pets for students who do not
have time for walks. Dogs are a popular choice even though they
require more time for walks and socialization.
"More and more college towns are developing dog parks to have
areas where students can enjoy their canine friends," Crist
Apartment complexes may sometimes require special deposits for
keeping pets and students need to plan for that extra expense. Some
students love horses, but they need to make arrangements for a
stall at an equine facility and a pasture for riding.
Pet nutrition is another concern for many students.
Veterinarians recommend specific diets for pets based on individual
requirements. According to Crist, the most important thing in pet
nutrition is "to maintain continuity." A constantly changing diet
can cause gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea and vomiting. In
some cases, this may even lead to illness or death, she
However, healthy pets can be maintained on a student
"Many manufacturers of the commercial pet foods will provide
coupons for your pet if you contact the company directly by email,"
reassures Crist. "Such student discount coupons are also
available on the internet. Keeping our furry, feathered, or
scaly pet friends on a good quality diet will save money in the
future to avoid unnecessary veterinary visits and
A new pet needs to have an initial visit to the vet and must
finish the series of puppy/kitten vaccinations. "It is recommended
to spay or neuter, and microchip their pet, as well as keep them on
heartworm and flea prevention," says Crist.
Students can take advantage of the discounted services offered
by veterinary offices at different times of the year.
For instance, students, staff, and faculty at Texas A&M
University receive special discounts on pet food, medicines and
services at the CVM.
Aside from nutrition and regular check ups with the
veterinarian, a budget for pet care needs to include the costs of
unexpected emergencies. Students also need to plan ahead for events
such as road trips and parties.
"Situations have occurred where students have had parties, and
their pet got into a fight with another pet brought to the
household by another partygoer," says Crist.
She also cites instances where pets have been lost or injured
during parties when students have been too distracted to
notice. However, with care and attention, students can
certainly make good owners of happy pets.
Crist suggests that adopting a pet earlier in the summer would
help one to know more about the pet and train it before school
starts. Having a roommate who also likes pets helps avoid any
potential conflict in the future. If the roommate has another pet,
she advises that both the pets are introduced to each other early
and have time to socialize and become friends before they are left
alone. Doing such little things to make the pet feel at home
would go a long way in making pet ownership by busy college
students more manageable.
ABOUT PET TALK
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine
& Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.
Stories can be viewed on the Web at /pet-talk.
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