Pet Care for Students

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 caring for a pet can be a great comfort when students miss having their family around.

Cat lying down

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 with room-mates.

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 notes.

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 warns.

However, healthy pets can be maintained on a student budget.

“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 expense.”

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 student’s 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.

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 Suggestions for future topics may be directed to

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