Coming from a home complete with a fat, fluffy, friendly golden retriever, one of the hardest parts of transitioning to college was learning to live without a pet. It seems before every break, my friends and I mention how excited we are to see our dogs or cats. For many students at WSU, leaving their family pets behind is part of moving to Pullman.
During my first two years in a residence hall, the pet issue never really came up. For some mysterious reason, the halls are less than welcoming to big, slobbery dogs or cats with sassy attitudes and sharp claws.
However, when I began planning to move into an apartment, I realized owning a pet had become a possibility. I agonized over what kind of animal companion to acquire. The lack of a yard ruled out a dog, so I started asking friends about their experiences with cats. For a couple months, I had my heart set on a friendly feline.
Then reality hit. Pets are a commitment and I needed to do some serious thinking before I found myself a furry friend.
Based on my experience, here is the advice I would offer to students who are considering an apartment or house pet.
First, make sure the place you will be living allows animals. I know it is popular to smuggle animals into the apartment anyway under the assumption that the landlord never needs to know, but it is not that much of a hassle to find a complex that is pet friendly and the charges you can accrue if busted are not worth the risk.
Second, consider the long-term commitment. Most students will not be in their college apartment more than a year or two, and if a pet lives longer than that you need to make sure you can care for it after you move to a new location. Some small animals like fish and rodents only live a couple of years. Dogs and cats, on the other hand, require a significantly longer investment.
Also, keep in mind the time commitment during your time in Pullman. Pets need to be fed, cleaned, exercised and trained so they do not leave unpleasant surprises on your doorstep or in your home. Even adopting a housebroken pet from a local shelter requires spending time with the animal to settle it into a new home. If you have a hard time fitting classes, homework, clubs, job and other commitments into 24 hours each day, a high-maintenance pet is not the best plan.
Finally, pets call for a financial commitment. Smaller animals usually are not costly as far as food or maintenance goes, but may require a one-time investment to set up their habitats. Larger animals will need a lot more food and possibly healthcare or repairs to your furniture during that house-training period.
With these ideas in mind, I gave up my dream of an adorable puppy or kitten. Instead, my current apartment-mate is a teddy bear hamster named Santana. He is very low maintenance but nevertheless good company.
So before you decide to bring Fido or Felix to Pullman, think about the commitment required as a pet owner. First apartments can be exciting, but first apartment pets can be stressful if you fail to plan ahead.