Do Cats Make Good Pets for College Students?


September is quickly approaching and kids are loading up on pencils, folders and $150 calculators. I need to invent an emoticon for my checkbook’s dismay on that last one. $:( ? Maybe that just looks like a sad guy in a fancy pimp hat. Whatever. I like hats, so maybe that’s OK.

My kids are gearing up for a September 3 start date. My son is an incoming high school sophomore and my daughter is entering her senior year. She’s been visiting colleges and is a major lover of every sort of animal. She, of course, has been fretting over what kind of pet she will bring to school with her next year. This has sparked many a conversation about responsibility and truly considering how one’s life will change if they move away from home to attend college.

As a college student, I adopted a cat named Daphne. I’ve always adored kitties and my 20-year-old brain thought it was a good idea. I was well into my college years and my parents didn’t really have much say in the deal. And if they had, I probably wouldn’t have listened. I attended classes full time and worked a part-time job. Basically, I was rarely home. And do you think I had the finances for proper medical care? Of course not. I only took her to the vet when she was sick, and even then I often had to borrow money for the bill. She was spayed, but I can’t take credit for that — she was altered when I adopted her. And to top it off, I shared a house with four roommates, so the door was often left open and Daphne escaped more than a few times.

I eventually moved out of state and was unable to bring her with me, so my friend helped me find a great home for her, where she thrived. I’m embarrassed to even admit my past behavior, but I was young and honestly didn’t know any better. I loved my cat and thought I was doing an OK job taking care of her. The bright spot in all of this mess is that now I can counsel my daughter because I’ve been through it. I can’t stress enough that when you adopt a cat (or any animal), it’s for life. They are not disposable.

In our search for colleges for my daughter, we’re finding that in most dorm situations, students aren’t allowed to have cats as pets. Many of them have a rule about only allowing pets who live in tanks. This would include mostly fish and reptiles, which still require regular care. My daughter seemed excited about the prospect of a reptile of some kind. I asked her if she’d thought about how she’d feed him if she came home for a weekend or went out of town? Would she bring him with her? Would she line up a sitter? She hadn’t even considered it. It’s a small thing, but still something to think about. If you remember being that age, you’ll probably recall periods of bad judgement or not-fully-thought-out decisions. I certainly do, and Daphne was only one of them.

So, are cats ever good pets for college students? Honestly, I think it really depends on the situation. I’ve known some students who are homebodies. They shared a house or apartment with maybe one other person, went to class during the day and weren’t employed. They didn’t go out much, weren’t partiers and rarely had people over for visits. Some of these individuals shared their homes with a cat and the cat was well cared for. Their parents footed the bill for everything and all was well. This was a good situation.

Students who still live at home and attend college may have a similar set-up. I think that in order to take on the responsibility of a cat, a student — like anyone considering cat adoption — should fully consider every aspect of their lives. Back in the day, most college students I knew either lived in dorms or had many roommates, full schedules, were very social and had no money. And by social, I mean there were constant visitors in their houses — especially at night. And there may have been drinking involved. This is a terrible situation for a cat.

So, as I move through this decision with my daughter, I feel well-informed and hope to impress upon her the commitment that comes with taking on a pet for which you will be solely accountable. The more adults who take the time to have this conversation with these young adults, the more these students will grow into individuals who live and hopefully spread the word about responsible pet ownership.

Did you have a cat in college, or do you know anyone who did? Tell us about it in the comments!

About the Author: Angie Bailey is a goofy girl with freckles and giant smile who wants everyone to be her friend. Loves pre-adolescent boy humor, puns, making up parody songs, and thinking about cats doing people things. Writes Catladyland, a cat humor blog, and authored whiskerslist: the kitty classifieds, a silly book about cats wheeling and dealing online. Partner in a production company and writes and acts in comedy web series that may or may not offend people. Mother to two humans and three cats, all of which want her to make them food.

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