Using common logic, one may think that a pet, equipped with four legs, would be walking their bicrural owner instead of vice versa. However, many owners would say that’s exactly the case, but it’s not just that – their pets run their lives.
Between those first few excruciating weeks – or months – of training the pet to defecate somewhere beside your living room to vacuuming your barber shop of an apartment, pets can certainly pose a problem for the unprepared college student.
“There are many things that college students should consider before getting a pet,” said Dr. David Littlejohn, a veterinarian at O’Neal Animal Hospital, located at 4424 Market St. He said it is imperative that college students consider the consequences of owning a pet before getting one.
Taking care of a dog or a cat is often likened to caring for a baby. Though in most cases, parents cannot expect a baby to scavenge through a kitchen cabinet nor is it likely that a parent will come home to a closet full of chewed shoes after leaving his baby unattended.
Time and money are two key components to taking care of a pet, and considering that college students often lack both, Littlejohn thinks it’s best to wait until graduation to get a pet. Otherwise, the pet may have the owner leashed.
“Generally, dog owners need to check on their companions every four to six hours,” Littlejohn said. “This does not mean that they should simply run by to make sure that the pet is still breathing; they actually need to devote some time to them.”
Littlejohn said dogs need to be walked daily, fed up to three times a day and let outside when nature calls.
Deviating from these responsibilities may turn man’s best friend into an attention-seeking menace. The most common rebellions include scouring through the garbage, using the carpet as a toilet and gnawing your favorite shoes.
It is unlikely cats will pose any of these problems. However, that doesn’t mean they should be left unattended.
Although Littlejohn said it is true that cat owners usually luck out of the daily walk routine and the rigors of potty-training, cats still need love.
“Without affection cats won’t [learn to] socialize,” Littlejohn said. “They will be afraid of company and react aggressively.”
Students should also know that domestic animals are monetarily straining on the owner. Senior Shannon Seratch commutes to and from Bucks County, leaving her two cats inside four walls. She observed that her cats are low maintenance, but costly.
“It cost about $200 for shots and vaccines per year,” said Seratch, an education major. Littlejohn said pets are most pricey during their inceptions.
Because most college students do not calculate the annual veterinarian costs, they simply disregard the checkups and shots altogether.
With bills to pay and stomachs to un-growl, students may have to choose between feeding themselves or their pets.
Littlejohn finds that, after a while, students end up feeding their pets “table scraps.” In such cases pets suffer from life threatening illnesses – pneumonia, common in cats, and parvovirus in dogs.
Freshman business major Yana Podgursky is not against college students owning pets as long as they can give their pets attention.
“It is not fair to the animal if you cannot devote the time to it,” she said.
Most landlords forbid pets in their off-campus dwellings. However, some factor in the size of the pet and the history of the tenant before doing so.
Yamik Haba is a landlord of many apartments within two blocks of Temple’s campus.
Though she does not encourage it, she allows her tenants to have pets. In her apartments – and most others in which pets are allowed – the owners must pay a larger annual deposit.
In her experience, pets have damaged furniture and appliances. In these cases, she takes money out of a tenant’s security deposit to pay for repairs.
“It’s time consuming for me,” she said of having to find a repair man to fix the carpet, which is most affected by pets. In her opinion “cats and fish are the best pets.”
Even though “the animal-human bond is real,” as Littlejohn said, he warns people that “if you cannot afford a pet, do not get one.”
•Dogs have 40 times the number of olfactory receptors humans have, enabling some to smell half a mile away. – Worldalmanacforkids.com
•Owls can rotate their heads 270 degrees.
•Grizzly bears consume 90 pounds of food a day when preparing for hibernation.
•95 percent of cat owners admit they talk to their cats. – I-pets.com
•Every 11.5 seconds an animal becomes roadkill. – Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
Steve Wood contributed to this article.
Jonea M. Price can be reached at email@example.com.