Why you shouldn’t have a uni pet

Furry unconditional love comes at a cost

There’s no denying that pets can offer great company at uni. After a long day of lectures or revision, who doesn’t want therapy in the form of a fluffy cuddle buddy offering no strings attached love?

It’s too easy to get lost in the idea of owning a pet at uni and many people take on the responsibility without knowing what they are truly letting themselves in for. An RSPCA spokeswomen said “Having a pet can be so rewarding and exciting that it’s possible that people get carried away and make quick impulsive decisions without taking their time to really think things through.”

Here is a realistic look at what owning a pet at uni truly entails.

The dream

After a long arduous day at uni, the last thing you want to have to do is clean your flat.

Imagine having a soiled cage or enclosure to clean on top of that? Pets need a clean environment to live in that is maintained regularly, if it is left too long opportunistic bacteria can make your animal ill and the stench from the cage can become overpowering.

Master’s student Jonny Allsuch was left in a sticky situation in second year when his housemate brought a surprise hamster back to uni. “It was cute, but as us students struggled to take care of ourselves, it was highly unlikely we’d be able to take care of a little creature too. It would roll around in its little ball leaving stray poops all around the kitchen and it seemed no matter how often the cage was cleaned, the smell of hamster wee never went away.”

The upfront cost of buying a small animal isn’t large, Many of us have walked into a pet shop, seen furballs for £25 and been tempted to make the easy purchase. Yet costs of maintaining a healthy pet accumulate rapidly, with one emergency vets visit costing £126 on the spot and good cages being pricey in themselves.

Sainsbury’s pet insurance have estimated that the lifetime cost of a cat can be a whopping £17,200 whereas a dog can cost £16,900, not even including the upfront cost. Rabbits and Guinea Pigs cost a more modest £6920 and £2905 respectively, but that’s still a large proportion of your student loan.

The costs add up fast. Make sure you have the money to support your pet –– just because you’re a skint student living on  beans doesn’t mean an animal can follow the same frugal lifestyle.

No thank you.

Nibbly animals can cause substantial damage to a uni house. Deposits have been lost over chewed and damaged furnishings and student agencies often don’t appreciate the fluffy extra resident.

Local landlord David Williams operates a strict no pets policy in his properties following a bad experience with tenants. “They had a small hamster which lived fairly innocuously in its cage for the year. However, when the tenancy was up and we went in to clean, we noticed quite a lot of damage to the carpet and the furniture, there were droppings everywhere and the tiny thing had chewed its way round the flat. I had to draw the line after that, no pets allowed.”

Cables chewed up by curious rodents can cost absurd amounts to replace. One decimated MacBook charger at dissertation time can result in a blind panic and £75 on the spot to be replaced, whilst multiple new phone chargers cost £15 each time.

Not so cute now, is it?

Spontaneous visits home or weekend trips to see mates at other unis can become a problem when you’re trying to find a pet sitter. Your flatmates who promised you at the start of the year that they will step in and help with pet minding suddenly have other plans that weekend and no one wants the responsibility.

Pets can be left behind by students who can’t take them home for the holidays, and many people don’t have room in their life for their pet once they graduate. Rescue centres are already inundated with homeless animals, don’t add to the problem because your pet outlived your degree.

Please do not leave me behind.

If you’re ready to get a uni pet after all…

Check that your landlord allows pets in the flat – the fat fine really isn’t worth it.

Secondly, clear your flat to make a ‘pet safe zone’, this includes no mouldy food on the floor, no phone cables, no bottle caps, no alcohol and especially no drugs. All these things can find their way easily into a curious animal’s mouth and cause major problems.

The RSPCA also pointed out in a recent Q&A session that many animals might get stressed in a shared house where it is busy and noisy, ruling out many uni houses. They also warned pet owners off house parties, saying “parties are often busy and noisy with lots of unfamiliar people entering the home which could be stressful for the animal.” So be prepared to sacrifice a big party for the sake of your pet’s sanity.

Finally, make sure all your flatmates agree to the new resident because you’ll most probably need their help and make them clean out the cage.

Your new housemate