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Picking a companion: A student's multiple pet options



University sophomore Sydney Clagett went for a walk by herself through Alton Baker Park one cold afternoon last November. When she arrived back at her apartment, however, she was not alone.

“On my way home, there was an obviously friendly black lab running from one group of people to another, following them for as long as they would allow,” Clagett said.

She searched for signs of an owner but had no luck. It started to rain.

“I didn’t have the heart to leave him out there,” she said, and the lab happily followed her home.

Clagett is one of many University students who have considered having a pet in college, and if you see a bundle of fur in your college future, there are several things you should consider before bringing Fido home.

Clagett struggled to care for her new four-legged friend. “He had a ton of energy and nowhere to use it,” she said. “I took him to the dog park as often as I could and walked him around Eugene all day, but he would never get tired.”

Ultimately, she was unable to attend regular classes and activities. “I couldn’t leave him alone in my tiny room,” she said. “And he couldn’t sit still for more than five minutes even if I got my professor to ‘okay’ bringing him to lecture.”

After five days of dog sitting, Clagett took him to the vet, and the staff was able to help with expenses and agreed to adopt him.

“If it hadn’t been for the generous vet and nurses, keeping him for that short period would have cost me about $150,” she said. Her expenses included flea treatment, food, collar, leash and a veterinary exam.

While students’ lifestyle and schedules are different, Clagett says it was a wake-up call for her.

“If you have a pet, you have a pet 24/7, every day of the year, for at least the next decade,” she said.

Dr. Nancy Johnson, from the Veterinary Hospital in Eugene, said that purchasing a pet is “making a commitment to someone else’s life.” Students should prepare to “live in housing that is more expensive but worse quality,” and to “have an emergency fund of about $500 dollars in case of an injury.”

Dogs aren’t the only option, however. Cats can be a great alternative for someone looking for less responsibility than a dog but more interaction than a fish.

Junior Branden FitzPatrick owned a cat during his sophomore year because with two internships, 15 credits and a demanding job, FitzPatrick was looking for low-maintenance [email protected]@hahaha…@@

Enter a kitten named Romeo.

“Cats can take care of themselves as long as you refill their food every day and clean the litter,” he said.

Turns out Romeo was helpful too.

“He was the best alarm clock,” FitzPatrick said. “Every morning he would come into my room and smash his furry face into mine until I would wake up.”

FitzPatrick says pets teach life lessons too, such as coping with loss. Romeo passed away from a car accident this fall. “I miss every second of him,” FitzPatrick says.

FitzPatrick also says owning a pet, even a cat, is expensive. However, he added, “He was absolutely worth it.”

If litter boxes and faces full of fur don’t sound like your cup of tea, you might consider an animal that is confined to a tank or a small cage, such as a lizard or hamster. These pets typically take less time and money to manage.

University junior Sean Miller, for example, recently purchased a 4-week-old ball python. He described it as easy to care for and relatively inexpensive. Feeding his snake costs about four dollars a week and, aside from that, he only needs to change the snake’s bedding intermittently.

And although his python isn’t the same as a dog or cat, he still reaps the benefits of a companion.

“I can spend as little or as much time with him (as I want),” he said. “My stress and worry about school decreases when I focus on the snake and the enjoyment I get from playing with him.”

Each of these students had a unique experience depending on the animal they chose. If you think a pet would enhance your college experience, consider factors such as the cost, space, and as Miller said, “Know how much attention your pet will require to live a happy, fulfilled life, and make sure that your lifestyle is aligned with that.”


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Rebecca Sedlak

Rebecca Sedlak