One of the many tough aspects of transitioning into dorm life can be leaving beloved dog, cats, or other pets at home. However, there is hope yet for animal lovers.
Although the Office of Residential Life does have restrictions on dorm pets—on Vassar’s ResLife website you’ll find the short, no nonsense: “Pets are not permitted in residences, except for those of a size that can be humanely kept in an aquarium/cage not larger than 20 gallons 24 hours a day”—many students have found it possible to work within these limitations.
For animal lovers, having a dorm pet can mitigate the difficulty of leaving another pet at home. Briana Pedroni ’15, who has a hedgehog Shmi Shmu, wrote in an emailed statement, “I can’t walk my dog at home who I’ve had since I was 10, but I can let Shmi out of his cage to run around my room.”
Austin Welch ’16 described the companionship of his rabbit Francis Scott Fitzgerald as the biggest benefit of pet ownership.
“They are always there to keep you company. I tend to stay at Vassar over breaks, so having a pet is really nice during those times when the campus can be a little lonely,” he said.
Of course, taking care of an animal on top of many other responsibilities is a time commitment, but pet owners consider this a negligible disadvantage when weighed against the pleasure of pet ownership.
Pedroni said, “Because he lives in a cage, having him is a minimal time commitment, so when I’m really busy writing a paper or something, I just spend less time playing with him that week.”
Other students suggested that some pets may be more suited for the dorm environment due to their lesser need for attention.
Michael Prentice-Glasgow ’15, who has a ball python named Lilith, and Natalie Nicelli ’15, who has a corn snake named Amber, both mentioned in emailed statements that they consider snakes the best pet for a college student.
“They’re really easy to take care of and they don’t smell,” said Nicelli, “I feed my snake once a week (and buy frozen mice in bulk so that I don’t have to buy a mouse every week) and clean out her entire tank every 1-2 months (snakes aren’t messy animals).”
Prentice-Glasgow added, “Being a python she only eats once every three weeks…she is a pretty low maintenance pet.”
However, no matter how muuch work is involved with caring for a pet, the rewards outweigh any inconveniences. “In the end it is all worth it,” said Welch.
In fact, many of these inconveniences have easy solutions. During breaks, for example, Prentice-Glasgow said that unless the power is shut off, Lilith can stay on campus. Nicelli, on the other hand, chooses to bring Amber home.
Welch advised, “Make sure that you have someone to care for your pet if you are leaving for break.”
Nicelli believes that students should be prepared for all of the duties that come along with pet ownership. She said, “Do a lot of research on the animal to make sure that [you] have the time to take care of it.”
Even further, students might want to consider how their pet will interact with other students in the dorms Prentice-Glasgow said, “The only advice I’d give to a pet owner on campus is to know the rules and regulations around their pet like the back of their hand, since there’s always going to be people trying to challenge their place here.”
For Pedroni, her pet is welcomed by her hallmates. “He’s a great conversation topic—most people love him! Sometimes I’ll bring him down for house events.”
Owning a reptile can be a little more complicated in this respect, as many people have a fear of snakes.
Nicelli said while she often needs to give people a warning about her snake before they come into her room, others have made an effort to push the limits of their comfort zones. “People with slight fears of snakes have asked to see my snake in order to learn about her and to overcome their fear,” she said.
Though most people do not think of pets as a typical component of college life, they can become an integral part of your four-year experience, particularly when it comes to social interactions.
Nicelli concluded, “Dorm pets are great for your own company when all of your friends are busy and you’re bored, but they’re also good ways for you to get to know the people on your floor as people tend to flock towards your room when they first find out you have a pet.”