Depending on who you are, getting a pet in university can either seem like a fantastic or disastrous idea. I did some exploring to investigate the time, money, and energy required to take care of different pets to help inform my decision. Hopefully the knowledge I’ve learned can help you discover the best pet for you as well!
An absolute classic, you simply cannot go wrong with a pet rock. Mainly because they require zero time, effort, and money, and cannot die. With a pet rock, you’ll never be faced with an astronomical vet bill, you will not have to train them to sit and stay, and they will never run away. Bonus points for the fact that you can be in complete control of the appearance of your pet rock. Cons are that they are not very cuddly.
Though it may not be considered a member of the animal kingdom, we’ve at least upgraded to something that contains the word pet. Use up all of those chia seeds you told yourself you’d eat when you were on a health kick and grow a Chia Pet! Chia Pets require very little effort. You just have to activate the chia seeds, smear them on the pot, fill the pot up with water, and watch your pet grow! You can get Chia Pets in the shape of your favourite pop culture icons—like Bob Ross, Baby Yoda and Dustin from Stranger Things—or you can make them yourself!
I had Sea-Monkeys when I was seven years old and, simply put, I was obsessed. They are actual living organisms (a type of shrimp called Artemia NYOS, to be exact) that require minimal upkeep and commitment. Your sea monkeys will cover their entire lifespan from eggs to adulthood in a couple of weeks, and the only materials required are all included in your Sea-Monkeys package, such as the tank, food, and eggs. Cons are that they smell pretty weird, you get emotionally attached to them, and then they die...and they’re not real monkeys.
Fish (like betta, goldfish, and guppies) are some of the most popular low-effort pets, but don’t let that fool you. There's a common misconception that fish are easy and cheap pets, but they actually require more materials and attention than you may think. Fish should have a large tank with plenty of space to swim around (betta fish require at least a 10-gallon tank, and 20 gallons for goldfish), plants, food, a water purifier, and a running filter. They can also be a much larger time commitment than you think, especially considering the difficulty of transporting a fish and all of its tank accoutrements. Remember: a well-cared-for goldfish can live for 10 to 15 years and grow an average of one inch per year. That’s about the average life span of a dog! But on the bright side, goldfish are not known to enjoy daily walks.
Mouse (locally sourced)
- Free if you live in student housing and your landlord refuses to pay for pest control to come by
- Will eat anything regardless of whether it’s technically edible or not
- Belongs to the wild
- Will probably invite friends.
Hamsters (and other rodents like mice, rats, gerbils, and guinea pigs) are fairly popular pets among university students, likely due to their relatively short life span and generally easy upkeep. They’re a great beginner pet to test your amount of availability before moving on to a more demanding one. Even though we’re all adults here, there’s nothing that compares to the joy of putting a hamster in a ball and watching it roam around. Downsides include the fact that they’re nocturnal and have zero qualms about making as much noise as possible while they’re awake. Oh, and they’re also master escape artists.
I’m not a cat person (don’t kill me), but I can respect the comfort and fun that keeping a cat as a pet can bring. Cats generally require less time and energy than dogs since they need less training and don’t need to be walked daily (but you can try). Still, even though cats don’t require as much constant time and attention, they're still a huge commitment. To put it simply: cats live forever, and unless you’re willing to devote at least the next decade to your cat, it’s not fair to get one. Don’t forget that the upfront costs of buying the cat are not all that’s involved. There's still a constant need for kitty litter, food, and unavoidable vet bills. If you think you may be ready for a cat but aren’t quite ready for the commitment, many animal rescues are looking for people just like you to foster their kitties before they get adopted to their forever homes. It’s a great way to test the waters before jumping in, and you’d be helping a cat in need! Win-win!
It seems like everyone got a puppy in the past six months, doesn’t it? This could be thanks to many factors, the most likely being all of the extra time on our hands during the COVID-19 shutdown. And plenty of extra time is exactly what you need if you’re thinking about getting a puppy (or adopting an adult dog, for that matter). To say that puppies are mentally, physically, and economically demanding would be an understatement. However, that doesn’t change the incomparable companionship (and Instagram content) that comes with getting a dog. To see if you’re ready to buy or adopt a dog, ask yourself if you have the time to commit to two or three walks a day, extensive housebreaking and training (which may be required even if you adopt an adult dog), and long nights of your pup getting used to their new environment. Ask yourself, too, if you're in the financial position to cover all initial vet visits like spaying/neutering and vaccinations, as well as any emergency vet visits. If you’re not quite ready, look into dog-walking services like Rover to get your dog fix until you’re in the position to care for one!
At the end of the day, all pets (with the exception of a pet rock) are living, breathing beings that deserve as much care and respect as human beings. Pets can be time consuming, costly, and messy, but they can also be hugely comforting and quickly become your new best friend. Whatever amount of time and money you’re willing to invest in a pet, there's a pet for you, even if it’s just some chia sprouts in the shape of Bob Ross’ afro or some microscopic shrimp (don’t knock Sea-Monkeys until you try them). As for me, I’ll be busy taking my pet rock for a walk. Happy pet-owning!