Angles: Are secret dorm room pets a good idea?

Every year, some students in the dorms decide they want to bring a pet into their room. Pets can be great mood boosters and can help destress while studying, but is it altogether a good idea to keep pets that aren’t explicitly allowed as emotional support or service animals in the dorms?

Even the most low-maintenance pets require at least a little bit of time and resources, which should be a major consideration when deciding whether to get any pet. In the context of living in the dorms, there are even more considerations: space, allergies and sanitary concerns, to name a few.

With these concerns in mind, are the costs of bringing a pet into the dorms worth the benefits they provide?

Yes, if it’s the right pet
By Alayna Jones

I have never had a secret pet, even though I really wanted to have a pet fish my freshman year. That being said, I highly encourage having a “secret pet” if you truly think it through and are responsible enough to take care of another critter on this planet. 

Almost everyone has had a conversation with a parent or guardian about having pets and about how much responsibility and effort is involved in taking care of them. This conversation relates to a variety of pets because every animal needs to be taken care of, no matter the species.

If you’re living in a dorm, small creatures are the best route to take especially if you’re living on their own for the first time. 

The easiest pet to take care of  in a dorm setting is a fish. Unlike hamsters, which can become crowded or escape, fish can’t escape for obvious reasons. They don’t take up a lot of space and they can be fed before you go to class and when you return at the end of the day.

Cleaning a fish tank is obviously not ideal, but just like how we need to keep up our own hygiene in our living spaces, so do fish.

Fish can also live in a variety of sizes of homes. Although a large fish tank with other fish friends is a good idea, a small fishbowl can also work. Dorm rooms are not very spacious, and having a pet that doesn’t take up very much space can prevent the room from feeling overcrowded. 

Like all pets, there needs to be an investment in food, cleaning supplies and maybe even decorations to spice up their living space. I’ve seen lots of ways to decorate a fish bowl, from colorful rocks to little houses or some fake seaweed. 

I would hope that for any secret pet in a dorm room, there is a financial plan on how to make sure it is fed every day. 

To have a successful secret pet, there is a lot of planning necessary, and many factors play into pet ownership. No matter what type of pet you get, proper research is a must. A fish is a great first pet to own, especially if it’s your first time living alone.

No, there are too many downsides
By Kat Elgersma

People should put a little more thought into getting a dorm pet.

For one, someone on the floor might have an allergy, which could be a miserable experience. This might not be the biggest deal depending on the severity of the allergy, but if we’ve learned anything from the COVID-19 pandemic, let it be the importance of taking care of the health and safety of others.

I obviously have no problem with emotional support animals and service animals, and as long as the tank is cared for, fish don’t bother me in the least. Outside of the allergy issue, cats aren’t that concerning either, considering their generally independent lifestyle.

My biggest gripe is with the hamsters, especially those that get lost.

To the best of my knowledge, these hamsters are rarely found, which means that someone’s hamster’s corpse is forever hidden away in a random corner somewhere. What starts as an impulsive college kid’s decision ends with a dead rodent lost to the horrors of dorm life. 

Not to mention, an appropriate standard of animal care can’t be guaranteed in dorm rooms. Even hamsters require a fair amount of socialization. Busy college students often don’t live a lifestyle that can accommodate this need. 

Sure, most people get two hamsters, but that ends up being an even bigger problem. As highlighted by the Humane Society of the United States, hamsters can be incredibly territorial and are known to eat one another if not introduced properly. This aspect of the pet also means that they require a certain amount of space that an already cramped dorm might not be able to accommodate.

The U.S. Humane Society also recommends that hamsters’ cages be cleaned once a week, and I cannot be the only one that doubts college students’ abilitiy are up to take on this level of care.

On top of that, depending on where the hamster is obtained, it may or may not be contributing to animal cruelty. It’s true that most hamsters that are sold in pet stores are bred in rodent mills. The website Hamster Welfare states that “the female hamsters will be bred to death” in large warehouses where the rodents are kept in small, cramped and dirty boxes. This stressful environment can, in turn, cause health problems for the hamsters, shortening their already brief lifespan.

For this reason, the Humane Society recommends adopting rather than shopping for a hamster.

All in all, dorm room pets can seem like a good idea, but it’s important for students to do proper research before committing to bringing an animal home. All pet owners should be held to the standard of care that the animal requires. With the right amount of knowledge, college students are absolutely capable of meeting this standard. The most important thing is to think it through.

Kat is a junior at Augustana University. She currently serves as the forum editor and Spanish language reporter.

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