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Special Issues » College Student Guide 2011

Pet Ownership Tips for Students

What To Do with Your Nyan Cat

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Marley and Me came on TV the other night, and I couldn't help watching it for the thousandth time. Although I always end up in tears, the film makes me want a pet so badly that I can hardly stand it — dog or cat, I don't care. Having something warm and furry that loves you unconditionally to come home to is pretty nice, especially when you're living in a brand-new town and haven't made too many friends yet.

If you're looking to adopt a pet this year, I am incredibly jealous. But before you rush off to pick up a furry friend, you need to think about a few things first.

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1. Does your new home allow pets?

If you're in a dorm, then pets (except for fish) are not allowed, and fish aquariums cannot exceed 10 gallons. If you're in an apartment or a house, check your lease or with your landlord to see if it's OK. You may have to pay a pet fee depending on the size and type of pet you get.

2. Are you old enough to adopt a pet?

Some places have an age limit for adoption. Sometimes it's 18, sometimes it's 21. Check with the shelter or pet adoption center before heading over there.

3. Are your roommates OK with it?

Ask them first before getting a pet. It's always good to make sure that they're fine with it and, more importantly, that no one is allergic. Otherwise that could make for a rough year for everyone.

4. Do you have time to take care of an animal?

Examine your schedule before getting a pet, because remember, living creatures require a lot of care. You shouldn't get one if you're a really busy person with lots of time commitments or if you're someone who likes to go away on the weekends. If you don't have time for a dog, which needs much more attention and can't be left alone for too long, consider a cat or other animal that is more independent.

5. Do you have enough money to support having a pet?

Animals require not only food and treats, but veterinarian visits, shots, and medication. Take a look at your budget before pulling the trigger. If you can't afford a pet but still really want to be around furry creatures, try being a foster parent, where you keep an animal for just a couple of months. You can even volunteer at one of Charleston's animal shelters.

OK. So you're able to answer "yes" to all or most of the above questions. Now what?

1. Look at local shelters and pet adoption days for animals that need homes. These places often run specials. It's a great way to find loving animals and save the life of an animal in need, and it's much cheaper than getting one from a breeder.

2. Check with the City of Charleston about registering your pet. Depending on where you live, you may need to get a license for your animal.

3. If you get your pet from a local shelter, then it has probably already been spayed or neutered. If not, make sure to get that done ASAP.

4. Set them up with a good veterinarian from the area so they can get all the care they need.

5. Make sure you have all the proper supplies — leashes, beds, poop bags for dogs, litter boxes for cats, toys, etc.

6. Ensure good nutrition by feeding your pet the right amount and kind of food and by limiting the amount of treats they get.

7. Give them plenty of love!

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