Finding the purr-fect companion

College: a time of newfound independence and freedom. For many students, college is the first long period of time away from parents and life-long friends. With this new freedom comes liberation, but sometimes it also brings loneliness. So, what is a newly on-their-own student to do for company? A popular choice is to find a new best friend in the form of a pet. What are the best choices, and how does one get started?

The first step is for the student to take a look at their lifestyle. Does their living situation allow a pet? How much time can be devoted to the animal? How much money are they willing to spend? All of these factors and more come into play when deciding on an animal.

“Does the person live in a house? Do they exercise a lot and want a running companion? Or are they a couch potato who wants a dog that’s a couch potato? So the most popular breeds, I would say, really depends on the individual that’s looking for the animal and what their current living situation is like,” said Danielle Wright-Landry, director of development for the Humane Society of Tampa Bay.

There is an animal to fit everyone’s personality. If a student is busy, a cat may be better than a dog, according to Wright-Landry. “If you’re in class all the time, cats do better on their own and don’t require that you take them out to walk them.”

Another huge factor that many students forget about is money. The cost of purchasing the animal is only the beginning; food, upkeep and vet costs sometimes cost more than the pet itself. Many breeds cost hundreds, sometimes even thousands, of dollars if bought from a breeder or specialty store.

Also, many purebred dogs are more sickly than mixed breeds. A student can expect vet care to cost “a little over $1,000 a year for a dog whereas a cat was about $600 a year,” according to Wright-Landry. Pet owners should take their pet to the vet at least once a year for their annual shots, and older pets may need to go more frequently.

Students need to make sure they are buying a healthy animal, so veterinary papers upon purchase are very important. At the Humane Society, all dogs and cats have all their annual shots, including a rabies shot if they are older than four months and are spayed or neutered. Also, all cats are tested for feline leukemia and feline AIDS. If a student is buying from a pet store, they need to be sure to ask about the veterinary care the animal has been given. Pet stores are notorious for selling animals that are less healthy than their privately bred counterparts, all the while assuring new owners that the animals are in the best of health, so ask for documentation of all medical care.

So should a student go to the Humane Society, a breeder or a pet store? There are benefits for both. If a student is looking for a specific breed of cat or dog and cost is no option, a breeder would be best. However, if the student is not exactly sure what breed they want and doesn’t want to spend an arm and a leg, the Humane Society is a great option.

According to Wright-Landry, Tampa Bay has the worst animal overpopulation problem in the state of Florida. “In 2003, 43,000 animals were turned in to the Humane Society of Tampa Bay and Hillsborough County animal services … 88 percent were euthanized, so about 32,000 animals were euthanized. So we have a serious problem.” So not only are you gaining a furry friend, you are saving a life.

Before buying a pet, the student should really take a good look at their lifestyle and make sure they are ready for the responsibility of taking care of an animal.

“The reason why we have so many animals in our shelters is why so many animals are killed, or because people buy them or adopt them and then realize they don’t have time for them and then they come back to us. And it’s not fair for the animals,” said Wright-Landry.

It’s true what people say about a pet being like a first child. It’s an around-the-clock job that comes with huge responsibility. However, all the work definitely pays off. “It is the most rewarding thing you will ever do,” said Wright-Landry. You aren’t just gaining a friend, you are gaining a loyal companion for life.

For more information contact:
Humane Society of Tampa Bay
3607 N. Armenia Avenue
Tampa, FL