How to Manage a Pet in College When You Have Roommates

You don't have to choose between your pet and your roomie relationships.
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You don't have to choose between your pet and your roomie relationships.

So one of my roommates has decided to adopt a puppy, which I'm very excited about. Some of my other roommates, however, are more skeptical and worried about how things will go with the new addition. 

In order to get the other roommates to sign off on hosting her new Australian Shepherd, I've watched my roomie initiate several conversations over the past few weeks that got me thinking - what's the best way to have a dog in an apartment without upsetting and ruining your relationships with your roommates? 

The issues my roommates brought up are totally valid, and good points to think about if you're considering getting a dog. Here are some of the things to talk about before you adopt or bring your pet from home so there's no drama. 

Common Areas

You say the dog is going to live in your room. But it's not realistic to keep any pet completely cooped up in a small space, unless it's a fish. 

It's perfectly fine to let your dog roam about in the shared space, but know that if something goes wrong, it is your responsibility. In my apartment, if the dog throws up, chews anything, or sheds incessantly, only the owner is expected to clean it up. We've also agreed that it is her duty to clean or replace anything promptly.

Bathroom Situation

We live on the sixth floor, which makes taking a dog out quite inconvenient. However, our agreement is that if the dog needs to go then it is the owner's job to recognize this and take it out, no matter the time of day or what else she is doing. The roommates who don't own the dog aren't responsible for this. 

If you have a cat and there's a litter box, I would be cognizant of where you place the litter box. Some people may find the odor or look of it offensive. If you can keep it in your room or the bathroom area, that would be the best choice.

Travel Situation

Dog riding in a car

One of the biggest concerns in my apartment was "when you leave for the weekend, does the dog leave??" If you plan on going out of town, or even being gone for the night, the issue of who cares for your pet can be a huge hassle. 

My roommate last year had a cat and when she was out for a weekend I never knew if I needed to feed it or if someone else in the apartment was taking care of her. As a result, I couldn't interpret her meowing as hunger or just missing her mom. (I've never had a pet myself.) It was a less than ideal situation.

If your roommates are on board with the dog, cat, guinea pig, etc. then ask way ahead of time if they wouldn't mind watching it while you're out. If they would prefer you shoulder all the responsibility, then just know that you'll need to find another friend or sitter to take care of your pet when you're gone (or bring your pet with you). Troubling your roommates at the last minute is not courteous, so make sure you avoid upsetting them by creating a backup plan for when you won't be home.

How do you deal with a pet in college?

Have you lived with pets in an apartment? If they were yours, how did you start the conversation with your roommates? If you weren't sold on having pets, how did your roommate convince you?