Don’t Forget to Bring your Cat — to College?

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College students who live in campus housing today enjoy some of the most well-equipped dorm rooms imaginable. An entire industry has emerged that caters to providing a variety of functional and attractive furniture, storage devices and decorations that a college student might need to replicate the comforts of home. What more could a college student want?

A few colleges have taken the concept of ‘the comforts of home’ a step further – they allow students to bring small, domestic live-in pets to live with them at school. That’s right — think cats, dogs, guinea pigs, ferrets, rabbits, and even ducks. Many colleges across the country have developed policies in the past that have allowed small animals such as mice, gerbils, birds, fish and reptiles (in cages or aquariums) with good outcomes. Larger pets, especially cats, represent a new and growing trend.

These forward-thinking schools enable students to enjoy the advantages of having their pets with them in their campus settings, while still maintaining the safety of their overall student populations.

To Each its Own
Some schools have dedicated entire dorms (or wings within dorms) to students with pets, while others have also extended pet-owning agreements to Greek fraternity and sorority house members. Washington & Jefferson University maintains an entire dorm called “Pet House” for pet-owning students, while Stetson University offers a designated dog park just outside Nemee Hall, where 35 students keep pets.

The word ‘pet’ to some might bring to mind images of noisy and smelly animals, capable of biting, scratching or causing untold damage to personal property. Other issues include students that are allergic to certain pets, or the possibility that pets will be neglected or abandoned once the novelty of their presence has worn off. (Of course, guide dogs and other service animals are permitted at virtually all colleges.)

In spite of these concerns, college administrators have taken note of some amazing benefits. Studies show that student pet owners tend to be happier, healthier, more relaxed and more responsible. Having a pet can be a great stress reliever for homesickness, studying for exams, or adjusting to college life in general.

Pet Friendly ‘Hall of Fame’ Colleges
Although each of these schools has a slightly different take on where and how students keep pets, they all have one thing in common – specific requirements and expectations for their student body. Typically, there are rules and registration contracts regarding size, weight, health, vaccinations and behavior. Most colleges require pets to be spayed or neutered and have up-to-date vaccinations. Some schools maintain a voting system to get the buy-in of other residents before pets are allowed. And, pets aren’t allowed to be left alone during breaks at any college campus.

A pet-friendly college can provide a competitive appeal to some students. College Admissions representatives from schools that allow pets say that they get more and more inquires at college fairs from those interested in their school after hearing of their pet acceptance policy. In those situations, it’s a definite advantage to draw prospective students.

Here’s a sampling of some of the colleges that allow and encourage students to have pets:

  • California Institute of Technology – Known as one of the most cat-friendly campuses, they maintain a Housing Cat Policy and also run the Caltech Animal Team (CAT) program for caring for abandoned and feral cats. Similar programs have been adopted at Stanford, Cal Poly and the University of Texas at Austin.
  • Eckerd College – Students register their pets with the student-run Pet Council before being permitted in designated residence halls. They consulted with Stephens College before putting their pet policies in place.
  • UCLA – While cats and other pets are allowed if they have been spayed or neutered, every resident on the dorm floor must also give their approval before a pet can move in.
  • LeHigh University – In addition to allowing pets in dorms, this school also allows one cat or dog within each of its sorority and fraternity houses on campus. Pets must be accompanied by a student at all times when in common areas.
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology – MIT is known as being an extremely cat-friendly school. Cats are approved by each dorm’s Pet Chair before they can move in.
  • Principia College – They offer a wide range of housing options for students with pets. They have also established an Animal Relations Committee to promote a safe and agreeable campus climate for students and pets.
  • State University of New York at Canton – SUNY maintains a residence wing to foster its pet friendly policies for caged pets but they do not permit dogs, birds or reptiles.
  • Stephens College – This women’s college in Missouri worked with a local pet organization to develop a pet policy for their school. Students are required to live on campus for all four years of school, so having your cat can be especially comforting. The school also allows horses and has a stable to house them.
  • University of Idaho at Moscow – Only cats, birds and fish are allowed at this college and students with pets must submit proof of liability insurance for a minimum coverage amount of $50,000.
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Common household pets and fish tanks are allowed at this university. Students may also keep up to two pets per on-campus apartment.
  • Vassar College – Vassar has maintained a pet friendly policy since 1971. They operate a voting system and require that at least 75% of the residents in a dorm vote in favor of allowing pets before the dorm can officially become a ‘pet dorm.’
  • Washington & Jefferson College – At this college in Pennsylvania, the rule is that a pet must have been owned by a student’s family for a minimum of one year before being registered. Their pet policy also includes some breed restrictions.
  • Case Western Reserve University – Small, caged animals are allowed here and Greek fraternities and sororities may apply to have a house ‘mascot,’ one cat or dog per Greek house.
  • Harvey Mudd College –Your cat or other approved pet is welcomed here as long as your roommate or suitemates approve.

Back-to-school time doesn’t mean that pets have to stay behind at home. If you can’t bear the thought of leaving your cat at home, check out the wide range of pet-friendly colleges that will welcome your furry companion and make college life a little bit easier!

Pet acceptance policies vary by school and can change at any time. Check with individual colleges for their current regulations.
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