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Source: Dr. Susan Nelson, 785-532-5690, snelson@vet.k-state.edu
http://www.k-state.edu/media/mediaguide/bios/nelsonbio.html
Photo available. Contact media@k-state.edu or 785-532-6415.
News release prepared by: Beth Bohn, 785-532-6415, bbohn@k-state.edu

Monday, Aug. 3, 2009

BACK TO SCHOOL: K-STATE VETERINARIAN SAYS PETS MAY NOT ALWAYS MAKE BEST ROOMMATES FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS

MANHATTAN -- College students who would like a four-footed roommate -- or even one that slithers, flies or swims -- should consider their schedule, budget, lifestyle and living accommodations before getting a pet, recommends a Kansas State University veterinarian.

"Research, research, research. Know the approximate cost of care and special needs before you purchase a pet," said Dr. Susan Nelson of K-State's Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. "You also need to make sure pets are OK with your housing situation, and if you have roommates, will they be OK with you having a pet. Finding out beforehand if any of your roommates have allergies to certain animals is important, too."

How much space you have for a pet is a key factor in whether to get one and what kind, Nelson said.

"If you get a big dog, it will most likely require a lot of exercise. This is even more necessary if you have a small place or no yard, so you will need to have time set aside to go out and exercise the dog adequately every day," she said. "Small dogs also need exercise and will need to go out to relieve themselves, too, unless they are paper-trained."

While pets can be great companions, Nelson said they might not be budget-friendly, particularly for college students.

"Pet food can add up, especially for a big dog," she said. "There also are costs for vet care, the extra deposit you may have to pay your landlord for having a pet, city licensing fees for dogs and cats, supplies and grooming."

The noise level of the pet needs to be considered, even if the pet is a bird or a rodent like a hamster.

"Some birds can be quite loud; many rodents are nocturnal and make more noise at night, which could disrupt your sleep or your roommate's; and some dogs will bark when their owner leaves them, which can lead to problems with your neighbors," Nelson said.

A pet also must be considered in a college student's holiday break and summer plans, Nelson said.

"Where will the pet go or who will take care of it over your breaks if you can't take the pet with you are factors to consider. If you go home, can your family accommodate the pet? Can you afford kenneling? And, if you have an exotic pet, does it have special needs that may make temporary care hard to find or expensive?" she said.

Some pets may be more suitable to college life than others, Nelson said, although any pet may have some drawbacks, depending on one's schedule and lifestyle. Some pets college students might consider include:

* Fish;

* Small birds, although Nelson recommends avoiding conures -- small- to medium-size parrots -- as they can be noisier than other birds;

* Small reptiles -- but know their special needs before buying, Nelson said;

* Gerbils, hamsters and guinea pigs, although some may be nocturnal noisemakers;

* And ferrets, which Nelson said will require a little more upkeep than fish, etc., and have distinctive odor to which some people may object.

"Above all else, be a responsible pet owner," she said. "Make sure you can take your pet with you after the school year is over. There are too many pets that are abandoned by their college owners at the end of the year. This is irresponsible and unnecessary."