Heading off to a college where you don’t know anyone can be a little intimidating, but not if you bring a pet with you. Studies show that companion animals can help support students as they transition from high school to college, and they can even kick those feelings of loneliness or stress to the curb. The thing is, not all animals are a good fit for a busy student or the dorm room lifestyle. The 10 best pets for college students are small, low maintenance, and quiet but will still provide you with plenty of love.
Are you a Minecraft fan? You can have your very own pet axolotl in the comfort of your dorm room. These aquatic critters have a lot of the same care requirements as fish, because they need to be fully submerged in the water in order to survive. Unfortunately, they’re not the type of pet you can bring out and play with, but they’re incredibly entertaining to watch. We guarantee your entire floor will want to stop in to meet your cool pet.
If you are looking for a critter you can cuddle with, consider a rat. Rats are smart, affectionate, and clean pets that form really close bonds with their owners. Because they’re so social, they do need a lot of attention, so it’s a good idea to get a pair. That way, they’ll always have someone to keep them company, even when you’re in class.
Most college campuses allow pet fish in their dorms, so getting a betta is a good bet. Even though they’re often shown in bowls, these fish need at least a 5-gallon tank in order to be happy. And did you know bettas can actually recognize their owners? So cool!
If reptiles are more your thing, you might be interested in a corn snake. Some dorm pet policies have size restrictions on snakes. Fortunately, corn snakes are some of the smallest friendly snakes, although they can still reach three to five feet long.
The great thing about these pets is that they only need to be fed every two weeks. The not-so-great thing: you’ll need to feed them mice. If you’re squeamish or don’t have a place in your dorm to keep their food frozen, the corn snake isn’t for you.
Hamsters are great pets for college students because they’re tiny and very low maintenance. Cuddling with these little guys is actually encouraged, since frequent handling keeps them tame. Just keep in mind that these little critters are crepuscular, which means they’re most active at dusk and dawn. If you’re a light sleeper, they could wake you up super early.
Fish might not seem like fun pets, but they have loads of benefits. They’re great if you or your roommate has allergies to pet dander, watching them can melt away your stress, and studies show they can even help you sleep. Freshwater fish are way easier to keep than saltwater, but there are still plenty of gorgeous starter fish you can get.
Small lizards are ideal for owners living in small spaces, like a dorm room or apartment. We love leopard geckos because they’re friendly and easy to care for. Plus, they only need to be fed a few times a week, which means you can leave them alone for a long weekend if necessary, and they’ll be OK.
Western Hognose Snake
Can you even with that little turned-up nose? The Western hognose snake is equal parts adorable and docile, which is a great combo for a snake. Like the corn snake, they stay really small, at one to two feet long. These snakes can be shy and might not want to be held too often.
Most birds, like parrots, are way too loud and high maintenance for the dorm, but canaries are the exception. Canaries like to live alone and don’t like being handled. Aside from daily cleanings and feedings, you won’t need to go into their cage much. But they will reward you with beautiful chirps and songs! Which can be a great thing unless you need it to be completely silent when you study.
Cats need more attention than most small pets, but they’re still a great choice for college students. Have to spend all morning in the lab? Your cat won’t mind. Need to study for your midterm? Your kitty will gladly sit on your lap and make sure you don’t go anywhere. Just make sure you have the room for a litter box, cat tree, perches, and other enrichment toys before you go all in on getting a cat.
Which Colleges Allow Pets?
Only about 4 percent of colleges allow pets on campus, so if you’re in the middle of the application process and already know you’ll want to get some kind of critter, it’s helpful to see which colleges are the most pet-friendly. These 10 schools allow pets in all or select on-campus residences. Some will even let students foster pets in their dorms (oh hey, Stephens College!).
- Washington & Jefferson College (Washington, PA)
- Eckerd College (St. Petersburg, FL)
- Stephens College (Columbia, MO)
- Lyon College (Batesville, AR)
- University of New Mexico (Albuquerque, NM)
- Lees-McRae College (Banner Elk, NC)
- Stetson University (DeLand, FL)
- Johnson & Wales University (Providence, RI)
- University of Northern Colorado (Greely, Colorado)
- Harvard University (Cambridge, MA)
Review Your School’s Pet Policy First
It would be such a bummer to arrive at school and discover that you can’t keep your special little pet with you in your dorm. Most schools have their pet policies available online. The best thing you can do for yourself and your pet is to plan ahead so there are no surprises.