WSU Experts Warn Students That Pets Are a Big Commitment

PULLMAN, Wash. — Animal behavior experts at Washington State University’s College of
Veterinary Medicine advise college students and other busy people to think twice before
investing in a pet.
“There is no such thing as a free cat or dog,” said François Martin, director of the
People-Pet Partnership (PPP) at WSU. “Pets are expensive, and they deserve proper veterinary
care, good quality food, and accessories like leashes or litter boxes. You, as the owner, have to
do the math and make sure that owning a pet won’t jeopardize your personal expenses.”
In addition to the cost of providing for an animal, an extensive time commitment is involved.
A student with six classes per day, followed by dinner and three hours in the library, may not be
the ideal pet owner. Pets need attention, affection and exercise.
According to Martin, “You have to consider what kind of life your pet will have with you —
is it fair to the animal? Often the answer is no.”
In some cases, a student will care for a pet from the beginning of fall semester through the
end of spring semester, but can’t care for it during the summer. “If you know that in eight months
you will have to find a new home for your pet, don’t get one — buy a plant instead,” said Martin.
“If you own a dog,” Martin explained, “plan to care for it for the next nine years on average.
Cats can live nearly twice that long. And if you think that a parrot might be an interesting
addition to your apartment, think again. A macaw parrot can live up to 75 years.”
“One of the worst things to do when you can no longer care for your pet is to assume that
it’s an animal, therefore it can take care of itself once you leave,” said Martin. “Many owners who
abandon pets also fail to spay or neuter their animals, so the six cats deserted at the beginning of
the summer may reproduce into 25 by the fall.” This leads to millions of unwanted or abandoned
pets being put to death each year.
So how can a student animal-lover that doesn’t have the resources to care a pet at this point
in their life still be involved with animals?
“If you don’t want pet care responsibilities of your own, but would like to spend time with
and care for animals, volunteerism is the best option. There are many ways to enjoy and work
with animals,” said Martin. “You can volunteer at a veterinary hospital, the PPP or the Humane