Should You Bring Your Pet to College?

You can bring your pet to college — but before packing the kibble, learn more about the pros and cons of pets on campus and the most pet-friendly colleges.

portrait of Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.
by Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.

Updated June 9, 2022

Edited by Tyler Epps
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Should You Bring Your Pet to College?
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Three out of four first-year college students report pet separation anxiety, according to a 2021 report from Washington State University. And spending as little as 10 minutes with a companion pet can lower stress levels.

Is there a solution for all the pet-lovers on campus? Can you bring a pet to college? Fortunately, some schools allow or even encourage pet ownership. But before bringing Fido to campus, make sure you understand the pet policies.

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Ready to start your journey?

Can You Bring a Pet to College?

Yes, you can bring a pet to college — but be aware that you'll face certain restrictions. Most dorms do not allow many common pets like cats and dogs. And many off-campus rentals also restrict the kind of pets renters can own.

Can You Have a Pet in a College Dorm?

College students living in dorms often want pets. But can you bring a pet to your dorm? It depends on the pet and the school. At most dorms, your pet options are limited to animals like fish. Many dorms also allow small caged animals like hamsters.

Make sure to carefully review the pet policies before you show up on campus. And keep in mind that restrictions on pets do not apply to service animals.

Can You Have a Pet in an Apartment?

If you're living off campus, you've got more options when it comes to pet ownership. Many apartments allow cats and dogs, though they often limit the number or size of your pets. You might be allowed to own a dog that weighs less than 50 pounds, for example, or no more than two cats.

Most apartments also allow other pets, like caged animals. Renters may need to pay a pet deposit if they want to have pets in their apartment.

The Pros and Cons of Having a Pet in College

Pets provide companionship and comfort — but they also come with responsibilities. Here are the pros and cons of having a pet in college.

Pro: Pets Relieve Stress

Pets are great for your mental health. The American Heart Association reports that pets decrease stress and increase productivity. Some pets are also great for getting exercise and outside time.

The mental health benefits of pets can be particularly important for college students. According to a 2022 study that surveyed over 350,000 college students, more than 60% of students experience mental health issues. Pets can help combat those struggles.

Con: Pets Can Be Expensive

The cost of pet ownership can quickly add up. According to the ASPCA, dog owners should budget around $1,400 per year in costs, while cat owners pay around $1,150. That includes food, vet visits, and medication.

Initial costs when you adopt a pet can also top $1,000. Those costs include spaying or neutering your pet, buying supplies, and getting your pet vaccinated.

Pro: Companionship

Pets provide companionship, which can make a big difference if you're leaving home for the first time. The College of Veterinary Medicine at Michigan State University reports that pet companions can boost your mood and make you feel more accepted.

Con: Limits on Type of Pet

You've always dreamed of owning a dog, but the dorms will only let you have a fish. If you have your heart set on a certain type of pet, you might have to wait until after college.

Living on campus often means limits on what pets you can own. Rather than settling for a species you don't want, you can consider moving off campus or researching pet-friendly colleges.

How to Find Pet-Friendly Colleges

Some colleges are more welcoming to pets than others. How can you find pet-friendly colleges? Start by researching the pet policies at different schools. The housing or residence life office typically posts pet policies on their website.

Understand that pet policies vary a great deal. While most colleges, unfortunately, do not allow cats and dogs in the dorms, many permit fish and small caged animals. If you have a particular pet in mind, reach out to schools to ask about housing options.

The Most Pet-Friendly Colleges

To get pet-lovers started, we've put together a list of seven pet-friendly colleges, including large public institutions, small liberal arts colleges, and mid-sized private schools.

Eckerd College

A liberal arts college in St. Petersburg, Florida, Eckerd has allowed pets on campus since 1973. First-year students can bring small pets to any dorm, while larger pets like dogs and cats are allowed for second-semester students living in large pet housing dorms.

Cats must be at least six months old and dogs need to be at least one year old. Eckerd limits on-campus pets to a maximum weight of 40 pounds.

At Eckerd, pets even participate in a graduation ceremony and receive a "diploma" when you graduate.

Lees-McRae College

Located in Banner Elk, North Carolina, Lees-McRae welcomes cats, dogs, and fish to approved campus housing. At the private, Presbyterian college, students in three dorms, college-owned apartments and houses, and other student housing sites can own pets.

The college restricts certain dog breeds and limits pets to a maximum weight of 40 pounds.

MIT

Known for its top-notch academic reputation, MIT also allows pets in two of its residence halls in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Students living in East Campus or Random Hall can own cats.

Outside of those facilities, however, college students can only own fish in tanks that hold 20 gallons or less. Students can also apply to keep an emotional support animal in the dorms.

Reed College

A liberal arts college in Portland, Oregon, Reed allows pets in on-campus housing. Students in the dorms can bring a small caged animal or fish. On-campus apartments allow cats and dogs in addition to caged pets and fish.

Reed limits pets to one cat or dog per apartment, with a policy that cats and dogs must be at least six months old and up-to-date on vaccinations.

Stephens College

A women's college in Columbia, Missouri, Stephens calls itself "Pet Central." That's because Stephens allows cats, dogs, rabbits, mice, lizards, birds, fish, and more. The only prohibited pets include certain dog breeds, snakes, and spiders.

Stephens also offers a unique foster program where students care for foster pets while living on campus. The college even provides scholarships for participating in the foster pets program.

Stetson University

A private university in central Florida, Stetson is one of the most pet-friendly colleges. Students can live in animal-friendly housing on campus, which allows cats, dogs, fish, and small caged animals. Cats and dogs must be at least one year old, and Stetson restricts dogs to under 50 pounds in weight.

Students can also apply to have an emotional support animal or a service dog in training while living on campus.

University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

The flagship campus of Illinois' public university system, U of I allows pets in its Ashton Woods residential facility. The university allows up to two pets, including cats and dogs. Residents can also have fish tanks of up to 50 gallons.

U of I specifically bans farm pets, lab pets, and exotic animals. Approved pets must be under 50 pounds.

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