Owning a Pet in Medical School

Maybe you still have “In the arms of an angel….” stuck in your head from those tear-envoking Sarah McLachlan ASPCA ads you saw years ago that made you want to adopt ALL of the animals. Maybe you live alone and want someone to talk to so you can convince yourself you aren’t going crazy after a bajillion hours of studying. Or maybe you’re just a totally normal person who wants to own a pet…that’s cool, too.  Whether or not you’re a medical student like me,  these tips and considerations will be helpful for you as you embark on the journey to becoming a parent to a fur baby!

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Pets make great cuddle buddies 🙂

Is having a pet doable while you are in school? Yes! There are a lot of factors to consider, but it is definitely doable, and, in my opinion, absolutely worth it if owning a pet is something you truly want.

What are some things I need to know before I even consider owning a pet? You first need to see if it is even possible for you to own a pet where you live. Ask your apartment manager or landlord if the place is pet-friendly.  If they say yes, then awesome! Now you want to ask how much are pet fees. These will vary from place to place, but I had to pay a one-time pet fee as well as an additional deposit in case of damages done by my pet.

You also need to know if you are able to afford a pet. Examine your budget and see if you can handle the extra expenses of owning a pet. The first year of owning a pet is the most expensive, as you will most likely have to pay an adoption fee, pay pet fees to wherever you are living, pay for an initial vet visit to get necessary vaccinations, and buy all of the supplies necessary for taking great care of your new fur child.  When I was looking up the cost of owning a pet, I discovered that the average cost of owning a cat during the first year is $1,000 and the average cost of owning a dog during the first year is $1,200.  It is about $500 on average for each year after that. 

Remember, your pet is going to be with you for the next several years of your life. This is a long-term commitment you need to make sure you are ready for. You will need to always consider whether or not the next place you move to will be pet-friendly, and who can watch your pet when you are away.

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One thing to consider about cats: they will want to sleep on whatever you need to work on….

Okay! I decided I can own a pet, and I definitely want to. What else do I need to consider? You need to think about what kind of pet will be most suitable for you and your lifestyle. I chose a cat because I live by myself and I knew I was going to be away from my apartment for long stretches of time for classes and studying at school.  I wanted a pet that would be fine with hanging out by itself during the day. A dog may be possible for you if you live close to campus and are able to come home and walk/play with them, and if you have an appropriate amount of space for them.  If you have a roommate and they are okay with you having a pet, it will make both you and your new animal happy to have someone else to watch after them, too!

You also need to think about if you want to buy your pet from a breeder or adopt. My personal stance is “adopt don’t shop”, but there are pros and cons to both that you should consider for yourself and the type of pet you want to have.

When is the best time for me to get a pet? If this is something you know you want to do in medical school and you haven’t started school yet, I would say the best time to get a new pet is any time before your first year, especially if you are getting a puppy or kitten. This will give you time to train them, and for you to adjust to life with a pet. In most situations, the desire to have a pet will just come, and my cliché advice is to get one when you feel it is time. I adopted a kitten in the middle of my first semester of medical school. Even though I had many nights of difficulty sleeping and even had second thoughts about my kitten, I am glad I followed through with my commitment to being a pet owner and have been a happy cat mom ever since!

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