Many students around campus have little critters and snuggle buddies to be their friends while in college. Pets are a good source of comfort and teach responsibility to students. Whether it is a spontaneously-bought beta fish from Alton’s PetCo, or a well-researched bunny from a dream wishlist, pets inspire the feelings of love and pride.
For senior Sierra Sprague, the perfect college pet is a rabbit named Ollie. She said, “One day, randomly, I really wanted a pet in my room, and then thought, ‘a bunny would be really fun to have.’ I started researching, and I couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t think of anything [else], because I really wanted a bunny. I looked up bunny blogs online and was all in.”
“I went to the Rabbit House Society in Chesterfield, Missouri and told them I wanted to get a bunny…. It was the longest process. I had to go through a three-hour orientation to learn how to take care of a bunny,” she added.
Ollie is a small white rabbit who spends her days doing high kicks in her pin and nibbling away on hay. Although she is about as much work, if not more, than a small cat, she brings a lot of joy to those who visit her.
Sophomore Maddi Demaree, also a bunny lover, owns a small Netherland Dwarf named Daxton. She said, “Last year, when I got to college, I wanted to have a pet here. I did tons of research and it seemed like rabbits were the best option because rabbits are a lot like cats—[they] are litter trained and they still bond with you.”
Daxton, unlike Ollie, came from a family-owned business. “I ended up finding [Daxton] at this little family farm who had a few rabbits and [I] went out there and bought him,” said Demaree.
For some, scales appeal more than fur. Freshman Hannah Grimmer owns a small corn snake named Leonardo, or Leo for short. She said, “He is a little baby, about five months old, and he came from PetCo. Ever since I was five, one of my best friends had a corn snake and I have wanted one ever since then.” Her parents would never let her own a reptile. “[So] when I came to college, I was excited because I could finally get a reptile,” she added.
Junior Elizabeth Hagenlocher owns a young crested gecko named Cressida. “I have had her for little over a year now. I have always really liked lizards and reptiles in general […] My friend in St. Louis breeds them and so it was a great opportunity,” she said.
While some students own small pets that can live in cages, many have expressed the desire to have larger animals like cats and dogs. However, Principia policy does not allow this. Home Life Manager Reid Charlston explained why Principia does not allow “un-caged” animals in dorms. “[An] important reason for students not having dogs and cats is the wear and tear animals put on a living space. These pets can urinate on carpets and furniture, cats shed hair, dogs can chew on things, [and] both cats and dogs can scratch things,” he said.
“If you combine all these things on student furnishings that we are trying to make last as long as possible, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to say yes to students having dogs and cats. Another reason is that there are many students on campus who do not like dogs and cats for one reason or another,” he added.
There are other issues with pets as well. Charlston said, “Back when I was an RA, a guy caught a wild snake and tried to bring it back to his room. It got out into the house and it wasn’t seen again. I had a student leave his tarantula in his closet in its cage over winter break. I also know that we have had students drop certain pets at the zoology lab in the Science Center over breaks and expect that the person who takes care of the biology department’s animals would take care of their pet too. I believe the biology department has had to say that they will not care for these pets—which is a hard decision for them to make, but they can’t be running a zoo.”
Although students are not allowed to own cats and dogs while living in the dorms, Charlston explained that RCs are allowed to have a large animal because “the RC apartments are much bigger than a single student room, which makes for a much better space for a pet to live in.” Another reason is RCs live more permanently in their apartments: “RCs don’t change rooms each semester like the students, so it makes sense that they could have certain amenities that aren’t available to students,” he said.
He continued, “Many families already have a pet when they are applying to be an RC, and because we want to attract the best candidates possible, we don’t want to lose potential good candidates because they aren’t willing to part with their pets.”
Although it can be frustrating for students to not have the fuzzy friends they are used to at home while tackling stressful and long schedules, Principia does allow small caged pets, and for many that is enough.