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Can I bring an emotional support cat to college?

Updated: Nov 19, 2023

It is a big decision as to whether you should bring a cat to college. It affects both you and your cat’s well being and those around you. Consider:

1. Legality and University Policies: Review the university's policies and guidelines regarding ESAs (e.g., having an ESA letter from a clinician that you have an ongoing relationship with), as each institution has specific requirements and restrictions. It's crucial to comply with any necessary documentation, approvals, or registration processes.

2. Housing and Roommate Considerations: Discuss your plan with your roommate(s) to ensure they are comfortable living with a cat. Consider their allergies, fears, or any potential conflicts that may arise. Ensure that they will be careful about opening and closing doors so that the cat does not escape. Open communication and mutual agreement are essential for a positive living environment.

3. Personal Responsibility and Time Commitment: Owning a cat comes with responsibilities. Consider whether you have the time, resources, and commitment to properly care for and meet the needs of the cat while also managing your academic workload and social life. For example, you might want to go away for the weekend or go on a college ski trip. Someone will need to care for your cat. Cats require regular feeding, exercise, grooming, and veterinary care.

4. Financial Considerations: Consider the financial implications of owning an ESA. Cats come with expenses such as food, veterinary care, grooming, and supplies. Ensure that you have the financial means to provide for your cat’s needs.

5. Space and Safety: Assess the size of your dorm room and whether it provides enough space for a cat to move around comfortably. For example, you will need to put the litter box and water on the opposite sides of the room. Cats need to climb and have access to vertical space. You will need scratching posts. Ensure that the environment is safe for a cat, with no hazards or potential escape routes. Keep in mind that cats can damage furniture or personal belongings, and preventing those issues requires some attention.

6. Stress and Adjustment: Moving to a new environment can be stressful for cats. Consider how your cat may react to the dormitory setting, potential noise (e.g., from loud music), and increased human activity. Cats prefer routine, predictability and familiarity. However, college is often a time for all-night study sessions and parties, meeting new people, and going back and forth between home/college during vacations.

7. Long Term Commitment. Consider what role the cat will play after you graduate and move into a different phase of life. Whether it’s graduate school, moving abroad, or entering a full-time career, this cat is a responsibility and should follow the adopter along the way. A cat can sometimes make moving a challenge and may be a hindrance on future goals.


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