Should I bring My Cat to College?

Increasing numbers of universities are allowing students to bring pets to school with them. But should those policies include cats? Christine R. writes:

My daughter, Mazy, is going off to college for the first time and she wants to bring her tom cat, Specks, with her. I don’t think it’s a very good idea. We agreed to ask you and to go by whatever you say. Should Specks go off with Mazy to get educated? :)

Christine and Mazy, every situation is different, as is every cat, but generally speaking, we're against temporarily transplanting a cat unless it's absolutely necessary. We can hear Mazy whining already, so allow us to outline our reasoning.

Cats are very territory-centric. They are more comforted by their own territory with their own scents than they are even by those of us who feed, pamper and adore them. Relocating a cat isn't a trivial change for them. In fact, it can be quite distressing. It can take a cat a very long time to adjust to such a move. That's a big deal because it will happen again and again at each and every break from school. We see no need to put a cat through all of that stress if you don't have to.

Cats also prefer being on a regular schedule. What happens when Mazy goes on a rafting trip one weekend, and a football trip the next and back home the next. What about when you audition for a big play or end up in the computer lab every night before a big project is due? Who will care for Specks during those times, and will he be well cared for? No offense, Mazy, but college students aren't always the most reliable people. They have a lot on their minds. A cat needs to be a priority, not an afterthought.

There are also some unique dangers associated with campus life. We won't be too graphic, but where there are drunken frat boys, there are potential dangers to everyone! Specks may not have as much fun being there for you as you think he will.

One thing you should definitely do is to leave things with your scent on them at home whenever you visit. A pair of sweatpants or an old t-shirt left in one of Specks' prime sleeping spots will comfort him in your absence. Yes, he'll miss you when you're gone, but he'll still be happier at home. And he'll thoroughly enjoy your visits, even if he sometimes pretends not to. That's just how cats are. They don't like change, but Specks will always be your special friend.

Mazy, going off to college is about growing up, and a big part of growing up is learning to put others needs before your own sometimes. Think about what's best for Specks and we think you'll conclude, as we have, that he'll be better off at home with your mom. We wish you all the best in your college career!