17 Low Maintenance Pets For College Students

Looking for the best pets for college students? Here are 17 furry friends that you can bring with you to college.

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pets for college students
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The transition from high school to college involves plenty of psychological, physical, and emotional adjustments.

With all of these changes, it’s easy to see why a college student may want an animal companion to help ease that transition. Pets have been proven to help mitigate symptoms of anxiety and depression.

However, pets are a responsibility that should not be taken lightly. They require lots of time, space, and money – all of which most college students are lacking.

Luckily, some pets are more low-maintenance than others. If you’re wondering which pets are good for college students, read on!

In this article, we’ll go over 17 of the best pets for college students. We’ve taken into consideration budget, level of care required, and the amount of space needed for each pet.

Some of the best pets for college students include:

  • Goldfish
  • Gerbils
  • Turtles
  • Chinchillas
  • Geckos
  • Parakeets
  • Cats

And more!

Should College Students Have Pets?

Surveys dating as far back as 2008 show that college students with pets were better at navigating stressful situations, felt less lonely and depressed, and were more likely to be active.

In the years since, research has continued to show that pets (usually dogs) improve the mood of their owners.

However, there are a few other factors to consider when thinking about whether college students should have pets.

College students should only have pets if they are able to meet their needs physically, financially, and emotionally. They also need to be aware of their living situations throughout college, as some dorms and apartments don’t allow pets.

College students aren’t typically known for having lots of cash on hand. Students that don’t have the funds to feed their pet or provide other basics (like cat litter, a bed, etc) probably shouldn’t have a pet in college.

Not sure if you can handle a pet? A plant may be better for you. Here are the best pets for college dorm rooms.

Similarly, if anyone in your living space is allergic or uncomfortable living with an animal, having a pet in college isn’t the best option.

Can You Have Pets In Dorm Rooms?

Depending on the college, you can have pets in your dorm room. In recent years, the most pet-friendly colleges included the University of Washington, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Duke University, and California Institute of Technology.

According to one 2018 analysis, only 4% of colleges allow pets like cats and dogs. That’s still a few dozen colleges.

Service animals are a different story. The ADA Act on service animals ensures that qualified service animals can accompany the student anywhere on campus.

Aside from service animals, there are a limited number of colleges that will allow regular pets in the dorms as well.

The Best Pets For College Students

1. Goldfish

Goldfish are definitely the most affordable pet to have in college. For only $0.18, you can buy a feeder goldfish at your local pet store. For a very basic tank and food, you can spend as little as $25.

As far as equipment goes, you’ll need:

  • A fish tank (the size will depend on how big your room is)
  • Gravel and other aquatic decor
  • Somewhere to place your fish tank (where it won’t get knocked over)
  • Fish food

For maintenance, it is important to feed your goldfish two to three times a day, especially when they’re young. As they get older, you can afford to feed them just once per day.

All around, this isn’t a bad deal! They don’t require any walks, and their tank only occasionally needs to be cleaned.

If you’re looking for a pet that’ll last you through college, no worries. A goldfish lives ten to fifteen years on average.

2. Parakeet (Budgie)

parakeet pet for college students

If you’re looking for a more nontraditional pet to keep in your college dorm, a parakeet is the way to go. These beautiful birds can be as cheap as $25 at your local pet store.

Parakeets need a bit more space than some other animals on this list. Their cages are a bit larger than a fish tank or small rodent enclosure.

On Amazon, parakeet cages will cost between $30 and $100.

Other parakeet supplies include:

Parakeets will typically live about 10 to 15 years. As far as maintenance, you’ll need to provide food and water daily, but parakeets in particular also love a bath. You can mist them or simply give them a bowl of water.

3. Betta Fish

Betta fish pet

If you’re looking for low maintenance, it doesn’t get much better than Betta fish. They’ll swim around and look pretty.

All you have to do is give them a home, feed them, and clean their tank every once in a while.

Depending on the color, sex, and species of a betta, they can be as cheap as $3 to buy. Even the more expensive ones usually don’t cost more than $50.

And as far as lifespan goes, these fish live 2 to 5 years in captivity, so you’ll have a friend all through college.

Supplies needed for a Betta Fish include:

If you choose to have a Betta fish, fantastic! Just don’t have multiple in the same tank. They’re known for being very aggressive.

4. Gerbil

As far as pet rodents, gerbils are the way to go! They don’t bite as often as other rodents, like hamsters. And they’re cheaper than guinea pigs, starting at $12.

As far as life span, they live up to 5 years, so you can plan on playing with them all through college.

In a dorm room, space is cramped, so you’ll have to work with what you’ve got to create the largest habitat possible for your gerbil.

Supplies for a Gerbil include:

Gerbils love to eat pelleted food, vegetables, and grains.

They also should have same-sex pair of littermates because they need social interaction or they’ll get depressed. Which is why they’re great for college—you can play with them whenever!

5. Hermit Crab

hermit crab pet

Hermit crabs are one of the cheapest college pets you can have. At PetSmart, they start at around $6.

They live up to 30 years in the wild but in a cage they only live for a few months to a year, so the longevity of you hermit crab may be months or years.

You can purchase a starter kit with all the basics, like sand, food, soil, thermometer, water bowl, but you’ll need to buy a tank separately.

They don’t need a ton of maintenance, so they’re the perfect pet for a college student!

6. Cockatiel

The cockatiel is a beautiful option for your college pet! They can be as cheap as $25 or as much as a few hundred dollars, depending on where you shop.

These birds like to whistle and sing, and they have mohawk-like feathers in many different colors.

They can live for 15 years or more. To keep them healthy, PetSmart recommends a cage at least twice the size of their wingspan. You can feed them pellets and seeds, fruit, and veggies.

They’re also great for college students because you are supposed to hold and play with them to keep them socialized. Overall, they are low maintenance and friendly! 

7. Snake

While snakes are not furry, they are still another option for a college pet. Depending on the breed, snakes can cost as little as $15. The more exotic snakes can be hundreds of dollars.

To start off, you’ll need:

Depending on the breed and age of your snake, they’ll eat insects or mice.

As far as life span, corn snakes can live up to 20 years. Corn snakes are a cheap and popular option, so take a look at them for your dorm! It’d certainly be a good conversation starter.

8. Chinchilla

chinchilla for college students

This furry friend is on the more expensive end as far as rodents go. They cost around $190 at your local PetSmart.

But it’s a good investment because they live to be, on average, between 10 and 20 years old.

To care for a chinchilla, you need a habitat that’s tall enough for them to climb, hay, chinchilla food,  toys, water bowls, ramps, and shelves.

Climbing is huge for them! They need exercise. However, the cage may be a problem in small dorm rooms.

If socialized, they like to be cuddled and carried. So when you’re stressing about your exams, you can just take out your pet and spend some quality time together!

9. Gecko

If you’ve always wanted a gecko, why not finally get it in college? The average Leopard gecko is $25, which is pretty affordable for a college student.

These critters are also a good investment. They’ll live, on average, 10 to 20 years!

And they’re pretty low maintenance. To get started with your gecko in your college dorm, you’ll need:

If furry pets like cats and dogs aren’t your thing, consider a gecko!

10. Hamster

Hamster pet for college students

If you don’t want a guinea pig or gerbil, a hamster is the next best thing. They cost around $25, so they aren’t a super expensive option. Depending on the species, they usually live around 2 years.

Supplies for your hamster friend include:

Like most rodent pets, you have to work to get them socialized. If you get them used to being pet and held early on, they’ll be well-socialized when your college friends also try to pet them.

11. Turtle

Turtles may not be soft and furry, but they are adorable. As babies, they can cost $20 to $200 depending on the store.

But they are a lifelong commitment! According to the Petco care sheet, pet turtles can live over 40 years!

To get your turtle set up in your dorm or apartment, you’ll need:

They thrive on pellets and leafy vegetables, so keep those on hand if you want to have a turtle as a pet in your college dorm.

12. Cat

kitten for college students

If you’re a cat person, you may just have yourself a convenient college pet. Cats are independent and can roam around, which is perfect for when you are in class.

Adopting a kitten or cat is cheaper than buying it at your local pet store. Depending on their age, you can adopt a cat for as cheap as $15.

As far as supplies, you’ll need to buy:

While they can entertain themselves and nap all day, you can also play with them whenever you’re not in class.

It’s pretty common for cats to live around 15 years, depending on the breed.

They require minimal grooming, and your main responsibility will be cleaning the litter box, feeding them, and setting out water,

13. Guinea Pig

If you’re a guinea pig person, you’re in luck. They’re great pets to have in college.

While you may find them cheaper at your local pet store, PetSmart lists guinea pigs at $50. 

Guinea pigs will need:

  • Cage
  • Places to hide
  • Hay
  • Toys
  • Pellet food
  • Water dish

According to Petco, they’ll feed on pellets, hay, and grass throughout the day.

As far as maintenance, you can brush their fur, trim their nails, and clean their cage weekly. With proper care, they’ll live up to 8 years.

Overall, these pets are a good fit for college because you can take them out when you want. Otherwise, they entertain themselves.

14. Tarantula

If you aren’t into the traditional cute and fluffy look, tarantulas might be the pet for you.

With a lifespan of up to 30 years, these pets will stay with you long after college graduation.

Depending on where you buy it, your tarantula can cost anywhere from $20 to a couple hundred dollars.

They require a little more maintenance than some other potential college pets. According to Petco they need:

They’ll eat various types of worms, cockroaches, and even baby mice on a daily basis when they’re young. Tarantulas will also need daily misting.

You won’t need to handle them very often. In fact, try not to touch them because if they feel threatened, they’ll bite and run. But they are a cool pet to have in your dorm or apartment.

15. Bunny

Bunny pet for college

Bunnies are another adorable option for a college pet. At a pet store, you can expect to pay $20 to $40. Rescuing a bunny will be a little bit cheaper.

Bunnies do need to take up space with their rather large cages. You can make your own rabbit hutch if you want to save money, but if you’re buying one it’ll be at least $100.

Depending on your dorm or apartment size, they may not be the best option for a college pet. But if you’re willing to sacrifice the room, they’ll need their cage, food pellets, water, hay, toys, and treats.

As far as care, you’ll need to look after your bunny’s fur, nails, and general health with vet check-ups.

If you take good care of them, they will live around 15 years. That’s plenty of time for you to snuggle up with one during college.

16. Frog

At stores like PetSmart, common frog species like the Green Tree Frog cost as little as $10. If you want a more exotic frog for your dorm, you’ll likely pay closer to $100.

When it comes to setting up a home for your pet frog, you’re going to want:

  • A tank
  • Branches or logs for decor
  • Soil
  • Water dish
  • Mealworms for feeding

To take care of your frog, experts recommend providing chlorine-free water, cleaning their habitat once a week, feeding them daily, and wearing gloves when you handle them.

Overall, frogs are easy to take care of. They’ll climb around in their cage to entertain themselves, so you just need to worry about food and water.

Frogs live 5 to 10 years on average. They are extremely low maintenance during those years, so they’re an excellent pet to have in college while you’re busy with classes.

17. Small Breed Dog

small dog pet

If you’re interested in bringing a small dog to college, be prepared to spend at least a few hundred dollars on them!

Rescue dogs typically cost between $150 to $500, depending on their age and breed. Dogs from breeders start at $650 and can cost as much as $3000 for designer breeds.

When you have a small dog in your college apartment, you need to equip it with:

Thanks to their small size, these dogs don’t need as much food as other dog breeds. However, you will need to think about the cost of grooming and vet bills.

You also need to consider their high level of care compared to other animals on the list. Dogs need plenty of attention, exercise, and socialization. They also need to be trained.

On average, small dogs tend to live for 10 to 15 years. They’ll definitely be there for you for your entire college experience.

Final Thoughts

The research has shown what great benefits there are to having pets in college, especially dogs.

Depending on your school, you can bring anything from a cat to a gecko to your college dorm room. They all help relieve stress and offer you a companion during the school year. 

If you’re considering bringing a pet to college, make sure your college or university allows it. From there, decide what pet is the best fit for your room. Some animals on this list require lots of space, so if you have a super tiny dorm room or apartment, avoid those pets. 

Whatever pet you choose, just know that they’re a great way to help you cope with your college transition!

This post was all about the best pets for college students.

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