Pet Perfect
Originally written for the MSU Pocket Guide.

If you’ve moved into your own apartment or house, you may be looking at the opportunity to have an animal friend in your life again. That year in the dorms without pets was terrible, wasn’t it? Don’t just go out and grab any animal, though; each pet has pros and cons of its own. Here is a handy guide for commonly accepted pets in most apartments, so you can bring an animal friend into your life.

Dogs

Let’s get this out of the way now: Most apartments and many houses forbid dogs. Dogs may be the animal that was expertly bred to be the perfect pet, but most landlords don’t appreciate the mess and noise they make. On top of that, dogs need outdoor space you may not have available, and many require daily exercise you may not be able to easily provide. Yet if you do brave the search to find a dog-friendly rental here, it will all be worth it to have man’s best friend in your life. If you do plan to get a dog, consider adopting. There are many dogs out there who need a home, and will love you just the same. Also, be sure to clean up after your pooch—no one likes stepping in the presents they leave behind.
Cats
Unfortunately, for many of the same reasons they prohibit dogs, most landlords are not cat-friendly. They tend to dislike cats for the smell they leave and their kitty trails of destruction. In fact, it’s probably easier to find a dog-friendly apartment in Bozeman than a cat-friendly one. Yet still, they’re out there, so there’s still the possibility of having your own meme generator in your college years. You might just adopt the next Grumpy Cat.
Birds
Now we’re getting into the rental-friendly domain of the pet kingdom. Birds can often be negotiated on rental leases because they are primarily cage animals. This is a lot more appealing to a landlord than a free-roaming poop machine. They make nice scenery and can come to be affectionate eventually; but also consider bird calls can be as shrill and annoying as their singing can be beautiful—don’t say I didn’t warn you when Paulie starts shrieking at 2am the night before a major exam.
Birds also claim the “Most Stylish Pet” award.

Reptiles, Fish, and Amphibians

Even if you’re staying in the residence halls, reptiles and fish are an option. Since a tank is even more contained than a cage, most landlords will be okay with a scaly/slimy friend joining your new home. They may all be interesting animals to watch and always look cool, but unlike mammalian and bird pets, these animals will never come to be loving or affectionate. Reptiles also can carry salmonella, so be sure to buy from a reputable pet store.

Who says reptiles can’t be cute too?

Something else to consider about reptiles would be their long lifespan: If you plan to travel after graduating, you may have a lizard or turtle that still has decades to live, so be prepared to make accommodations.

Pocket Pets

In many ways, these small mammals are the compromise of pets that are both contained yet still loving. A trip to PetSmart presents you with hamsters, gerbils, chinchillas, mice, and my personal favorite, rats. These animals always make a cute conversation piece and rats in particular come to be very loyal and loving animals. They often take some time to acclimate to you though, as rodents haven’t been as thoroughly domesticated as dogs or cats have, but even wild rodents have shown some pet-like tendencies.
Why are people afraid of these things again?
The downside to many small-mammal pets is their short lifespans; they won’t be with you as long as a dog or cat will. As a rat owner, I can attest to the heartbreak that comes from having such a dear friend for such a short time, but they’re worth every minute you have with them.
Few people deny the wonderful effect pets bring to your life. Just make sure to do the research beforehand, and always clear a new addition with your roommates and landlord. Little else is more heartwarming than an animal that thinks you’re the entire world.