Are Cats Good Pets For College Students?

College is an important time in any student’s life, but it’s also a stressful time. A pet can help you unwind after class and keep you company during all-nighters. That’s especially true for cats due to their highly pettable fur, nighttime activity, and affectionate nature. While dogs may not be allowed by all colleges, cats are usually accepted. However, there are still negatives that you should consider.

Cats make good pets for college students. They groom themselves, don’t require as much attention, are smaller than dogs, and don’t need to go on walks. They can be litter trained, learn to entertain themselves, and don’t require expensive toys. Many breeds are hypoallergenic and spend a large part of the day napping. That makes them great when you’re in a small dorm, have a busy schedule, or need to share space with a roommate.

However, cats can also be messy, scratching up furniture, tossing litter around, and knocking over objects. Cats aren’t as prone to separation anxiety, but they still need a few hours of time and affection from their owners. Kittens will be highly energetic and need more supervision. Adopted adult cats will need your help to calm down and transition to a new home. That makes cats an excellent choice for students, but only if you’re not overbooked with school.

Is It A Good Idea To Get A Cat In College?

Getting a pet in college can be a great idea for many reasons. Taking care of an animal can help you learn how to be more mature, responsible and even learn more about yourself. It can also help you manage your finances and provide you with some much-needed socialization.

Pros And Cons Of Having A Cat In College

When it comes to college life, cats can be a better choice than their canine counterparts. They’re tidier, smaller, and require less of your undivided attention.

However, cats also have their disadvantages. As a responsible owner, it’s important to be aware of these pros and cons to make sure that you can properly take care of your new pet.


Here are some of the reasons why cats make a great choice as a pet for college:

Less Costly Than Dogs

When it comes to college living, finances can be tight. If you still need a pet, a feline can be a cost-effective choice.

Cats groom themselves, which removes your need to purchase bathing products. Most cats are small and don’t require an omnivorous diet, so their food costs remain low. Cats also don’t need to go outside, which removes your need for a harness.

Unlike dogs, cats are easily amused. They can play with paper bags, pieces of string, boxes, and toilet paper rolls. This eliminates the need to buy pricey toys.

Pairs Well In A College Environment

The way that cats behave is perfect for most college dorms. They are less hyperactive than dogs, so they’ll cause less permanent damage to your space.

They are also less noisy, which is essential if you have a roommate or a test to study for. Cats even take up less space than most dogs, so they’re ideal when every square inch is precious.

Low Maintenance

When you’re in college, it can be hard to manage your time. Thankfully, cats are low maintenance, especially when compared to dogs. Cats don’t need a daily walk, can be left alone for hours on end, and even groom themselves, so you don’t need to bathe them.

Of course, they’re not fully solitary animals and will need your attention. They’re just less prone to separation anxiety if you’re away at class for a large chunk of the day.


Here are the cons of getting a cat in college, and what you can do to mitigate them:

Still Expensive

Cats are definitely cheaper than a dog for many reasons. However, cat litter is still a regular expense since felines don’t go for potty walks. Their medicine is less frequently sold over-the-counter, so if your cat needs treatment, the mark-up could be higher than with dogs.

Even still, it can be simple to prepare for the expenses of your cat. Vaccines and regular check-ups can prevent you from needing to finance more expensive treatments. There’s always the possibility of an emergency visit, but with enough foresight and budgeting, you don’t have to break the bank for your feline.

Are Messy

Cats are clean animals and maintain a strict grooming routine. However, they’re more prone to scratching furniture and knocking over items from tables and shelves. Because of their nimble nature, they’re also skilled at finding their way into places where they don’t belong.

A cat that feels lonely or bored may also spread its litter everywhere. Maintaining your cat box in a college dorm may leave a semi-permanent smell that needs to be aired out.

On the one hand, this can be a great reason to clean up your space regularly. With a feline reminder, you can maintain a tidier dorm room. However, it’s also hard to keep up with if you’re committed to full-time schoolwork.

If your cat keeps tracking litter everywhere, consider investing in a litter mat. These inexpensive mats are placed beside your cat’s litter box so that it can trap any residue from your cat’s feet. You can also switch to less sandy litter so that it won’t get into every inch of your dorm room.

College student using computer with a cat

Destroys Furniture

Cats cause less damage than dogs, but that doesn’t mean your furniture is completely safe. Felines, especially those that haven’t been well-trained, are prone to using beds or chairs as a scratching post. This can be a huge problem, especially if your cat gets to objects that you’re only renting or that belong to a roommate.

To stop your cat from scratching furniture, make sure to provide a variety of scratching posts. These should include rope, cardboard, carpet, and wood textures. The more options your cat has to choose from, the more likely it is to pick these alternatives over your sofa.

Do Cats Miss You When You Go To College?

It can be easy for those who haven’t lived with cats to write them off as cold and uncaring. However, cats are perfectly capable of being cuddly, affectionate, and forming an attachment with their owners.

Science backs this up. According to Current Biology, cats attach themselves to their owners in the same way that dogs form bonds. It’s even comparable to the way babies feel a strong connection with their owners.

That makes it unsurprising that cats will indeed miss you if you leave for college. However, this isn’t traumatic as you think. Chances are, your cat will meow and look for you in the 3-4 days after you leave. It will then adjust to the change and won’t show any further signs of distress.

This is supported by PLoS One, which studied how cats respond to stressful environments. Evidence showed that cats are more independent, especially when compared to dogs. As such, while your cat does form an attachment to you, it doesn’t necessarily feel threatened when you leave.

Your cat will still remember you, though! Felines have been shown to retain memories of their owners for up to 10 years. When you come back for the holidays, your cat may give you the silent treatment but will be back to its old self in a few days.

Best Cats For College Students

With enough care and attention, any cat breed will be perfectly suited to college life. However, there are a few breeds that have immediate advantages.

Short hair, hypoallergenic qualities, smaller sizing, and calm temperaments are good traits for a college cat. Here are some of the greatest breeds for a student.


Sphynxes are well-known as a hairless cat breed. While many people claim they’re strange-looking or aloof, many others state they’re cuddly, affectionate, and love attention. When it comes to sphynxes, you either love them or hate them.

If you have a roommate who is allergic to cats, consider adopting a sphynx. It’s one of the most popular hypoallergenic cat breeds of all. According to International Immunology, cats produce an allergen called “Fel d 1.” However, some breeds are believed to produce less of this allergen compared to others.

The sphynx does still produce small levels of this allergen. However, it’s known to keep the allergens on its skin rather than shedding all around your dorm.

This cat still requires some maintenance, despite its lack of fur. The sphynx has a small amount of fuzz on its skin and will require as much grooming as other cat breeds. 

Exotic Shorthair

Exotic shorthairs are beloved for their great personalities, especially for those living in a dorm. They’re laid-back and docile, making it great for rooms where many people come and go. 

As a well-known lap breed, they’re cuddly and affectionate. However, they won’t demand as much attention as other breeds. Even sitting in the same room as you is enough socialization for this cat.

For this reason, exotic shorthairs can be left alone for a long period of time without resorting to destruction. This allows you to go to your classes and club meetings without feeling anxious.

As a downside, this cat has a lot of fur and will shed often. It will need to be brushed regularly. Its facial structure also makes it more susceptible to health issues, especially as it ages.

British shorthair

This breed has an iconic, stocky body and an equally adorable face. While coloring may be diverse, the British shorthair is most commonly found in a greyish-blue coat.

Aside from their precious features, these cats are known for their strong personalities. They’re independent, making them a perfect match for a busy college student. They don’t need a lot of attention and can make do with a few scritches every now and then. British shorthairs keep themselves entertained and will sleep the day away.

What’s more, this cat breed is one of the oldest of all. As such, they’re very resilient and less susceptible to illnesses.

Persian Cats

Perhaps one of the most easily recognizable breeds, the Persian is often considered the most graceful of all domestic cats. They brandish impressive long fur, a round face, and a flat snout.

Persian cats are known to have a personality to fit their fancy appearance. They are not very active and instead prefer to sit around and sleep. Persians don’t like to climb on objects or retreat to lofty perches, so this cat is unlikely to knock things off shelves. That makes it perfect for a college student that doesn’t have the time to fully cat-proof a dorm.

On the other hand, the Persian has a few issues. The flat-faced anatomy makes it prone to respiratory issues, and its genes make it vulnerable to kidney disease. If possible, get a cat with a more pronounced muzzle instead of the iconic flat face.

Can I Take My College With Me To College?

Many colleges have a pet policy that defines what animals you can bring with you and how they should be maintained. As a rule of thumb, colleges don’t want large animals or those which can’t be safely contained in your dorm room for hours on end.

That’s why lizards, hamsters, and small birds are often a student’s first choice. For more traditional pets, like cats and dogs, it depends on their size.

Cats are usually accepted wherever dogs are not. Even the largest breed of cat will be far smaller than a medium-sized dog, for example. Cats are also less prone to barking or making excessive noise, endangering people if they get loose, or taking up valuable space that belongs to other students.

Even still, be sure to read through your college’s pet policy. You can also speak with a representative to narrow down if your cat will be accepted and what conditions you’ll need to meet.

is it a good idea to get a cat in college?

Adopting A Cat In College

Many people bring their cats to college with them. However, if you want to adopt a brand new cat or have never owned a cat before, college can be the perfect time. Most cats are adopted as adults, which can be helpful to a student since they:

  • Are usually litter trained.
  • Have some socialization, so you don’t need to spend as much time instilling good habits.
  • Can transition into their new home at the same time that you do.

Nonetheless, whether or not this is a good idea depends on you. Do you know how to take care of a cat? Do you know if your schedule will allow it? Adopting a new cat will mean dealing with a feline that:

  • Is stressed after being moved around or kept in a shelter long-term.
  • Needs your attention and love as it adjusts to its new surroundings.
  • May have previous trauma that manifests as bad habits or behaviors.

An adopted cat may be well-trained and socialized, which takes some of the responsibility off of you. However, it’s just as likely that the cat will need more training and socializing to undo the stressful effects of its life before it met you. To ensure this doesn’t become a hassle, instead of a wonderful bonding experience, make sure:

  • You have some previous experience with cats: This will help you address the cat’s needs properly, so it doesn’t get out of hand while you’re also juggling other responsibilities.
  • You have previous college experience: Even doing one semester before adopting a cat will be valuable. If you’re overwhelmed by your new experiences or obligations, the cat will end up being ignored (or your schoolwork will).
  • You’re already settled in: If you’re unpacking, meeting new people, and trying to schedule your classes, this is a very chaotic space to bring a stressed cat into.
  • Your roommates are prepared (and in agreement): As the cat transitions to its new life with you, it’ll be messier and possibly destructive. Be sure your roommates are prepared to safeguard their valuables or tolerate a mess for the time being.  

Starting a new routine, in a new place, with a new pet can be easily overwhelming. You wouldn’t want your cat’s health and happiness to suffer for it. If you still want to adopt a cat, it can be a rewarding experience. Just be sure to:

  • Save up for your cat’s expenses
  • Do your research
  • Have someone you can call for advice 

Can I Have A Kitten In College?

It’s not a good idea to get a kitten in college. Unless you’re bringing a kitten you already own, adding a young feline to your fast-paced and slightly disorganized life can be regretful. Unlike an adult cat, kittens need more supervision, attention, and playtime. They are also more active, which means they need more socialization.

Kittens will also be more sensitive to noise, new people, and changes to your routine. Perhaps most importantly, kittens are a longer time commitment than older cats. Cats can reach up to 15 years of age. Many kittens are surrendered to shelters because their owners couldn’t take care of them after graduating.

Older cats will be more docile and predictable. They need some exercise, but they will spend their time snoozing and being quiet. If you’re looking to get a new cat in college, an older one is a far better idea. Older cats also have a lower chance of being adopted. You’re giving a second chance to a cat that most people would pass up.

Cats make good pets for college students. They fit well in dorms, require less attention, and are ready for snuggles if properly cared for. Even still, be sure to check with your college’s pet policies and consider how much time you have. As long as you don’t get overwhelmed by school and your cat, the cat will be a relaxing companion.

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Richard Parker

I'm Richard, the lead writer for Senior Cat Wellness. I'm experienced in all cat health-related matters, behavioral issues, grooming techniques, and general pet care. I'm a proud owner of 5 adult cats (all adopted strays), including a senior cat who is now 20.

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