Having pets in college: CWU community members share stories


Frankie the cat. Photo courtesy of Libby Williams

MJ Rivera, Scene Editor

Life as a college student can be busy, but for those who love animals, having a pet in college is worth the extra responsibility.

Archie, a kitten just a few days old, was found left outside in the yard of junior elementary education major Emily Linden’s grandmother.

Linden took him in in the summer of 2022 and has spent every day with him since to help him grow up healthy. 

When summer ended and she had to go back to CWU, Linden had to choose between taking Archie with her or leaving him with her grandma, who would not be able to provide him the care he needed as a kitten.

“I feel like I would just be abandoning him because of that,” Linden said. “We built that connection over the summer, so maybe I could talk to my doctor and see if an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is okay.”

Having grown up with pets and a knack for nurturing, Linden said that her driving reason for keeping Archie was the attachment she grew to him.

“I had that experience in the summer taking care of him, bottle feeding him and even helping him go to the bathroom,” Linden said. “It was a lot of work, but it made me realize how much I loved it and loved him, ‘I don’t want to be apart from him.”

Linden was able to get Archie certified as an ESA so she could keep him in her dorm.

“I’m not against the rules,” Linden said. “I’m fine with them. The process was easy, there were just papers to fill out.”

Linden said that there are pros and cons to having a pet on a college campus. She said she enjoys coming home to Archie and spending time with him, but she said she feels guilty when she has to leave for class and Archie has to stay behind.

She also pointed out that there are things like buying food and litter and taking Archie to the vet, things that take time and money.

Ashlin Dalton, a senior clinical physiology major, has two guinea pigs with her off-campus at CWU.

“I got one during COVID, I really just wanted a guinea pig,” Dalton said. “I had a really big feeling that I wanted to take the opportunity on, so I waited for a while and it took me a few months to find one.”

Dalton said that, despite being in college, she felt she could manage caring for a living being because she has always had pets throughout her life.

“Moving to college, I wanted to be able to have my own pet and one that I could be able to play with and snuggle,” Dalton said.

Even though responsibilities can be hard to manage when school work gets more difficult, Dalton said that having her guinea pigs ultimately makes her college experience better.

“Having a pet in college has allowed me to have an outlet of joy when I get home,” Dalton said. “Also, just an opportunity to take care of something, because I think a lot of the time we kind of get wrapped up in just how to care for ourselves.”

Peyton Brown, a senior family science major, has been living off-campus with a cat for over a year.

“It was the middle of winter quarter, and it’s kind of dark and gray and depressing out,” Brown said. “It was kind of sad when we came home and the house would be empty because roommates were busy with different schedules and stuff like that.”

Brown said she jokingly suggested to her roommates that they rescue a cat, but her roommate, then-senior journalism major and former Observer editor Libby Williams, found a cat for sale on Craigslist.

“We had been taking care of a neighborhood cat for a while, just a stray, and then somebody gave him to a shelter, which was the right thing to do,” Williams said. “But Peyton was like, ‘we need another cat,’ … and she kept sending me Craigslist cats.”

Williams chose to adopt Frankie while still in college because of the bond that she and her roommates had built with the stray cat who was taken to the shelter.

“We had been taking care of the stray cat that wasn’t really ours, and we got really attached to him,” Williams said. “So, when he was gone, we definitely felt like something was missing.”

After they spent time searching for the perfect cat, Brown and Williams found Frankie, a tabby cat who needed a new home.

Frankie lounging on a table. Photo courtesy of Libby Williams

“Having a little companion there eases a lot of that stress and makes us remember that we’re not alone,” Brown said.

According to Brown, the hardest part of having a pet in college was deciding which roommate would take the cat home over winter break.

“I don’t do a lot of the caretaking … I’ve experienced really only the positives and good parts of it,” Brown said. “I would say it’s nice having a little companion sitting next to me when I do homework, or coming home from winter quarter days and it’s just gray out, and knowing that [Frankie] would be in the house.”

Williams shared the sentiment and said it made her happy to remember that there was a cat in the apartment when she came home from a long day at school.

Senior business administration major Jordyn Fassett said that her cat, Ozzi, was a gift from her dad when she turned 10, and she brought Ozzi to Ellensburg so he could live out his senior years with her. 

“I think animals and people belong together in a really wholesome way,” Fassett said.

The only drawback to having a pet in college is that there is not an option to leave for spontaneous plans without finding a pet sitter first, according to Fassett.

“It totally adds to the overall quality of life for me,” Fassett said. “My friends all consider him their cat who they can come over and pet and play with anytime.”

Perspective of Ellensburg Pet Center owner

Daria Wheeler, the semi-retired owner of Ellensburg Pet Center, said that before she sells pets to anyone, she pays attention to how much knowledge they have about the animal, what types of questions they ask and what their residential circumstances are.

“We put the responsibility on the potential new owner,” Wheeler said. “We do things to try and make it difficult for them to return the animal; we have a return fee and we produce a lot of information during the sale itself.”

The pet store sells birds, hamsters, tarantulas and more, but Wheeler said that the most popular pets are fish and kittens.

“If [kittens] are available, then they are the number-one seller,” Wheeler said. “But that’s usually for anywhere from two hours to three days, as they go very quickly.”

Wheeler also strongly advises that students make the necessary arrangements with campus housing, as pets are not permitted in dorms unless they are a service animal or ESA, and even then, there are rules they have to follow.

“We really do try to find long-term homes for our animals and that’s the kind of pet store that we are and always have been,” Wheeler said. “I think a lot of the community appreciates us for that.”

Wheeler said she hopes to see more CWU students come in to see the variety of pets, and the famous 40-year-old parrot, Buddy. 

Buddy was brought in when she was 1 year old about 39 years ago. People from all over, even as far as Sweden, have come to Ellensburg just to see Buddy at the Ellensburg Pet Center.

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  • Schmidty the guinea pig. Photo courtesy of Ashlin Dalton

  • Jordyn Fassett and her cat, Ozzi. Photo courtesy of Jordyn Fassett

  • Emily Linden and her cat, Archie. Photo courtesy of Emily Linden

  • Buddy the parrot at Ellensburg Pet Center. Photo courtesy of Daria Wheeler

  • Buddy hanging upside down. Photo courtesy of Daria Wheeler

  • Binx the guinea pig. Photo courtesy of Ashlin Dalton

  • Archie the cat. Photo courtesy of Emily Linden

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