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By Shahrzad Nakhai

Lavania Batumalai was tired of cat hair and shelling out $40 a month for cat food. So the fourth-year business management student gave her cat Jamba away to a church. “That’s like money I could be spending on myself,” she said.

Pets are known to relieve stress, and students surely have a lot of it. But most pets also need time and money — things most students don’t have much of. In between all the partying and all-nighters, can university students handle a pet?

Haris Usanovic, a fourth year RTA student, shares his downtown condo with a boxer dog named Caesar. He says it made him a more responsible person and changed his lifestyle.

But Usanovic admits having a pooch is tough. “When he gets sick, you’ll leave everything to take him to the vet, you’ll leave your schoolwork, you’ll call in sick to work you don’t care. It’s just as hard as having a kid.”

And what about the money? When he first bought Caesar, he went broke. Apart from the dog itself, he had to pay for vet visits and shots. But now buying food isn’t that expensive. The Toronto Humane Society doesn’t charge anything for the animal itself but may charge for other initial medical expenses.

But maybe poop-n-scooping really isn’t your thing. A lot of students opt for cats because they mostly take care of themselves. Joan Zinner, cat adoption co-ordinator at the Etobicoke Humane Society, says students can tell which pet is best for them by going to humane society and getting to know the animals. “I recommend a kitten for students because their energy often matches the energy of a young person,” she said.

The Toronto Humane Society has a comprehensive adoption process. After browsing the animals, not only do you need to fill out an adoption form but you also have to participate in an interview to test your compatibility, almost like a dating service.

Holidays are a big issue for some students because they live too far away to bring their pet home or their parents won’t take care of them.

“Typically, as summer vacation begins we see a surge in the numbers admitted to the shelter,” says Diane Shannon, communications co-ordinator for the Edmonton Humane Society. She also says that as winter approaches a lot of people decide that they can’t handle their pets indoors.

Being an international student from Dubai, Rasike Suraweera has to leave his cat Mangomi with friends during breaks. Once he left her with a pet-sitting service, which cost $35 a day.

But Shannon warns that the choice to adopt a pet is not a casual one. “Really consider the long term decision you are making. It’s longer term than a lot of relationships with humans,” she says.

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