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Secret Dorm Pets: A Tail Of Two Creatures

If you’ve ever lived on campus, chances are you’ve thought about how much a pet would improve your quality of life.

Unfortunately, fish are the only animals Penn State allows you to keep in your dorm room. That means that if you’re looking for a furry friend, you’re going to need to get more creative…more secretive.

Fortunately, rules are made to be broken, as two Penn State students and their respective pets proved last year.

The first was a hamster named Ivy who inhabited a traditional two-person dorm room with her owner Brooke and roommate. The second, a bunny named Kyle, was the fifth roommate in a four-person supplemental housing room with his co-owner Rachel.

Both decided to go the nontraditional (read: non-fish) route, and both of them had their reasons.

Sup, Doc? Kyle just chilling in supplemental — an unbothered bunny
(Photo: Rachel | Kyle’s co-owner)

For Brooke, a trial with aquatic animals the year before didn’t necessarily work out.

“We had sea monkeys, but my [former] roommate killed them,” she said. Now that she has a more animal-friendly roommate, her focus shifted toward out-of-water options.

Initially, she wanted her roommate to get an emotional support cat. However, that was quickly ruled out because they didn’t want to leave it alone in their confined room every day. Some reptiles were in the running, as her roommate owned geckos growing up and Brooke has a soft spot for snakes. Yet somehow they settled on a hamster.

They started talking about getting a hamster a month before Ivy entered their lives. They did their research, and one day the stars aligned. They checked the Penn State Facebook page and someone was giving away a hamster — free to a good home, cage included! It was nothing short of fate.

Ivy takes a break from doing zooms around the carpet.
(Photo: Eileen Wong | Onward State)

Kyle, on the other hand, entered a more impromptu situation with Rachel and her three roommates in supplemental. Heading into the school year, the four of them thought that getting a pet would be a great bonding experience. Why the hell not?

The foursome also thought about getting a kitten at first, but decided a bunny would be quieter. Apparently, that was the only forethought that went into the decision. 

“As soon as we saw him, we made the decision right then and there that we were going to buy him that day,” Rachel said. “We didn’t even know we were getting him when we went to the store.”

I suppose this was also an act of fate. 

Needless to say, keeping a pet in the dorms presented a few challenges. The first of these was getting into the dorms, but neither animal had any trouble piggybacking into its respective hall.

Brooke simply draped a blanket over Ivy’s cage to enter her hall. Kyle, a baby bunny at the time, hid inconspicuously in a cardboard box.

Daily care, however, presented its own difficulties. With a hamster, cleaning its cage proved to be a tough task.

“It’s hard to carry it to the bathroom,” Brooke said. “I get really scared.”

For Kyle, the issue was getting him into his cage and, more importantly, keeping him there.

“[He] is a free roam bunny,” Rachel said. “He does what he wants, when he wants. The man knows how to break out of his cage for God’s sake.”

Kyle, an obvious badass, doesn’t give a fuck about your cords and shoes.
(Photo: Rachel | Kyle’s co-owner)

“He was a pain in the ass at first because he would eat literally every cord or anything you had on the ground,” she said. “He chewed up a lot of my favorite shoes.” Apparently, no amount of carrots can beat the taste of fresh leather.

Perhaps the biggest threat of all to the secret dorm pet is the RA. Miraculously for Brooke, she got away with housing a hamster even though her RA lives right next door.

Rachel and her roommates have had some close calls with Kyle, however. At one point, “someone ratted on [them] because it ‘smelled’ like a bunny.” Fortunately for them, even after the RA found out about the rabbit, she didn’t do anything.

For the most part, both Rachel and Brooke tried to keep their pets on the down low for obvious reasons. The last thing they needed was too much attention.

Does all of this animal talk have you desperately wanting to get a pet right now? If so, heed these words of advice from our experienced secret dorm pet owners.

Hamsters make great dorm pets, but “maybe not this one because she’s a robo — a really small one — and they’re really active,” Brooke elaborated. “I’d rather get one that is chill and would just lay with me in bed.” 

As far as bunnies go, “I only recommend it if you live in supplemental because if not your room will smell really bad,” Rachel warned. 

Make friends with your RA (never hurts), find a pet that isn’t too smelly or loud, and most importantly, do your homework.

“You need to make sure the animals are okay, too. I researched a lot before I even got the hamster so I know a lot about her. I mean, this cage isn’t even good for her, but I can’t bring a 30 gallon cage in here,” Brooke admitted.

Follow these steps and your wildest dreams of having a pet in your dorm room CAN come true.

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About the Author

Anthony Fiset

Anthony is a senior *gasp* majoring in Economics and a lifetime Costco Executive Member. If you are an employer, please hire him. Otherwise, direct all complaints to [email protected].

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