How to Set Ground Rules When Your Roommate Gets a Pet

By Alicia Geigel

When college gets stressful, we always want something that gives us a sense of peace, comfort, and love. Sometimes this comes in the form of an ooey-gooey warm cookie at 12 a.m., other times it’s hanging with friends and watching something cheesy on Netflix. While these small activities are great, nothing quite compares to having a warm, cuddly animal to soothe your soul on those bad days.

If you live alone, you can make the decision on whether or not you want a pet. When living with a roommate, however, things can get a bit more complicated. While your roommate may want a pet, it might not be the best for you and your current situation. You don’t want to feel obliged to take care of the pet if your roommate falls behind, but if you don’t have the time or resources to do so, this can become an issue. Prior to a situation like this happening, it’s important to have conversations that establish ground rules with your roommate about having a pet in your shared living space.

Are you currently living with a roommate? Looking for ways to approach setting ground rules with them regarding their pet? Here are five different suggestions, and how to best set rules with your roommate!

Roommate Finder: How to Set Ground Rules When Your Roommate Gets a Pet
Image via Pexels

Before Setting Rules

Evaluate Your Boundaries First: Just like it is important to evaluate your wants and boundaries with your roommate regarding other living situations like bills and cleanliness, it’s important to do the same regarding their pet. Perhaps you’re completely easygoing and don’t mind the quirks of having a pet in your apartment, or maybe you are a bit more reserved about what you can and cannot tolerate. Regardless if you are one or the other, or maybe fall somewhere in the middle, it’s necessary to figure out what you can put up with before coming to your roommate with a set of rules. Doing this will give you a clear mind and make it easier to state your rules with your roommate.
Have a Clear Idea of Who the Pet Belongs To: While this is something obvious and seemingly simple to do, not doing this can cause unnecessary tension and problems in the future. If it was your roommate’s idea to get a pet, then they are the primary owners. However, if you both jointly made the decision, then you both own the pet and share the responsibilities of taking care of it. Having this established between the two of you helps to ensure that the person (or people) who are supposed to take care of the animal are indeed taking care of it, rather than putting the responsibility onto someone else.

When You Have a Pet

Set Boundaries on Where the Pet Can Go: When having a pet in your home, whether you wanted it or not, there may be certain places you don’t want it to go. Is the bedroom off-limits? Is the pet allowed on the furniture? Is the pet allowed in your office space? These are all important questions to ask yourself and once you know your boundaries, bring them to your roommate so you both can compromise and establish a shared set of rules.
Ask What is Ok vs. Not Ok: Maybe when your roommate is gone, you’re warming up some food and you give the pet a piece of your lunch. While this seems harmless in the moment, it might be completely wrong to do and against the wishes of your roommate. Dive into these more complex topics and figure out what all of the rules are. Covering treats, discipline, routines, and rules about furniture and various apartment spaces will help you know what’s ok and not ok so even if your roommate isn’t around, you’re maintaining the pet status quo. And this is applicable to any pet and its unique situation!
Figure Out Who Does What: If you share ownership of your animal, one necessary rule to set up is who does what in terms of grooming, taking the pet out/cleaning their litter box, and vet appointments. You can do this by creating a schedule and having days where you alternate who does a different duty, such as cleaning up the waste, taking the pet for walks, annual checkups, etc. Doing this helps to split the responsibility as evenly and equal as possible, and avoids any confusion on who does what. If you don’t share ownership, then you aren’t obliged to do any of the general tasks that come with taking care of the pet, though you may want to! Just establish what you are comfortable with doing with your roommate and make clear boundaries so the situation works for both of you.
Determine the Costs: Owning a pet is not cheap, in fact, it can become quite costly depending on the pet you have and what they specifically need. If you and your roommate share the pet, then you both share the costs of taking care of it and you need to agree on how costs are handled. Establishing a shared cost for taking care of your pet is necessary and the right thing to do, as no one deserves to be taken advantage of by draining their bank account when the other could easily chip in. If you don’t share the pet but don’t mind chipping in here and there, talk to your roommate! Communication is key to making these situations stress and tension-free.

Roommates: How to Set Ground Rules When Your Roommate Gets a Pet
Image via Pexels

Living with a roommate that has a pet can sometimes be complicated, even if you don’t jointly own the pet. Maintaining open communication and establishing ground rules in both situations will guarantee a smooth living experience for the both of you, as well as your pet!

Interested in using our roommate matching formula to find the perfect college roommate for you? Create a profile & take the roommate quiz on Roomsurf! Get Started