College is all about making life-changing decisions. For some students, adopting a furry friend may be one of those big choices.

While a pet offers warm cuddles, an exercise buddy and unconditional love, it is also a financial burden that requires time and patience.

Dana Johnson, director of the Monongalia County Animal Shelter in Morgantown, said it is not uncommon to see college students coming in and out of the shelter weekly.

While the shelter does not have a rigorous adoption process, Johnson said the shelter does its best to sit down with any potential pet owners and discuss whether or not that pet is right for them.

“The students that bring the pets back do so very quickly,” Johnson said. “In most cases, they will realize within a week that they are either not prepared for a pet, they do not have time for that pet or they don’t have enough income for the pet.”

Other pets are not so lucky. While those brought back to the shelter have the chance to find the perfect forever home, Margaret Minch, veterinarian and WVU professor of veterinary medicine, said it is not uncommon to have pets left behind at the University farm.

“Come end of the spring semester, what we see are a bunch of animals that are just dumped when students leave town for the summer,” Minch said. “A lot of times people will just bring their cats to the University’s farm and drop them off.”

Minch said it is impossible for the farm to care for all of the cats left, and many are left to roam free on the farm or become feral cats.

“They go from the stability of having shelter and food and water provided to having to fend for themselves,” Minch said. “It is not a nice life at all.”

Beyond those that take on a pet and are ultimately unable to care for it, Johnson said there are also many students that come into the shelter who are well-prepared to help an animal in need.

“We have less brought back than we do adopted,” she said. “Honestly, a lot of our students are great pet owners. They have done their research, and we try to sit down and talk with them about it.”