WINCHESTER — Shenandoah University sophomore Jordan Green has noticed fingerprints on the outside of her dorm room window ever since she has been permitted to keep her cat, Willow, in the university’s Edwards Residential Village.
Willow, a five-month-old kitten, can often be spotted on a “cat shelf” attached to the window.
The fingerprints are from students and passersby who stop to point and play with Willow through the window, explained Green, who is the first SU student to receive permission to have a pet on campus as part of a new policy allowing pets in the Edwards Residential Village and the South Campus Commons. These residence halls, both of which were formerly motels, allow pets because the rooms have their own entrances.
Green, a 19-year-old acting major from Florida, said having a pet is helpful, especially for new students.
“It’s a very big comfort that can ease that transition and make you a bit happier when you come home,” she said.
Green, who adopted Willow from the local SPCA, said having a pet in her dorm since the start of the school year has helped her feel less anxious and stressed out over classes.
“In my major, especially, there’s a lot of stress and anxiety,” she said. “So, like, coming home to this cat who literally just wants to be held helped so much.”
Pet-friendly policies are being adopted by many colleges and universities across the country.
SU’s policy “recognizes that pets can play a valuable role in helping students transition to residential campus life. For example, pets can help students make friends by acting as an icebreaker. Pets may also be good exercise partners, or companions to alleviate homesickness.”
Green, who is a resident assistant (RA), said it was important for her to have a pet that likes people. She described Willow as the most “uncat cat” because she is calm, docile and likes to be carried around campus in a transparent bubble backpack. Within the first week of classes, one of the residents in Green’s dorm asked to visit Willow at least six times, to which she happily obliged.
At SU, students who live on campus are only allowed one pet and each room can only have one pet in it. Permitted pets include dogs (weighing 40 pounds or less), cats, rabbits, birds (measuring 16-32 inches), chinchillas, fish, rats, hedgehogs, hamsters, sugar gliders, gerbils, guinea pigs, amphibians and small reptiles.
Pets cannot be non-native or exotic.
Students who are approved to have a pet are charged a $250 fee for the academic year.
If an animal misbehaves, it falls on the residence life department to determine the seriousness of the pet’s actions, the university’s policy states. As a general rule, if a pet misbehaves three times or becomes overly aggressive, the pet owner may be prohibited from bringing the pet on campus again. Pet owners are also responsible for any expenses and cleaning resulting from their pet’s behavior.
Initially, Green worried Willow might be lonely all day in her dorm room when she goes to class, but it appears the kitty doesn’t mind.
And Willow soon might not be the only dorm pet on campus, as her presence is inspiring other students to explore the possibility of getting a furry friend.