On– and off– campus housing at Penn have their perks, but both share a major drawback: pets are banned from most residences. Housing companies and RAs alike enforce strict regulations for students who wish to house cats, dogs or caged animals within their registered accommodations—with punishment for pet–smuggling offenders enacted on a severe case–by–case basis. However, a number of Penn students have rejected these rules and instead smuggled their pets in. Fully aware of the consequences, there exists a dark underbelly of brave students willing to risk it it all for their furry companions.
"[My housing agency] doesn’t allow pets in my particular apartment. I think it was in my lease that I signed…but I just don’t really care at this point,” says Daniel* (C’17). “Sometimes, I’m just like ‘Well, what are they going to do to me? Are they really going to kick me out on the street?' No, probably not. But if so, like, whatever. I’ll find a place.”
Although some residences, by law, do not issue unprecedented room checks in their residences, they do facilitate housing tours—which provide an added dilemma for secret pets.
“Tomorrow, I have a tour of my apartment that they’re going to be doing to show a prospective person who’s going to rent it," Daniel says. "So I am actually taking my cat tomorrow morning to [my friend’s] house, and he’s gonna chill there for the day.”
Daniel’s cat Samson has been living with him inside his studio since this December. “Truthfully, I’d always been more of a dog person, but I got a cat because they’re just so much easier to take care of than dogs," he says, "because [with] dogs, you have to walk [them] and then they need exercise and lots of play—and litter boxes aren’t a thing. But for cats, you just put some food out for them, put some water out, put out a litter box and they’re set."
Amanda* (C’17) agreed that cats are a more practical pet choice.
“I think that cats are generally lower maintenance, so you don’t really have to walk [them]. Cats are pretty good about not destroying things and peeing on things and things like that, so you really just have to feed [them] and spend time with [them]," she says. Amanda’s cat Salem is one of three cats that she has smuggled in her off–campus residence.
“I don’t really care about the consequences behind this," she says. "They aren’t gonna find out. If you have a maintenance request and someone comes, it isn’t really the people directly from the housing office—they don’t know.”
For some students, caged animals are an easier alternative. “I literally needed to Google ‘bunnies for sale,’“ says Kaitlin*, who lives with fellow athletes in their team’s unofficial off–campus house. “I was literally sitting in my room, brainstorming pets to get. And I knew it was a dumb college decision, but I just needed to get a random pet.”
According to Kaitlin, hiding her rabbit from housing officials was a simple task. “Whenever [they] came to do housing, all my friends would text everyone, and then we’d put the cage on the floor and just drape a blanket over it.“ Unfortunately, Kaitlin had to return her rabbit back to the farm where she originally purchased it, due to difficulties in finding pet–sitters during breaks. But even without her pet currently by her side, she's not sorry she owned one. “I guess, now, I would’ve been more nervous about it, but at the time, we were really confident in our ability to hide him.”
For the students who own these pets, their furry friends provide a break from the day–to–day chaos of Penn life. “It’s been really helpful to have a cat here," said Amanda, “just because it’s a really good stress reliever, and pets are very therapeutic. And it’s just really cute when you come home—when you’re grabbing your umbrella or something—to just pet the cat, give him a snuggle and then leave.”
*Names changed for anonymity.
Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.