By on February 19th, 2016

International Students and Your Pets


There is no question that we love our pets in America. The multi-million dollar industry that surrounds our furry, feathered, fishy, or scaly friends is proof. Most of us think of our pets as part of the family, and their comfort, entertainment, and health is a priority. International students and interns may come from an area where pets aren’t common, or are not allowed inside, or have many other differences. That doesn’t mean that Fluffy needs to go, but there are some considerations you may want to make when introducing your pet to the international student or intern staying with you.

Safety Concerns

Your student or intern may be afraid of animals, particularly if they come from an area where wild animals are commonly interacted with. Following some basic pet safety can help the meeting go much smoother. When they arrive, it may be best to have your pet put away in a kennel or back room until the student is settled. Then, allow them to meet under your watchful eye. For a dog, your student should either meet them on neutral ground such as a park, or at the front door, where your dog can inspect the new housemate before allowing them to re-enter his territory. For a cat, the student should sit on the ground and wait for the cat to come to them. Warn the student not to pick the cat up until the animal makes it clear it is okay to do so. With other pets such as birds or ferrets, it may be best to simply keep the animal in their enclosures until they have become comfortable with the new housemate.

Religious Considerations

Your student or intern may be a member of a religion that treats pets a certain way. For example, Muslims have been known to consider dogs to be unclean. A Muslim student may not wish to interact with your dog at all, or if they do, they may need to wash themselves multiple times to remove the contact. Don’t be offended by this behavior. They are not criticizing your role as a pet caretaker, but only following the traditions of their culture. Muslims especially cannot allow an unclean animal to be where they pray, so if they are using their bedroom as a prayer space, you may have to forbid your dog access to their room while you are hosting the student. Ask your student to explain any religious considerations involving pets so that you can be prepared early on.

Other Concerns

If your student comes from a place where living with animals is not common, they may experience allergies related to living with a pet for the first time. If the student is afraid of your pet because of a bad introduction, or due to cultural aversion to pets, it can be difficult to maintain a happy hosting experience. So what should you do? Ask them, or research, how pets are received in their home area, and possibly consider confining your pet to a specific area of the house or yard that will allow the pet and the student to coexist peacefully.

The best thing to do is to make plans early, and communicate clearly regarding your pet and how they are treated within your family. Prepare your family to welcome the new guest, including your pet, and walk your guest through safety procedures when meeting your pet for the first time. Accommodating for religious concerns or allergies may be required for host families, but with any luck, your beloved pet and your international student or intern will get along just fine during your guest’s stay.