Meet My Little Pet

They expect to be fed, they soil themselves on the spot, they bite and scratch, and they’re found in dorm

They expect to be fed, they soil themselves on the spot, they bite and scratch, and they’re found in dorm rooms across the Harvard campus. No, we’re not talking about high-maintenance students, we’re talking about their pets. Welcome to the secret, underground world of pets—and their quirky owners—at Harvard.

According to article two in the “Health and Safety” section of the 2009-10 Harvard Student Handbook, “no student may keep an animal in a building owned or leased by the College.” However, like many other regulations at Harvard, this one has been subject to loose interpretation by students. During the dead of night in rooms from the river to the quad, one can hear the tweets, squeaks, purrs, and ribbits of these furry intruders.


Throughout the Yard and various house courtyards, the sight of dogs jumping after Frisbees warrants no intervention from HUPD. These lucky canines are part of a select crowd belonging to tutors and House masters. House administrators, unlike students, do not have to abide by the pet rule. Despite the banishment of pets from student rooms, dogs have especially become common inhabitants of many entryways due to their popularity amongst House tutors.

“Tutor suites are a little larger than student suites,” said Winthrop tutor Brian J. McCammack. “The dogs fit fine.”

McCammack is the owner of two dogs, a Doxon named Tippy and a Basset Hound named Buddy, both of whom nest in his living room. Though McCammack says that though his students seem to enjoy the presence of the dogs, he generally keeps them tucked behind the safety of a baby gate. He also took the precautionary measures of making sure that none of his students had dog allergies.

Though McCarmmack has yet to punish any student for bringing animals into their dorms, he says he does not actively search for pets in students rooms.


Unlike many other undergrad pet owners, Collin P. Galster, ’11 speaks openly about his pet turtle, Franklin, who lives with him in his Eliot dorm room.

“Yeah, it’s not fair that tutors have pets,” said Galster. “It’s not ideal, but to be honest, they give you enough leeway to have my pet turtle. There’s not enforcement for small things, so there’s a middle ground.” Galster admits that his House tutor is well aware of Franklin’s presence.

“In fact,” said Galster, “on Housing Day last year, I brought him [Franklin] down for luck. The House master’s wife fell in love with him. She thinks he’s adorable.” Galster clearly does not see the House administration as a looming threat. “Administration is not going to bother me. Franklin is not going to escape, and even if he does, he’s a turtle. How far can he get?” said Galster.

Turns out, Franklin has not only provided Galster with constant companionship, but also some social perks as well. Galster describes Franklin as a “chick magnet.” Their friendship goes so far that Galster has included Franklin in rowdy drinking games. “Franklin has had his share of Beiruit games,” said Galster, laughing.


Many other student pet owners are more secretive about their furry friends. A Kirkland sophomore was unwilling to release her name for this interview, fearing that her hamster Merf, short for Merfenevicha, would be taken away from her.

“It was love at first sight ...the connection is there,” said the pet owner, commenting on her first encounter with Merf, a Siberian Dwarf hamster she acquired as a result of “feeling lonely” during her stint in dorm crew earlier this summer.

Not all of the sophomore’s roommates have taken so warmly to Merf. Though she said she had informed her roommate about their extra roommate, apparently the forewarning was not sufficient for what was to come. The hamster has since become a sore subject for the two roommates, who constantly bicker over the presence of the pint-sized creature, according to Mertf’s owner.

“The hamster does not make any noise. It doesn’t smell. And yet, for some reason, my roommate has nightmares about the hamster jumping all over the bedroom,” says Merf’s owner. “If my roommate has no respect for my hamster, then she has no respect for me.”

Though Merf’s presence is of crucial importance to this student’s well being, she sometimes struggles to balance her two roles of Harvard student and pet owner. “The thing is with Merf, she gets lonely, she doesn’t have a companion to play with her. I’m busy with class, with work, and I don’t have the necessary time, which is on average an hour a day to play with her. I feel as though it is necessary that she get an article for herself,” says the student, “especially at a place as prestigious as Harvard, just so that she knows she is special.”


In another River House, two students have been acquiring a growing family of rodents. “I mean, some dorms have mice running all over. One in a cage, one in a hall, what’s the difference?” asks one junior who preferred to remain anonymous, claiming that his House administration would hunt him down if they ever found out about his pets.

“I can understand their concern for large pets, dogs and cats, but for fish, turtles, hamsters, no reason to,” said this student’s girlfriend, who share what they consider joint custody of their two hamsters, Hammie and Marshmallow, and a rat they rescued from certain death at a Harvard lab.

The roommates of the rodent-loving student, however, were not as enthusiastic to find permanent crashers on their bookshelf. “They just came in. It was kind of [by] fiat, they just kind of brought them in, ” said one roommate.

“My roommate once stuck one down my pants, and both I and the hamster squealed,” commented the other roommate.

The couple denies that the pets are a distraction to schoolwork, claiming that various studies have shown that pets can actually have a soothing effect and helps to relieve stress built up through the day.

“[They’re] like YouTube videos. Are YouTube videos a distraction?” said the pet owner. “And having pets is therapeutic. If you have a rough day, you come back, you take the hamster out of the cage that is looking at you, and you pet it, and it’s fuzzy, it’s cute, and it overwhelms you.”