Pets and apartments can exist in harmony, but there are many things to consider when you live in an apartment and you choose to adopt a pet.
First and foremost, does your landlord allow pets? If they do, are there restrictions on the type or size of your pet? Make sure to consult your lease agreement and know the rules before you make the decision to get a pet.
According to an Apartments.com survey, more than 70% of apartment renters in the U.S. own dogs and cats. With the potential for small, indoor living spaces and limited outdoor access, living with pets in your apartment can be challenging.
Here are some things to help you prepare to properly care for your pets and apartment, without having to sacrifice either.
The Size of Your Pet
Size is important when choosing a pet to share your apartment – both the size of the pet and the size of your apartment.
There are plenty of different cat and dog breeds that have various sizes, but there are also smaller pets like fish, hamsters, and birds.
When looking at a pet to adopt, it's important to determine how much space you have to work with in order to give your pet the proper amount of space in your place. While dogs may be larger, birds or hamsters require an area for a cage. Cats on the other hand, typically like to have their own quiet area and a toy or post to scratch.
Consider your Pet’s Personality
Size isn’t the only factor to consider when living with pets in an apartment. Large dogs tend to have more mellow personalities, compared to smaller, high-energy dogs such as toy poodles and terriers.
Cats tend to be more independent, quiet creatures, but can get territorial or act out if not given enough space. Birds can also be quite vocal, while a hamster or fish makes less noise.
What are you looking for in a pet? You should weigh your lifestyle and personality along with the typical traits that different pets have; find a pet that vibes with you. If you have the opportunity, especially if you're adopting a dog or cat, try to arrange to meet them first and see how things go.
Sometimes a puppy or kitten can be tempting, but consider adopting an older pet. They are typically overlooked in shelters, but may already know basic things like tricks and potty training. They also tend to have mellower personalities that may fit better with your apartment lifestyle.
Establish Set Bathroom Routines
It’s easier for dogs to adapt to apartment living if you establish a set routine for their bathroom breaks. Take your pet out at certain times throughout the day and evening so that they get used to your schedule.
If you're considering a puppy, house training a puppy in an apartment setting can be challenging. Puppies need to go outside very frequently to be trained.
Cats like privacy when using the litter box so keep their litter box hidden away in the bathroom or a spare bedroom. By using an enclosed litter box, it cuts down on messy litter scattered on the floor. Cats are also very habitual, so make sure that you don't move their litter box around.
Pets like birds, hamsters, or fish don't need to have bathroom routines, but they do require more maintenance to keep their cages and tanks clean.
Know How Much Exercise Your Pet Needs
High-energy level breeds such as labs, retrievers, and shepherds can adapt well to apartment living if they get daily exercise like outside play time and walks.
By having a pet that requires daily exercise, you also will be motivated to get yourself up and moving. Instead of just taking your dog right outside your door to go to the bathroom, establish a brief walking route that gets you both moving and fits into your schedule. Another great way to exercise your pet is to find local dog parks or doggie day cares where they can run and socialize with other animals.
Cats, and even hamsters or birds, don't necessarily need the level of exercise that a dog does. However, they typically enjoy having something to mentally stimulate themselves, like an exercise ball for hamsters or toys for cats or birds.
If you don't have enough time every day to walk your pet, consider looking at services like Wag or Rover that provide responsible pet-care and walking while you're away.
Keep Your Pets Entertained
Just like humans, pets can become depressed and lonely if they don’t get enough play time and exercise. If your pet seems restless or bored, it may mean they need more entertainment or one-on-one time with mom or dad.
Give pets plenty of fun, interactive toys to play with throughout the day—especially if you are gone all day. Place toys in different rooms and locations throughout the apartment. This gives pets a good excuse to walk around and exercise as they search for their favorite toys in another room. Switch their toys every few months so pets don’t get bored playing with the same toys.
There are also plenty of interactive puzzle toys that can be stuffed with treats that keep pets busy and active during the day.
It can be difficult for cats to find a space to call their own in a tiny apartment. Cats are curious by nature and love to explore. Cats enjoy climbing high and like to be out of reach so they can look down and observe their surroundings. Make sure they have cat towers or kitty condos with scratching posts to keep them entertained.
Consider the First Floor
Not only is it easier for grocery trips, but it’s far more convenient to live in a first-floor apartment when you have pets. It saves you the hassle of taking your dog up and down the stairs (or the elevator) for bathroom breaks.
Since big dogs weigh more, they tend to make more noise when thudding around the apartment. High-energy dogs and cats run and jump around a lot, which can be a disturbance for the neighbors below you.
Be Aware of The Costs
Pets aren't a one-and-done type of investment. Not only are there typically adoption fees, you'll have to pay for regular (and unexpected) vet visits, and any third-party caretakers or daycare. You'll have to pay for toys, treats, food, medications, and if you have a dog, annual county tags.
While the costs aren't always frequent, they do tend to add up with vaccines, tags, and any special needs your pet may have. It's also important to have an emergency fund for any unexpected emergencies.
With smaller, non-traditional pets, you may go through less food and toys, but you may need to pay more to get them a proper cage or tank.
Most pet-friendly apartments also require an extra security deposit and monthly rent.
Be Transparent with Your Landlord
Always talk to your landlord about existing pets when searching for an apartment or before adopting a pet. Some landlords will have specific requirements about what pets are permitted.
It's never worth it to try to sneak a pet into your apartment, so be honest and open with your landlord and always pick an apartment that actually allows pets. You could be forced to move or give up your beloved pet if you try to break the rules.