There is nothing better than the feeling of adopting a pet. Be it a cat or dog, adding a pet to your family can fill your home — or apartment — with love and laughter. Like most important relationships, sharing your home with a pet can come with many challenges. And if you live in an apartment, it’s important to have a plan before you adopt. Although roughly 70% of renters are pet owners, this doesn’t always mean that the two go hand-in-hand. There’s a lot to consider before bringing a pet home to your apartment. This definitive guide will help you hurdle the challenges of finding a pet-friendly apartment, owning a pet, and being a great renter and pet owner.
Finding a Pet-Friendly Apartment
If you don’t already have an apartment, begin to search for one. Keep your eye out for a lease that allows for pets. Many apartment search sites, including ABODO, will allow you to limit your search to pet-friendly rentals.
Next, inquire about what kinds, and how many allowed for. Size and weight limits can apply for dogs. Make sure to be explicit when requesting information from property management. Don’t try to hide animals from your landlord; they will inevitably find out.
Some properties will require renters to provide paperwork such as references, pet obedience, or training credentials. Consider filling out a pet resume to show off your pet’s skills and personality. Remember that it is always the renter’s responsibility to fully understand and abide by the property’s pet rules. Keep that in mind when selecting a companion animal and collect important documentation to demonstrate their training and experience.
If you’re bringing a cat with you to your new apartment and are lucky enough to have a balcony or patio, consider enclosing the space with a cat safety net like the one pictured below, available from retailers like Zooplus. Adding toys and potted plants will enhance the environment and provide a safe outdoor space for play. Before installing any netting, be sure to check with your landlord and be careful not to damage the building during installation.
What’s the Location Like?
If you’re moving to a new city and don’t know the local ordinances regarding pets then now is the time to check. Certain cities or counties enact laws restricting the number of pets allowed per owner, or locations where pets are not allowed. It’s best to be up to date on all laws about pet ownership in your area or risk the consequences.
Scope out the surrounding location of prospective apartments to get an idea of how often you’ll be able to socialize the dog. Dogs are social animals descended from wolves. They need engagement with other dogs to play and relieve stress. This saves the animal themselves from grief, and it can save renters the grief of a damaged apartment. A big perk of any location for dog owners would feature an open-air dog park.
Most local dog boarding services offer daycare for pets. If you locate an apartment in the vicinity of these services, consider yourself lucky. Not only will the pup be able to use these facilities to socialize, eat, and play, but they’ll come home ready to rest with you after a long day. Make sure to read online reviews for these establishments first to ensure your pet will be treated right.
Dog walking services are another great option to keep your pet well-exercised. Ask neighbors in your building what services they use or search Yelp and Google for reviews to can find a friendly, trusted helper for your pet.
The area surrounding your apartment is important cat owners only if they plan to let their felines venture outside, which is generally not advisable given the hazards cats face outside and the potential damage they can inflict on a local ecosystem.
Microchipping your animal will ensure that they can be identified even if their collar is missing. One in three pets will go missing in their lifetime, so regardless of whether you have a cat that’s never supposed to get outside or an adventurous pup, a microchip is worth inquiring about at your vet or local shelter. Only the size of a grain of rice, the chip ensures permanent identification of your animal and will dramatically increase the likelihood of you reuniting.
Outdoor animals may need medications or treated collars to prevent tick, fleas, and local parasites. Keeping vaccinations up to date can save the lives of your outdoor pet, and prevent disease. Talk to your vet about the prevalence of parasites and disease in your area, so you know what to look and how to protect your pet.
Choosing an Apartment Pet
When picking a pet for your apartment, consider whether a cat or a dog is a better fit for you. Consider your future pet’s size, breed, and activity level to ensure your new pal will fit your lifestyle.
- How much extra space do you have in your apartment for your pet to roam around and have a comfortable nesting space? Although your dog or cat won’t need their own room, they will need a safe and comfortable areas for sleeping, eating, and playing.
- Do you have roommates whose needs you should consider? Friction between roommates and pets can be a significant source of disagreement.
- Do you go out for runs or walks daily? Is your apartment located close to a park or other walking trails suitable for a dog?
So you’ve got the right apartment, but what about your landlord? Property owner preferences on pets can vary dramatically depending on nature of the property and experiences with previous tenants. Before speaking with the property manager about bringing in a new pet, review your lease agreement to make sure it’s a pet-friendly apartment.
Whether choosing a purebred animal or a mix, it’s important that you consider the terms of your lease and select an animal based on the space and attention that can be provided.
Cats are usually quite comfortable living indoors. Low activity-level dogs are able to meet exercise requirements with minimal outside access. Small breeds can use the apartment as a space to run and play when provided with toys and interaction from their owners. Medium energy-level dogs have the ability to stay in a small area as long as they get exercise once or twice each day. This brings us to high energy-level dogs, which are not well-suited for apartment living, unless given strenuous exercise several times throughout the day.
Below are some examples of breeds and their typical activity levels. Keep in mind that every dog is different, so spend plenty of time observing your prospective pet before you commit to an adoption. Also check out our guide on Best Apartment Dogs if you’re mostly considering a canine roomie.
- Low Activity Dogs – Spaniel Breeds, Corgi, Bulldogs, Beagles, Dachshund
- Medium Activity Dogs – Pinscher, Malamute, Labrador, Chow Chow, Collie
- High Activity Dogs – Dalmatians, Siberian Husky, Rottweiler, Pointer Breeds, Great Dane
Regardless of activity level, spending time with your dog is important. Repetitive solitary confinement can cause stress for any dog, which can often lead to destructive behavior.
The same concepts apply to cats. Although some cats are perfectly happy hiding away all day or finding a ray of sunshine to bathe in, others need activity. This requires more room for toys and climbing towers. Make sure to become familiarized with the various breeds of cats and their needs before visiting a shelter or litter of kittens.
- Low Activity Cats – British Shorthair, Russian Blue, Persian, Ragdoll, Javanese
- High Activity Cats – Abyssinian, Chartreux, Manx, Sphynx, Ocicat
Rescuing a Furry Friend
Consider rescuing an adult dog. Puppies, though precious, need to be taught obedience in their living situation. As a renter, your apartment — and your property manager — will thank you for choosing an adult pet or heavily investing in training.
Puppies, unlike the majority of shelter dogs, will require house training. There’s nothing quite as adorable as a newborn puppy, but they’ll have no trouble finding a home.
Animal shelters are full of dogs that need a good home. Rescue dogs typically cost under a hundred dollars to take home. On the other end of the spectrum, a purebred will range in the hundreds of dollars, if not thousands, based on the demand and popularity of the breed.
Also, the number of euthanized animals could be reduced dramatically if more pets were adopted from rescue shelters. When people adopt, it opens up shelter space for another animal who might need it.
Bringing Your Pet Home
The first days with your new pet are perhaps the most important to setting the tone and building a sense of safety and security. For puppies and kittens, provide with a quiet and safe environment to avoid any stress. During your first visit home, be sure to introduce your new pet to a designated “potty zone” (litter box for a cat or acceptable yard space for your dog). Pay close attention to their timing and needs so that you can reinforce these acceptable potty zones for the first several days or weeks.
Pet Supply Checklist
Before you bring your new pet home, be sure to stock up on all the essentials:
- high-quality pet food
- treats for training
- stainless steel non-tipping water and food bowl
- ID tags
- collar and leash
- stain remover for accidents
- grooming equipment (hair brush, nail clippers, toothbrush, toothpaste)
- high-quality safe chew toys
- flea, tick and parasite controls
Leaving Your Pet at Home
If a pet is going to stay home while you’re at work, there should be ample space for them if not kenneled or crated. Crate training a puppy is an effective and humane way to teach your dog to behave and will help develop their confidence and feelings of security while at home.
Although most cats will be OK on their own, dogs might have some challenges. The responsibility of owning a pet is often likened to having kids. Renters have to make sure their apartments and their pets are safe when they return from work every day. Here are some key things to keep in mind before leaving a pet at home alone:
- Don’t leave dangerous objects out while away. Rawhide chews and bones — or any other choking hazards, chemicals, or glass — should not be left out for dogs alone during the day. This provides a choking hazard and no help for them if an accident occurs.
- Don’t leave animals alone for extended periods of time. How do you know what is too much? This depends on age. Adolescent dogs, under five months, should not be left alone. After five months, you can gradually start to accustom them to longer periods (around four hours). Elderly dogs might have bladder control issues, which makes it difficult to leave them alone for long periods. Although cats can be more solitary animals, you should not leave them alone for longer than a day.
- Provide cats a safe play place with toys and a scratching post. Your sofa will thank you.
- Research hazardous plants and keep them out of reach. Some plants can be hazardous to dogs and cats if consumed, so make sure you remove temptation and keep plants out of reach if you’re leaving them alone.
- Make sure your pet has a comfortable place to lounge and nap. An uncomfortable or anxious pet can wreak havoc on your apartment.
- Guarantee your pet bathroom breaks. Your landlord and carpet will thank you.
- Check their molars for signs of kennel chewing. If you find evidence, your cat or dog should not be left in a kennel. Some animals will stop at nothing to escape a kennel, and this could leave an animal with terrible injuries in the process.
- Provide ample access to light. Leaving appropriate light during the day helps pets to adapt to life inside. Just like their owners, dogs and cats respond to sunlight to tell what time of day it is. Leaving them in the dark can add disorientation that creates anxiety, and an anxious pet is more likely to relieve themselves in the apartment or damage items inside.
Plants, Fruits, and Vegetables Dangerous for Pets
You might be surprised that quote a few common plants are poisonous to pets and could leave to significant trauma or death. The list includes acorn squash, aloe, apple, avocado, bamboo, chamomile, chives, eucalyptus, garlic, ginger, grapefruit, lavender, and onions. If you have a dog, be sure to keep these items out of reach. With a cat, it’s best to remove these items or place them in sealed containers.
Exercising Your Dog
A well-exercised dog is a happy dog. Some dogs love to go for walks or visit the dog park. But for others it can be challenging without the proper training. Walking a dog around the community can be stressful for all parties involved, whether it is a neighbor or their pet. Here are some helpful tips to get you and your going:
- Choose safe, durable and size appropriate toys for your dog to play with. Specially designed toys like the Chuck-It will help your dog get some great exercise and will also save your rotator cuff for yours to come.
- Dogs are pack animals. So their instinct is to protect the “pack” (you!) from potential risks. This is especially true if the dog perceives himself as the “alpha” or dominant dog in the pack. If your dog knows that you are the alpha, they will be more likely to follow your lead and respond calmly to strangers.
- Take notice of when neighbors are out walking dogs, if you need to avoid a stressful run-in with aggressive dogs.
- Keep dogs under control. Some people have phobias about dogs and it’s best to keep neighborly opinion of your pets on the up and up, rather than risk a complaint
- Training dogs to respond calmly to visitors will ease up on the stress of the neighbors, and property management.
Follow these steps, and your time as a renter and pet owner will be smooth sailing. Dog or cat, having a pet is one of life’s most rewarding experiences. Renting doesn’t mean this great aspect of life is off limits.
- Book: The Art of Raising a Puppy
- Book: Cesar Millan’s Short Guide to a Happy Dog
- Vaccination Schedules from ASPCA
- The Shelter Pet Project Makes finding the perfect animal for your living situation easy
- Phone Numbers to Have on Hand
- Importance of MicroChipping your Pet
- Veterinarian: Check Yelp or Google for reviews of vets near you
Most Pet-Friendly Cities in the U.S.
Moving to another city? We analyzed hundreds of thousands of apartments across the U.S. to figure out which cities and states have the most pet-friendly apartment listings. Click the image below for a detailed view.
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