Keep a Dog or Cat Successfully While Living in an Apartment
Living with a pet is one of the most rewarding things you can do. But while having a pet companion is rewarding, there are also challenges. Having a pet and living in an apartment presents its own specific challenges. Not only do you need to see to the needs of your pet, but you have to be aware that you have both entered into a contract with the owner of the apartment and are a part of a larger community of people and pets.
Informing Yourself about the Challenges of Apartment Pet Living
- Choose your pet based on the challenges of apartment living. If you don’t already have a pet, you should think carefully about the specific animal and/or breed before you get one.
- Adopt a dog that is not high energy, like an English Bulldog. For a list of high energy or low energy dogs, look at: http://www.canismajor.com/dog/apart.html.
- Adopt a smaller dog that takes up less space, like a Chihuahua or a Shi Zhu.
- Adopt a cat who has already lived in an apartment or a cat that you know will be better off not roaming.
- Consider the extra costs some apartment communities charge pet owners. Many apartment communities will charge pet owners a number of fees depending on the size, breed, and type of their pet. Some of these charges can be very high, so consider them before moving in or getting a new pet.
- Pet rent. This could vary from $5-$10 a month to much higher.
- Pet fee. Often these are one time fees of several hundred dollars.
- An additional security deposit. These may or may not be refundable.
- Acknowledge that your dog or cat might damage or destroy something in the apartment, and be prepared to pay for it. Often times, even the most well-behaved dog or cat will cause some damage in a home. While your security deposit or pet deposit might cover some of these costs, be prepared to cough up the amount of money needed to make repairs to the apartment before you vacate.
- Realize the spatial challenges that apartment living will present for owning a pet. Most dogs need lots of space to run and play. Cats, too, need space to roam as well. Apartments, by their very nature, offer limited space. Consider the following:
- Your cat probably won’t be able to roam freely outdoors.
- You’ll have to walk your dog before and after work, rather than just letting them out into your fenced yard.
- Your future apartment community might not have a lot of green space. Many dogs are picky about where they pee and poop. If your apartment community does not have much green space, chances are it’ll be saturated with the pee and poop of other dogs, and your dog might have a tough time finding a spot.
- Look for apartment communities that have one or more dog parks.
- Think about how small things like walking your dog might become huge chores. When you live in a house, if you want to walk your dog, you can simply go out the front door. For many people, apartment living is much more of a challenge. Consider the following:
- If you live on a second or third floor, dog walks might turn into a huge pain.
- If you live on a higher level, bringing your sick or injured pet to the car will become very difficult.
- Bringing dog poop bags, pee pads, or litter to the garbage could also become a large chore.
- Have your pet neutered or spayed. Neutering and spaying will take care of several problems associated with pet ownership. This is highly recommended for apartment living, and for pet owners in general.
- For the owners of male cats, your cat might be less prone to spraying after being neutered.
- Spaying will also eliminate problems associated with cats and dogs in heat.
- Neutering male cats and dogs might make them less aggressive and could reduce destructive behavior.
Being Part of a Community
- Be a considerate neighbor when it comes to noise. Much like with smells, sounds travel easily in apartment buildings. You’ll have to consider your neighbors below, above, and those on the other side of shared walls. Think about the following:
- Your dog might bark when you’re not home, disturbing your neighbors.
- You and your dog might cause a lot of noise if you play inside. While throwing a ball in your living room in a single family home might seem like no problem at all, the associated noise in an apartment building will certainly disturb your neighbors.
- Any other noise that might be related to your pet that could potentially disturb your neighbors.
- Clear your pet with the landlord before you move in or bring home a new pet. Most apartment communities require that you inform them of the type and breed of pet before you move in. If you don’t clear it with your landlord, you could face fines, fees, or even eviction. Consider the following when looking to acquire a new pet or picking an apartment community:
- Whether the community allows dogs or cats.
- The size or weight limit of pets allowed in the community.
- Breed restrictions for the community or even the county or municipality.
- The number of pets your community will allow.
- Be prepared to present your landlord with a vet reference and associated documentation. Most apartment communities require a vet reference and documents detailing vaccinations. If your pet is not up to date on his/her vaccinations, you need to consider this, and be ready to get him/her vaccinated before you move in.
- Make sure to be signed up with a local vet who has your complete file on hand
- Make sure to have vaccination documentation on hand, as most apartment communities require these before they will approve your pet.
- Make sure to have references from vets, neighbors, or former landlords who will vouch that your pet is well-kept and well-behaved.
- Clean up after your dog. If you have a dog, you should purchase baggies and be prepared to pick up your dog’s waste every time it poops. There are a number of reasons for this:
- Respect your neighbors. You want to keep your apartment community looking and smelling nice.
- Respect your neighbors and maintenance workers who don’t want to step in dog poop.
- You could face fines from the apartment community if you don’t pick up your dog poop.
- Clean up after your cat. Apartment communities are unique in that you’ll be living in relatively close proximity to other people. Smells can often travel through hallways and from one apartment to another. As a result, you want to make sure you clean your litter box regularly in order to prevent your neighbors from also living with the smell of your cat.
- Avoid letting your pet roam the neighborhood. The central feature of apartment communities is shared space. As a result, you don’t want to be letting your dog or cat roam freely in your community. Keep your dog on a leash, and keep your cat inside (unless you want to walk him/her on a leash, too). There are a number of reasons for this:
- Some pet owners, although required to by the community, might not vaccinate their pets. Letting your pet roam would make him/her more vulnerable to parasites and other illnesses.
- One of your neighbors might accidentally hit your pet with their car.
- Your cat or dog might get into a fight with another cat or dog.
- Socialize your dog or cat. Some dogs and/or cats are very nervous when they meet new people. You want to make sure that your dog or cat won’t attack or be overly aggressive to neighbors or unsuspecting maintenance workers.
- Consider enrolling your dog in obedient school.
- Train your dog to not lunge, growl, or bark at people on the street.
- Although you shouldn’t let your cat roam in the first place, if your cat tends to escape frequently, make sure he or she is not aggressive. This will help minimize potentially costly or harmful cat fights.
Tending to the Needs of Your Pet
- Establish regular outdoor break-times for your dog to go to the bathroom. One of the biggest challenges of apartment living with dogs is the limited ability to go to the bathroom. As a result, you need to be diligent about scheduling times for your dog to go to the bathroom. Consider the following:
- Your dog should be allowed to have potty time at a minimum of 3 times a day.
- Consider having someone visit your home while you are at work to take your dog to the potty around lunchtime.
- It is mean and unhealthy to make your dog hold his/her pee and poop for long periods of time.
- Create a pet nest area and/or animal haven. Section off an area of your apartment for your pet's toys, food and water bowls, and beds. Since they’ll be confined to a small area, you should do your best to create an environment that is comfortable and stimulating for them.
- Schedule regular times for your pet to exercise and release pent-up energy. All pets, even low energy ones, need exercise. While you might be able to exercise your cat inside by playing with them, your dog will likely need to spend a substantial time outside several times a week. Consider doing the following:
- Plan long walks for your dog at least three times a week. Devote 30 minutes to an hour walking around the community or the surrounding area.
- Locate a dog park near you. This way, you’ll be able to let your dog off leash and he/she will be able to run around and play with other dogs. Be careful, though, and supervise your pet. You don’t want a dog fight to break out.
- Hire a dog walker or find a relative or a friend to walk your dog if you don’t have enough time. Many communities have dog walking services that will, for a relatively low fee, come to your house and walk your dog.
- Keep clean litter all the time. Some first-time cat owners discover to their dismay that Garfield leaves little "presents" for them, if their litter is not kept clean. If you don't clean your litter box, you'll feel like your living in a litter box. Consider:
- Making sure you have the right sized litter box for your cat's breed.
- Making sure you purchase litter that is agreeable to your cat.
- Setting a schedule to change your litter box.
- House train your dog. Get a proper wire kennel or crate, and work with your dog until he/she is completely trustworthy in the house. Diligence is a must; so until your dog is completely housebroken, do not let them have the run of the house unless you can be there every minute to watch them.
- Keep your dog in the room with you with the other doors shut until he is 100% potty trained.
- Provide pee pads for puppies or older dogs who have a hard time holding their pee.
- Don’t yell at your pet if he/she makes a mess. Positive reinforcement is the best route to housetraining.
- Brush your dog or cat often - outside. This loosens dead hair that's about to be shed, removes dander, and keeps your dog or cat's coat healthy and looking fine. This will also help keep your home cleaner and smelling better.
- Provide your pet with plenty of toys. Providing your pet with toys is an important part of keeping a happy pet in any environment. This will not only benefit your pet directly, but it will benefit you. Toys will help keep your pet entertained during times you might not be able to devote much attention to your dog or cat.
- Chewing for a dog will relieve nervous energy and help promote good dental hygiene.
- Cats like to scratch things and sharpen their claws, scratching posts will indirectly protect your furniture.
- Providing a nylabone or another safe chew toy is far superior to losing the knob of a kitchen cabinet.
- Avoid feeding your pet people food. Feeding your pet people food encourages begging and bad behavior, and it might also contribute to them making a mess in the house. Feed your pet a good quality food on a set schedule.
- Make regular visits to the vet and keep up immunizations. Keeping up to date with immunizations is especially important since your pet will probably be exposed to other pets that could carry parasites or other contagions. Keeping your pet healthy also insures that any messes they make are just mischief or lack of training and not illness.
Cleaning and Keeping a Tidy Home
- Vacuum often. Cats and many dogs continually shed hair. They also bring dirt in from the outside and produce other forms of grime. In the small space of an apartment, this hair and dirt can quickly turn your home into a unwelcoming environment. Vacuuming often, at least twice a week, will help keep your apartment clean and create a better environment for you and your pet, not to mention visitors.
- Use a placemat under your pet's water and food bowls. Cats tend to like to pull their food out of the bowl then chew it off to the side, leaving bits of kibble or canned food all over. Some dogs do the same thing. Using a mat underneath will help keep your home cleaner.
- Dust your home often. Pet dander and hair accumulate very quickly in small homes with pets. Dust and dander may aggravate allergies and contribute to decreased air quality in your home. Make sure to dust your home at least once a week.
- Use rugs or doormats at any entrances. Rugs and doormats will help decrease the muck and grime that your pet brings in after you’ve gone on your daily walks. Rugs will also help collect dander and hair, making your home easier to clean. Rugs, especially small ones, can easily be thrown in the wash.
- Beware: If another animal has peed on the carpet somewhere, and that rug has not been replaced, your dog will pee right over it.
- Reward your dog for good behavior (going potty in the correct place, being friendly with children, other dogs and strangers, etc.) and he will be in the frame of mind that these actions are associated with good feelings, and be more likely to act accordingly.
- Dogs respond best to positive reinforcement (praise for a good deed or action). Cats are more independent but for the most part do not respond to either positive or negative reinforcement. That being said, both animals will not connect your punishment with a potty accident that occurred 4 hours earlier. Hitting your pet will only make your pet fear you or become more aggressive to defend himself.
- Don’t choose your new apartment home over your pet. Hundreds and perhaps even thousands of pets are abandoned every month in the United States. Before you commit to a new apartment, make sure that they allow pets, and that you can afford the pet rent or pet fee.
- Be a Responsible Dog Owner
- Housebreak an Adult Dog
- Care for Your Cat
- Own a Dog
- Build a Cat House
- Prepare Your Small Dog for Apartment Living
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