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Choosing the Best Pet for Apartment Life

Studies show that pet owners have lower blood pressure, fewer cases of depression, and overall better health than the rest of the population – testimony to the therapeutic power of animals, and reason enough to start scouring the ‘free to a good home’ ads. Choosing which pet is best for you should always be a deliberate and well-researched decision since there are so many aspects to consider: what you want in a pet, the pet’s needs, the amount of time you can commit, and how much its initial expenses and long-term care will cost. If you’re a renter, there’s another aspect to this decision which shouldn’t be overlooked: the unique obligations and accommodations of your living space. Apartment and small-space living isn’t necessarily a disadvantage to owning pets (unless your lease prohibits you from having them), but it does require special considerations.

Size Does (and Doesn’t) Matter

It’s a misconception that if you live in an apartment or tiny house, you have to choose small pets. There are, surprisingly, several large but calm dog breeds, including greyhounds and mastiffs, that do well in apartment living. On the other hand, depending on how small your living space is, even lethargic animals might not have enough room to stretch their legs, and small but hyperactive animals might not be a good fit. This is why it’s important to research and not just assume the space needs of your desired pet before you commit to it. Animals that aren’t getting enough exercise can become unhealthy and depressed, or behavioral and destructive.

Puppies, Kittens & Security Deposits

It’s no secret that young animals are rambunctious and tend to get into mischief. Climbing the curtains or chewing your slippers might be cute at first, but when pets start to damage the structure and carpet in your apartment, it won’t be as cute kissing your security deposit goodbye. Pet rent and deposits are modern renters’ way of planning for these damages, but unless you have the time to monitor and prevent bad behavior, why not save your money and choose a more mature animal?

Besides trained cats and dogs, there are a number of pets that represent very little risk to your lease agreement, especially small ones that are perfectly content to live in a cage or tank:

  • hamsters, gerbils, chinchillas, ferrets, parrots
  • lizards, turtles, hermit crabs, fish

Temperament and Social Traits

Every animal is unique, but some types and breeds of pets fall into predictable personality categories. You can’t really bond with a fish (although they’re fun to watch), whereas dogs need a lot of interaction. Do you prefer a pet that’s calm, full of energy and goofy, or one that has no personality? Do you want a critter that loves to cuddle, or does invasion of your personal space bother you? Knowing the predicted behavior of various pets will help you choose one that meets your desires, and whose social needs you can meet, as well (a bored pet is more likely to be destructive to get your attention).

The more interactive your pet will be, the more you need confidence it will adjust well to other animals and people. In my experience, apartment-dwelling dogs tend to be better with both because they’re forced to deal with many people and animals invading their ‘territory’, but I’m sure they don’t all start out like this.

Even if they’re well-adjusted, an excessively noisy pet can be a problem when you live close to others: a barking dog, a squawking bird, or a cat that likes to run around and knock things over at night. To avoid the frustration of choosing a noisy pet, it helps to read reviews, talk to other pet owners, and observe the animal over a time span to see how it reacts in a variety of circumstances.

Forget Space. How Much Time Do You Have?

The final question to consider doesn’t pertain to your small home, but your lifestyle. You may have enough space for your pet, but do you have the time required to care for it? Apartment dwelling means that any type of dog will need to be walked regularly for bathroom breaks and exercise. Other pet needs include grooming, regular cage and tank cleaning, and, of course, quality time. If your small-space lifestyle includes a busy work and social life that keeps you away from home, owning a social or exercise-dependent pet might not be the best fit.

Choosing the best pet for apartment life requires a balance between your desires, the animal’s needs, and the suitability of your environment.

If you’re allowed to have a pet in your apartment, what kind of animal have you chosen? What are the pros and cons of your particular pet type or breed while living in a small space?

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