How to Overcome the Challenges of Apartment Living With a Pet


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Living in a small space with a hyper dog or a cat that can’t help but channel his inner Norman Bates can be a challenge. If you’ve recently downsized, adopted a cat or dog, or moved to a new home with your pet, you might even wonder if you’ve made the right decision. It’s critical to remember that apartment living with four-legged friends is possible and can even be enjoyable. However, it might not always be easy.

With a basic understanding of your pet’s personality and some tips for overcoming the challenges of living in close quarters, you’ll have a happy apartment life as a pet owner.

Understanding Aggression

Dogs come in all shapes and sizes. They also vary based on temperament or their attitude towards people and other animals. Your pet’s attitude is based on genetic and environmental factors — meaning some of it is just who they are and other portions of it are related to how you train them.

There are several ways to test your dog’s temperament, but most of us get to the point that we intuitively understand our dog’s personality and how to find a harmonious relationship. However, living with a dog who can be a bit aggressive around others in a busy apartment building can be challenging. In such instances, training by a professional might be necessary.

Dog aggression can lead to many problems for both you, especially if they are unable to manage that aggression while living in close quarters with neighbors. When dog bite cases go to court, pet owners typically pay a dear price. In one instance, a young boy was attacked by a neighbor’s dog in front of his sister. The attack resulted in wounds to the boy’s face and head. The pet owner settled for $350,000 because of this one incident. You don’t want to be held liable for this kind of money, so be sure to invest in training if needed!

Providing an Outlet for High-Energy Dogs

Energy level is the next factor that might come into play when living in an apartment with a dog. Many people think that energy levels are inherent to the breed. However, that’s not always true. For most people, a lazy, low-energy dog isn’t too much of a struggle, even in a smaller home, but if you have a high-energy dog, you might feel like you’re losing your mind.

For many dogs, they need a job to calm the mind and tire their body. When you live in an apartment, a high-energy dog can feel trapped and get bored quickly. To help calm your energetic dog, provide mental exercise by teaching basic obedience commands and tricks. Getting plenty of physical activity by taking walks or going to the dog park is crucial for high-energy dogs too.

If you have a cat, their energy and temperament levels are probably not the most significant problems you face in an apartment. Things like cat hair and litter box messes can be just as challenging as a hyper dog when you’re in a small space. The good news is that there are a few simple things you can do to help your pet adjust to your new place that will protect your sanity, give your pet an outlet for their energy, and help you stay clean and organized. 

Establish Bathroom Routines

No one wants to go up and down several flights of steps multiple time a day for potty breaks. Train your dog to do their business at set times during normal waking hours. Take them to the same spot each time you go outside so that they know when it’s time to use the bathroom.

If you have a cat, you don’t need to worry about running them outside to the go to the bathroom. However, you should know that cats like a little privacy when they use the litter box. Consider setting it up in a bathroom or spare bedroom so that they have their own space. You might also want to invest in a litter box with a lid to cut down on messy litter that can get scattered across the floor.

Protect Your Surfaces

Let’s be honest: There isn’t anything quite as adorable as opening your eyes to a balled up furball snoozing next to you. However, when you get up and realize you are covered head to toe in cat or dog hair, you might forget their adorableness for a few minutes. When trying to determine whether you should sleep with your pets, consider your available space.  When you live in a small space, there aren’t as many surfaces for your pet to choose for their morning and afternoon naps. This means there is a good chance that they will make the executive decision to do so, whether you like it or not.

With more bodies in your bed comes more wear and tear. If you have a large dog, they can easily take up as much space as a small person. Cats who are declawed aren’t as much of a worry. However, any pet can have an accident or leave remnants such as dirt, dander, and mud. To decrease any odors or dirt you notice in your bed, there are a few things you can do:

  • Wash your sheets at least once a week and anytime they are soiled.
  • Purchase a mattress cover to protect from mattress from soiling and odors.
  • Consider having a special pillow or blanket that is just for your pet and train them to sleep in this area only.

Get Organized

Pets are a little like children in the sense that they can accumulate lots of stuff over time. You might have toys, leashes, clothing, and of course food and treats. However, when you live in an apartment, space might be a limited commodity. Organizing your life with pets is crucial to happy living.

An excellent way to get organized is to find specific spaces for all of your pet things. Create multiple stations around the apartment to store similar items in easy-to-find places. You might have a “go for a walk” bin or a “bath and hygiene” tote, just to name a few.

If organization becomes a struggle, keep an eye open for unused space. Maybe you have a landing at the top of the stairs that could house pet items or unused space under the stairs that could become a dog or cat home. Another great area that many people don’t consider are the walls. Look for ways to loft the cat bed or suspend it from a window casing to give your cat a view of the neighborhood. Optimize your limited space to make life a little easier on both of you.

Provide Entertainment

Animals can get bored when you’re not home during the day. This might lead to unwanted behaviors or even sadness and depression. One way to minimize this is to give them plenty of fun and interactive toys to play with during the day. Scatter toys throughout the apartment so that they find new items to keep their attention as they travel about.

Designating a “play area” can also be a wise decision. You might consider a “catio” or enclosed cat patio to let your cats venture outside and enjoy the sunshine. You can also look into purchasing video cameras for this area that will allow you to check in on them and even talk or offer a treat to your pet while you’re away.

Practice Good Hygiene

A smelly pet is never a good thing. If you want your pet to smell good, you’ll need to tend to a few personal care items like brushing their teeth and giving regular baths. Both of these activities will keep the pet odors to a minimum. You might also consider a high-quality diet to keep their coat and digestive system healthy, which can cut down on smells.

You’ll also want to keep their surroundings clean. Tight spaces mean that you and your pet will be sharing areas like the bed, chairs, and other furniture. If you don’t want to struggle with cat or dog hair on your black trousers, be sure to buy a powerful vacuum. A handheld vacuum is excellent for small spaces, clothing, and furniture. You might also want to get a carpet cleaner if your pets are prone to accidents.

Consider Daycare or a Sitter

If you have an active pet that needs some attention during the day, you might want to consider signing them up for daycare or finding a local dog walker who can make a visit or two while you’re at work. This will help them get the exercise they need, which will minimize the likelihood of unwanted behaviors like chewing or scratching on furniture and walls.

While apartment living might be a challenge, it just takes some planning and a few great tips to get started. Whether you’re getting ready to move or have just adopted your furry friend, use these strategies to get you and your pet off to a good start in your apartment.

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