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Woman and her dog in an apartment

The essentials

  • With preparation, it’s not hard to have a pet and rent an apartment — But it does take planning and communication with the property manager.
  • It’s important to plan ahead — From pet care to posted signs, head off some unexpected issues before they arise.
  • Maintain a good relationship — Pets get off-leash or escape through open doors. Use FidoAlert and our community to avoid heartbreak.

In 2022, around 70% of American homes had a pet, with almost 70 million of those being dogs. Knowing that, it’s a given that pets will be a part of apartment living. But no matter how much we love our furry best friends — even when they’re not the most well-behaved — it’s important to be mindful of neighbors and the community when you live in an apartment complex.

8 ways to be a courteous pet owner while renting

Harvard University estimates that more than one-third of US households rent their home. For apartment complexes, that comes with unique advantages, like shared amenities, and drawbacks, such as noisy neighbors.

Here are seven ways pet owners can ensure their pet isn’t the reason they are considered a bad neighbor in an apartment community.

#1 Read the rental agreement

When signing a rental agreement, it’s easy to skim over details. There are stipulations about pets that many owners violate without realizing it. For example, the agreement may state something about how  owners should have their pets in a collar, harness, or on a leash for walks. It may say that cats must be indoor only or walked on a cat harness. Here are some of our favorite products:

#2 Invest in dog training

Whether investing time in at-home dog training or investing money in a professional trainer, dog training can go a long way in ensuring that both renter and pooch are good neighbors. Training entails more than just “sit” and “stay;” it’s also about how to walk on a leash properly, reducing reactivity to other dogs or smaller animals, and being friendly to people.

Training might also involve training on how to put on a muzzle. If the dog needs a muzzle or a dog harness, trainers can provide guidance on how to put these on correctly so that it’s comfortable and effective.

#3 Mind the noise level

One thing that dog and cat people can agree on is that 2 a.m. is not the right time of the day for barking, yowling, or roughhousing. In an apartment building where neighbors may be sleeping on the other side of the wall, 2 p.m. isn’t either. To maintain a good relationship with neighbors who have different sleep schedules, make sure that pets are quiet indoors with toys, beds, and crate training.

#4 Keep it clean

A clean apartment is important, but we’re talking about the great outdoors. No one enjoys stepping in dog poop, and many apartment complexes have signs warning owners that not picking up their dog’s poop can lead to a fine. Our article on the best pooper scoopers covers the variety that’s out there.

Clean up after your dog sign

#5 Practice greetings

The only things we control when walking our pets are ourselves and, ideally, a well-trained dog or cat. Some people love animals and haven’t yet learned to ask the person and the pet permission before touching. This ties back to training so that pets don’t react in a potentially dangerous way to over-excited people.

👉 Know what dogs are saying and cat body language to head off any issues before they start.

For some pets, like dogs with a high prey drive, seeing a cat, squirrel, or other smaller animal can kick in their natural instincts to give chase despite training. Some dog breeds are known for their prey drive, and others do well with smaller animals.

11 breeds with a high prey drive 8 breeds with the lowest prey drive
Xoloitzcuintli Bichon frisé
Saluki French bulldog
English springer spaniel Cavalier King Charles spaniel
Rhodesian ridgeback Papillon
Chihuahua Maltese
Bull terrier Boxer
Greyhound Old English Sheepdog
Siberian husky Pomeranian
Pharaoh Hound
Irish wolfhound

#6 Create a safe outdoor space

While mainly for cats, small dogs might enjoy converting an outdoor space into a catio. First, get permission from the landlord or property manager. Some management companies may do the installation themselves. If so, make sure they are using a pet-proof screen to reduce the chances of a pet escaping. Here is an example of what the management company may do during install.

If installing the screening yourself, get written clarification concerning what modifications can be made to the apartment. If it’s only minimal changes, a pet-proof screen, hammer and nails, and base strips will also work. The base strip and screen can easily be removed, and the holes can be filled with wood glue when moving.

👉Because cats like to climb, we don’t recommend simply stapling the screen to the wood frame. The lack of a base strip can make it easy to pull the screen away.

Chicken wire is a budget-friendly option here as well. However, it’s important to note that while chicken wire is very strong and will last, it’s significantly more difficult to hang, doesn’t defend against bugs, and isn’t aesthetically pleasing. If using chicken wire, make sure that you have written permission from management first.

#7 Basic grooming helps

When signing the lease for an apartment or bringing home a new pet, there’s typically a security deposit. This is to cover things like damage to the floors and walls and deep cleaning once the lease is up. But, there are some ways to help ensure a refundable pet deposit is, in fact, refunded.

  • Nail trimming. Trimming the dog’s or cat’s nails can help ensure the flooring remains scratch-free.
  • Invest in throw rugs. No matter how diligently a pet’s nails are trimmed, investing in a durable throw rug is still a good idea to help protect the floors.
  • Scratching posts. For cat owners, scratching posts can help cats trim their nails and relieve natural instincts to scratch on something other than the walls.
  • Brush often. Both cats and dogs shed. Either visit a professional groomer or make it a habit to brush and bathe.
  • Control fleas. Fleas are a big problem in a lot of places. Get rid of fleas naturally in the home and use flea and tick treatments on dogs (and approved treatments on cats as well.)

#8 Protect your pet with a specialty ID tag

Regardless of a pet’s outdoor adventures, an apartment complex may require something like FidoAlert. FidoAlert, or TabbyAlert when it comes to cats, is a network of pet owners and pet lovers who are notified when a pet goes missing. FidoAlert provides you with a free tag equipped with a QR code to put on the dog or cat’s collar. When someone finds your lost pet, they scan the QR code, and the pet owner is notified. Pet parents can purchase additional tags for only $5 or shop apparel and pet portraits too.

The best products for apartment living with pets

Various products make life easier when living in an apartment with pets. We’ve tested and evaluated many pet products here at betterpet. Check out our product reviews here!

Things to keep in mind with pets

Beyond being mindful and considerate of neighbors, pet owners have some other responsibilities. From regulations to emergencies, it’s good to be prepared for the unexpected.

Keeping your pet healthy

There’s a good chance there are numerous pets in your apartment building or community. Regular vet visits can help head off any health issues that might be costly and contagious, while pet health insurance can help make pet health care more affordable.

As a rule, dogs and cats should visit the vet once a year for an annual checkup, while younger and senior pets should go more often. Here are a few guides to help plan out pet visits.

Be aware of local and state laws

In the United States, most areas require that all pets be up to date on certain vaccinations, like rabies. It’s important to be aware of the pet ownership laws in your area and remain compliant. This may also be a stipulation in the lease agreement. But regardless, be able to show that your pet cannot pass along certain diseases, especially those that are zoonotic, meaning humans can catch it.

Many areas and housing facilities require a veterinarian to provide physical exam and health certification documentation before the tenant is allowed to have a pet reside there. So make sure to [check] this.

Dr. Bruce Armstrong

Accidents happen, but lawsuits don’t have to

Ultimately, all the training in the world won’t change whether or not a pet bites, scratches, or otherwise injures a person or another pet. While pets can be trained not to react to certain situations, sometimes they do, whether you (or the law) consider it justified. Dog bite insurance is a good investment, but so is being proactive.

Veterinarians, trainers, and pet groomers are all professionals in the pet industry that may interact with your pet regularly. While you can gather statements from them after the fact, having written statements from those who know your pet’s temperament on hand can help if an injury occurs. Here are a few additional tips.

  • Use a muzzle. For dogs that are reactive or have a bite history, ensure they are correctly muzzled when they go outside or are around others.
  • Consider a vest. While most typically seen with service dogs, a “DO NOT PET” vest or bandana clearly conveys that a dog should not be approached.
  • Post a sign. Consider adding a beware of dog sign to the entryways of the apartment, clearly stating that visitors should be mindful of the dog.

None of these explicitly offer legal protection should something happen. But, when paired with written statements and any protections built into the law, it may help if your pet injures someone and they decide to take legal action.

Frequently asked questions

Is it hard living in an apartment with a dog?

This depends entirely on the dog and your lifestyle. Leaving any dog alone for too long can lead to anxiety, but this is especially true for sensitive breeds. If you work long hours and are mostly away from home, having a dog in an apartment may not be ideal. But, an apartment might be perfect for adaptable dogs who aren’t particularly sensitive and don’t have high energy needs.

Should I get a dog while living in an apartment?

Many dogs do well in an apartment, so the simple answer is sure, why not? But it’s important to understand what that means for you, like daily walks, grooming, and how to prevent damage to your apartment. Dogs with high energy needs, prone to barking, and a lot of shedding might not be the best choice for apartment living.

Is it okay for a cat to live in an apartment?

Cats are typically well suited to apartment living without the need for daily walks and with easy-to-maintain bathroom routines. It’s important to note that they still need an enriching indoor environment with places to climb and explore.

Why are cats better for apartments?

Due to size alone, cats are a better choice for apartments than most dogs. That aside, they don’t bark, aren’t typically noisy overall, and don’t require daily walks due to their bathroom needs. However, they need vertical spaces to climb and explore and plenty of scratching posts to prevent damage.

What is a good pet to keep in an apartment?

While dogs and cats are overwhelmingly the most popular pets in the U.S., there are some other great choices for apartment living. Small caged pets, like hamsters, rats, and birds, might be an option for those who still want a companion but would rather not get a dog or cat due to space, time, or cost.