Updated December 2, 2020 . AmFam Team
For apartment dwellers, having a pet may seem like a far-off dream. But you don’t have to wait until you own your own home to get a dog, cat or other animal companion. While it might take a little more research, finding an apartment-friendly pet and learning the best ways to live with them in your limited space can make your dream of pet ownership a reality.
If you’re on the search for an apartment and are interested in getting a pet after you sign your lease, make sure the landlord allows them. While many do, some may have restrictions on the kinds of pets you can have. For example, a lot of apartments only allow small dogs up to 20 pounds in weight, especially if they’re smaller units in larger complexes. Or some apartments might have breed restrictions or require cats to be front-declawed.
Are you interested in getting a non-standard pet like ferrets, snakes, lizards or fish? You may need to do a bit more digging. Some landlords don’t think about adding these to their banned pets list, but that doesn’t mean you can bring one home. Find out the restrictions of your new apartment before spending the time and money it takes to prepare your home for a pet you may not be able to keep.
So you’ve found an apartment that is fine with you having a pet — within certain restrictions — but now you have the task of deciding which pet to get. To help make your choice, here are a few things you need to think about when choosing a new pet for your apartment.
The way you live your life is a major factor in what kind of pet you should get, especially if you’re in an apartment. If you like to go out a lot or have parties at your place, look for something low maintenance — like fish — that won’t be disturbed by your irregular hours or lots of guests. If you’re more of a homebody, a cat is a great option as your companion. Active folks should consider dogs — you can take them jogging or to the park for exercise. Examine where a pet would fit into all your current responsibilities and activities before starting your search.
If you work long hours or have a long commute, you might not be home often enough to care for a high maintenance pet like a cat, dog, rodent, bird or reptile. These animals require attention and emotional connection to thrive, as well as regular feeding, cleaning and activity. Choose a pet for your apartment based on the amount of time you have to spend with them.
Some pets are more expensive than others. If you’re on a tight budget, a pure-bred anything is probably not right for you. These animals have upfront expenses, often costing between $1500 to $5000, and many pure-breds are prone to genetic diseases. That can mean more visits to the vet, which means more bills for you. That’s not to say mixed breed pets don’t also have the potential for medical issues, so be prepared for anything when you commit to bringing your new friend home. You’ll also need to consider food costs, equipment — leashes, cages, tanks, toys and more — and maintenance when factoring your pet into your weekly, monthly or yearly budget.
Because most apartments are smaller spaces than houses, you’ll want to look for a pet that won’t crowd you and any roommates. Large, energetic dog breeds like Siberian Huskies and Labrador retrievers probably aren’t the best choices for your limited space. Likewise, any animals known for being loud — like Siamese cats, beagles, cockatoos — should wait until you’re renting or owning a house.
So what are the best pets for apartments?
While small dogs come to mind for many considering a good pet for an apartment, there are plenty of choices among the medium and large breeds that can fit into a smaller space. Remember, any breed you get as a puppy is going to be energetic and has the potential to be barky. But with training and attention, they can make great apartment-dwelling companions. If you’re thinking of adopting a dog while living in an apartment, here are some great breeds to consider:
Most greyhounds that are available for potential owners can be adopted straight from the race track after they retire. Adult greyhounds enjoy outdoor exercise in the form of long sprints, but indoors they are almost as lazy as a cat. If you want a quiet, independent couch potato a greyhound is a great choice for apartment living.
A fancy name for a fancy pup, the Bichon Frise is a small, curly-haired, intelligent dog that loves to cuddle in your lap. These dogs are extremely affectionate and take to training well, making great companions for anyone who brings one home. They’re also hypoallergenic, which is great for apartments with roommates!
One of the trendiest little dogs right now, the French bulldog is a quiet, friendly choice for any apartment-dweller. They’re smart, not particularly willful and travel well, so if you’re on-the-go more often than at-home, a Frenchie is still a good choice.
Pretty much any cat will do well in an apartment as they’re more suited to living in smaller spaces than dogs and tend to be less accidentally destructive when playing indoors. But you still might be wondering what type of cat is the best cat to have in an apartment. There are some cat breeds that require more space to roam or are more vocal than others, so if you’re adopting or buying one, ask the shelter or breeder about their temperament and living space requirements.
An all-around great cat, the American shorthair is one of the most common breeds available across the country. These kitties are low maintenance and enjoy relaxing on the couch.
Fluffy and very cuddly, ragdolls are sweethearts with a low energy level. They love to be held and don’t need a ton of space to thrive, which is great for small apartments. They’re a bit more affectionate than other cat breeds, so expect to spend most of your time at home with these furry friends.
The Russian Blue is a gorgeous, laid-back breed of cat that knows how to make its own fun. While not standoffish, this cat won’t need you to be around 24/7 — if you work long hours, this breed is a good bet for you.
Not a dog or cat person? Want to try a different kind of animal companion? There are plenty of great options for apartment-dwellers to choose from. Just remember to take into account the time, energy and money you have to expend on these pets before bringing one home. Several exotic pets are great low maintenance pets for apartments. Consider a few of the breeds below for easy apartment pets.
Intelligent but short-lived, domesticated rats might not seem like an “exotic” pet, but raising and training one is vastly different than owning a dog or cat. Rats are quiet and affectionate creatures that require little maintenance but enjoy a lot of social engagement from their humans. Be sure to socialize your rat by handling them for a long time every day to get them used to you.
Commonly seen in pet stores all around the country, bearded dragons are a popular lizard for first-time reptile owners. They’re rarely aggressive toward humans and enjoy regular handling. They can even live to be 14 years old! Just be sure to pick out a bearded dragon from a reputable breeder that knows what variety it is so you can plan for its growth. Some types of bearded dragon can grow up to two feet long, so be sure to consider how much space you’ll have in your apartment as they grow.
Fish are traditionally a low energy pet, not requiring much in the way of daily attention aside from feeding and tank cleaning. They are, however, more of a financial investment than many would have you believe. Do your research on the types and sizes of fish you want to own and find out if they’re a saltwater or freshwater fish before committing to your purchase and adding a fish tank to your apartment.
Apartments are notorious for being small and possibly crowded depending on how much stuff you have. Your kitchen might be open to the rest of the apartment or you may have a pantry with no doors. Whatever quirks your apartment has, you’ll have to plan around them to make sure your pets don’t get into any trouble. While pets that can be kept in enclosures like birds, rodents, fish and reptiles are generally safe from potential hazards in your apartment, cats and dogs that roam freely — whether you’re home or not — are at risk for getting into trouble. So how do you pet-proof your apartment?
Flowers are pretty and brighten up an apartment with color and sometimes amazing scents, but many beautiful plants are toxic to our furry friends. Poinsettias, lilies, daffodils and other popular flowers are poisonous. Even if a plant is not toxic, it’s generally not a good idea to let your pet chomp on it, unless it’s specifically a pet-friendly plant like catnip or cat grass. Here are some other common house plants that are toxic to pets (Opens in a new tab).
Don’t leave plates out for an intrepid cat or bird to get into. They could eat something toxic to them, which means an expensive vet bill, or mess up their diet, potentially leaving you with a gross surprise when you get home from work. Keep your kitchen neat and organized to minimize the risk of pets getting into your food.
If your apartment only has one bedroom, this may end up being your living room. But if you have a spare room, turn that into a fun play space for your smaller pets. Cats and small dogs can benefit from this, especially if bad weather prevents outdoor playtime. This space will also encourage them to play away from any valuable items you may have, like TVs or video game systems.
Pets need their alone time, too, especially if you have more than one in the house. Be sure to provide adequate space for them to be alone in your apartment without being bothered by lights, noise or roommates — human or animal. One simple way to do this is to make space in a closet for a cat or dog bed underneath your hanging clothes.
If you crate your pets while you’re away, make sure they’re not bored or you might end up with a noise complaint on your hands. Cats and dogs can both suffer from separation anxiety, so giving them something to do when they’re alone — like chewing on a bone, playing with a treat ball or eating a frozen toy filled with peanut butter — can go a long way to keeping them happy and quiet.
While you might not be able to get extravagant with your pet’s accommodations, there are plenty of small ways you can make living in an apartment with your animal companion fun and comfortable for everyone. Coming home to a happy pet, no matter where you live, is a great feeling that you can achieve with just a few tweaks to your living space.
One part of moving into an apartment is protecting the things inside, including your beloved pets. Connect with your American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab) to discuss renters insurance, which can cover your pets up to $1,000 with a coverage add-on to your policy.