You’ve decided to add to your family by adopting a pet dog or cat – even though you live in a small apartment and are worried how it’s all going to work out. The good news is, having a small space doesn’t preclude you getting a pet, says Dr Sara Elliott, founder and director of veterinary services at the British Veterinary Hospital.
“Animals living in apartments can thrive and be happy,” she says. “The most important thing when deciding whether to foster or adopt a pet is not where you live, but how much time you can give that pet and ensuring your pet has a full and engaging life, with plenty of play-time and activity.”
Here are Dr Elliott’s top tips for easing the adjustment of any new pet into your apartment.
Research the breed’s personality
Size isn’t the only factor to consider when living with pets in an apartment. Energy level, noisiness and even friendliness should be taken into account. Large dogs with mellow personalities may do better living in an apartment compared to small, high-energy dogs such as toy poodles and terriers that bark a lot.
Prepare to stick to a schedule
Dogs thrive on routine. It’s easier for them to adapt to apartment living if you establish regular times for their bathroom breaks. Train them to use the same designated areas around your apartment building. Cats, on the other hand, prefer privacy when using the litter box, so keep it hidden away in the bathroom or a spare bedroom. Using an enclosed litter box cuts down on messy droppings scattered on the floor.
Make sure they get exercise
High-energy breeds such as labradors, retrievers, and alsatians can adapt well to apartment living as long as they get plenty of daily exercise, including outside play time. Ensure they play outdoors as much as possible, and if you work all day and don’t have the time to exercise your pet, hire a professional dog walker. Although the silliness and energy of puppies and kittens can be fun, people often underestimate how much work they actually are. Consider taking on a senior pet, which is less labour-intensive. They are typically housebroken, accustomed to living in a home, often know basic commands and have a more laid-back approach to life.
Cats need space too
It can be difficult for cats to find a space to call their own in a tiny apartment. Cats are curious by nature and love to explore. They enjoy climbing high and like to be out of reach so they can look down and observe their surroundings. One tried and tested tactic is to ensure cats have access to tall, multi-level cat towers and kitty condos with scratching posts. If your cat loves to curl up on the window ledge and look out, make sure to secure and lock windows to prevent escape.
Just like us, pets can get depressed and lonely if they don’t get enough play time and exercise. If your pets seem restless or bored, it may mean they need more entertainment or one-on-one time with you.
Make sure they have plenty of fun, interactive toys to play with, especially if you are out all day. Place toys in different rooms and locations throughout the apartment. This gives pets a good reason to explore and exercise as they search for their favorite toys in another room. Switch their toys every few months so they don’t get bored.
Get them outside – even cats
One option is to create an an enclosed cat patio (a “catio”) that allows cats to venture outdoors and get some fresh air. Make sure to get permission from your apartment management before you enclose the catio with gates, fencing or screens. You can also create a similar patio for small dogs. Just make sure they can’t get trapped outside in the heat.
Keep your pets official and trackable
There is a national pet microchip registry in the UAE and every pet is required to be on it, after being vaccinated. Even if you have an indoor pet it still needs a form of identification in case it gets loose. Should your pet get lost and be taken to a shelter or veterinarian, routine scanning of the microchip and a phone call to the chip company will help locate its owner.
Featured photo courtesy British Veterinary Clinic