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The Complete Guide to Apartment Living for Pet Owners

Searching for an apartment with a pet means you’re not just looking at places for yourself. Animal owners must take into consideration a variety of factors to ensure not only their own comfort, but also their pet’s.

Dogs on the couch

Questions to ask yourself while you’re browsing could include:

  • Are there any additional upfront costs for having pets in the complex?
  • Are there certain breeds or animals that are not allowed? 

Once you’ve signed a lease, maintaining the integrity of your new space will be important. When it comes to cleaning, pet owners will want to consider investing in the best vacuum or air purifier to help keep the apartment fresh.

What's the best vacuum for pets?
What’s the best vacuum for pets?

Likewise, pet owners will want to find ways to keep their animals entertained, so their pets don’t disturb their neighbors or destroy the space out of boredom. 

Taking note of the following tips and tricks on living in apartments with pets can help to ensure proper pet etiquette is maintained.

Find A Pet-Friendly Apartment 

Finding a pet-friendly apartment right from the get-go is imperative. The last thing you want to do is move into a space that doesn’t allow pets, with the intent to bend or break the rules. However, the search for accommodating housing can be a daunting task. 

According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), 67% of U.S. households owned at least one pet during the time of the association’s 2019-2020 National Pet Owners Survey. Despite such high numbers of pet ownership in the U.S., not all apartment complexes allow animals. 

How to remove pet hair friendship

Apartment search sites show that there are considerably fewer complexes allowing pets than those that are not allowing pets.

According to Rent.com, only about a quarter of all apartments for rent in New York or Los Angeles allow pets. Finding an apartment can be even harder for owners of certain animals or breeds.

In Fort Collins, Colorado, pitbull owners struggle to find housing largely based on the breed of their dog. These types of breed restrictions can vary widely in strictness and specificity, but are not uncommon challenges for pet owners to face.

Helpful Tips

While beginning the process of finding a pet-friendly apartment, consider the following tips and tricks:

  • Utilize Apartment Search Sites – Sites such as Rent.com or Apartments.com can help narrow the search for a pet-friendly apartment.
  • Look for Private Landlords – You might find that private landlords are more flexible in their terms and conditions than corporate complexes.
  • Choose the Right Location – For larger breeds or outdoor-loving pets, you may prefer somewhere with a decent yard or nearby parks. Make sure to choose a location suitable for your pet’s lifestyle.
  • Consider the Size of Your Pet – Some apartments only allow small animals. Make sure to reach out to your landlord regarding the size of your animal if you have any questions.
  • Create a Pet Resume – Similar to a human resume, a pet resume details all of the great qualities of your furry friend. Owners may even include letters of recommendation from former landlords or obedience trainers. 
  • Set Up a Pet Interview – If you’re confident in your pet, set up a pet interview with landlords to negate any doubts they may have about allowing you to rent. 

Pet Amenities to Look For in Apartments

Some apartment complexes cater specifically to animals by providing pet amenities. Certain pet amenities may be considered crucial, such as indoor dog-relief areas for apartments in cities without access to much greenery. Consider each of the following pet amenities when leasing an apartment:

  • Dog wash stations
  • Indoor dog relief areas
  • Dog parks
  • Pet daycare
  • Front desk treats

If you include amenities like the above in your initial search, it may help you identify pet-friendly apartments and rentals, even if they don’t explicitly advertise being “pet-friendly” in their listings.

Before Moving In

It is not uncommon for leases to come with a mandatory move-in checklist detailing all of the nuances to your new apartment. However, these checklists may not include advice on how to pet-proof your new place.

My poodle, Tibbers
My poodle, Tibbers

The following pet-proofing information can help deter any damage costs tagged on at the end of your lease.

  • Keep trash cans covered or inside a pantry or cabinet;  
  • Stow food out of the reach of animals; 
  • Keep the toilet lid closed;
  • Move dangerous items, such as poisonous plants or sharp objects, out of reach of animals;
  • Move all electrical wires out of reach of animals;
  • Place medications, cleaners, chemicals, and laundry supplies on high shelves;
  • Make sure all heating/air vents have covers;
  • Watch for paws, noses, and tails when shutting doors or leaving your apartment;
  • Take pictures of any existing damage to the apartment, and then save the pictures until you move out. This will help prevent any previous damage from being held against you and your pet. 

Don’t Hide Your Pet

Hiding your pet from a landlord is not only dangerous for you, but also for your pet. Moreover, keeping your pet stowed away in your apartment is unfair to them. Dog owners especially should remember that their pets require walks, fresh air, and exposure to sunlight and new surroundings.

Consider the following risks before putting yourselves in an unsafe or unsuitable environment:

  • You could be evicted;
  • You could have trouble renting with future landlords;
  • Your neighbors could report you;
  • You could be fined.

Knowing Your Rights and Negotiating With Property Management

Avoid the risks associated with hiding your pet by knowing your rights as a tenant and negotiating with property management. Individuals with emotional support or service animals, for instance, are allowed by law to have their animals in apartments or other buildings with no-pet policies. 

Pets and vinyl or laminate flooring

According to the Humane Society, tenants also have the following legal protections:   

  • Landlords cannot come into your apartment and remove your pet
  • Contracts, such as leases, cannot be changed unless both parties agree
  • If you are facing eviction, you may seek professional help from lawyers or non-profit agencies.

Pet Deposits and Other Fees 

Most landlords charge upfront costs to pet owners in the form of a “pet deposit.” A tenant may receive this deposit back at the end of their lease if there has been no pet-related damage done to the apartment. Pet fees, on the other hand, are usually not refundable. 

Laws regarding pet deposits vary by location. Tenants should research municipality and state laws to be sure their landlords are acting within their jurisdiction.

For instance, it is illegal in some states to use the security deposit to pay for pet-related damage that should be covered by the pet deposit. 

Preventing Damage and Keeping Clean

Maintaining your pet’s grooming and cleanliness is key to preventing damage and keeping your apartment clean. Pets, especially dogs and cats, can track mud, scratch furniture, or shed. Cleaning up their messes shouldn’t be delayed or ignored. The longer the mess sits, the harder it can be to clean. 

Grooming Your Pet

In order to keep up with your pet’s personal cleanliness, consider purchasing the following tools:

  • Shampoo
  • Ear cleaner
  • Parasite-control cleaner
  • Brush
  • Nail trimmers
  • Nail file
  • Animal dental care products

Maintaining Your Apartment

While pet owners may groom their animals regularly, there are breeds that will still shed. For this reason, robot vacuums are an excellent addition to an apartment’s cleaning repository. Advanced technology has allowed robot vacuums to operate more calmly and quietly, helping many dogs and cats be more comfortable with them.

Joybird pet friendly couch

Pet owners should also consider the following products to maintain their apartment’s quality and appearance: 

  • Regularly changed air filters
  • An ultraviolet flashlight to spot accidents
  • Wipes to get messes off walls and windows
  • Pet hair removal products
  • Lint brush for clothes and furniture
  • Pooper scooper and disposal bags
  • Stain and odor removal products
  • Litter box deodorizer

Preventing any long-term damage to your apartment will eventually pay off. It will not only help ensure you retain your pet deposit, but should also help reduce the chance of conflict between you and property management.

Pet Etiquette in Apartments & Rentals

Maintaining pet etiquette is essential to being a courteous and responsible pet owner. Pet etiquette for apartment living includes a variety of considerations, such as the ones mentioned below:

  • Cleaning up and disposing of your pet’s waste
  • Keeping their loud noises to a minimum
  • Letting neighbors know your pet’s temperament, likes, and dislikes
  • Keeping them on a leash or contained when in common areas

Keeping Your Pets Entertained in Apartment Living

Many pet owners will probably go to work, run errands, do chores, or carry out various other responsibilities throughout the day. Ensuring that your pet is entertained while you’re busy is a crucial aspect of carrying out proper pet etiquette in apartments. The following options can be perfect outlets for your furry friends:

  • Scratch Posts and Cat Condos – Cat owners may want to consider investing in a scratch post or a cat condo. These items will give your pet a place to scratch safely, as well as an area to climb.
  • White Noise – Some animals are entertained by sound from the radio or television. Playing or streaming a channel can provide a welcome distraction for your pet. 
  • Placement of Cage – For birds or other caged animals, place them in a central location during the day where they’ll receive plenty of interaction from humans, television, or other forms of stimulation. 
  • Toys – Many pets enjoy a good toy. Make sure to invest in a variety of pet toys that will help keep your animals entertained.
  • Foraging – Hiding a bit of food in your pet’s cage or a lodging a treat in a toy can be an exciting and distracting activity. 
  • Hire a Dog Walker – Dog owners may want to hire someone to come by and walk their dog a couple of times a week. Larger or more active dogs often require this kind of physical activity.

Understanding Your Pet’s Needs In Apartment Living

Understanding your pet’s needs is a great way to ensure the comfort of you, your pet, and your fellow neighbors.

Consider the following tips for making the most of your living situation:

  • Create a Feeding Schedule – Maintaining a feeding schedule can keep your pet from getting anxious while you’re away at work or running errands. A feeding schedule should be sure to align with a bathroom routine.
  • Create a Bathroom Routine – Following your feeding schedule, a bathroom routine can help prevent accidents from occurring. For dog owners, regularly take your dog outside after they eat, when you wake up, and before going to bed.
  • Create a Designated Spot For Your Pet – Whether this is a blanket by the fireplace or a bed next to the couch, giving your pet a spot of their own can provide them the solace they need in a new place.  
  • Regularly Exercise Your Pet – Not only will exercise help keep your pet healthy, but it can also make them tired and calm. This can help keep them from barking or being hyperactive. 
  • Visit Local Dog Parks – For dog owners, visiting a park can be a great way to let your pet to socialize while getting some fresh air. 
  • Befriend Neighborhood Dogs – Socializing your dog with other neighboring pets can help to negate conflict down the road. 

Common Issues With Pets

As much as owners love their pets, these feisty animals may cause trouble from time to time. In apartments especially, owners must be wary of the potential issues posed by their pets.

Dogs that don't shed

While most general issues can be avoided just by being aware of them, some may require extra care. Some general issues to consider include:

  • Pet hair
  • Pet dander
  • Unpleasant smells
  • Chewing on furniture
  • Scratching furniture

For pet owners with consistently mischievous animals, keeping a security camera inside your home can allow you to know when your pet is chewing up furniture or being a nuisance to neighbors, and to help mitigate the situation when applicable.  

Moving Out

Similar to moving into your apartment, there are often check-lists to go over prior to moving out. These checklists are to inform your landlord that you’ve left your apartment in the same condition in which you acquired it. Your landlord will determine this themselves upon their walk-through inspection. 

House cleaning with a dog

During the walk-through inspection, your landlord will document any damage done to the apartment, as well as how much cleaning and maintenance will be required to bring the place up to snuff. After the inspection, landlords generally conclude how much of the pet deposit will be returned.

Consider the following tips prior to the inspection in order to increase the chances of getting your pet deposit back:

  • Collect Documents from the Move-In Inspection – Be sure to collect documents and photos of the damage that occurred prior to you moving in. This can help prevent previous tenants’ damages from being included in your records. 
  • Use Air Purifiers – Air purifiers help to remove odors and contaminants, such as allergens and pet dander, from the air. In addition, purifiers can generally help diminish your animal’s natural smells from permeating throughout the apartment. 
  • Remove Any Pet Stains – Remove any pet stains as best as you can.
  • Fix Any Tears or Holes – Try your best to fix any tears or holes created by pets, such as those on walls or doors. 
  • Wipe Down Windows and Floors- Be sure to wipe down all windows and floors, as many pets tend to leave some mess behind in these areas. 

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