Pets for Apartment Living

There is no denying that pets can greatly enrich our lives. They cheer us up when we’re down, keep us company when we’re lonely, and can provide nearly endless entertainment and companionship. Today’s post is dedicated to giving you a little insight into what it means to have a pet in an apartment scenario. We’ll talk about some of the responsibilities of pet ownership, we’ll go over a few popular breeds of cats and dogs, and list some tips that will help you if you choose to get a pet, or already have one.

Most of the apartments managed by Dick James & Associates have pet policies that allow you to live with a cat or small dog. But if you do decide to get a furry friend, check with your apartment manager to make sure you are in a pet friendly community, and to be aware of specific restrictions and policies that your apartment may have.

It’s not all Roses and Sunshine!

Before we really begin, I want to address one very important issue: responsibility. The animals that we keep as pets are living, breathing creatures that deserve our compassion. While they obviously do not posses our cognitive abilities, they still have base emotions that we share with them, such as fear and joy. They also feel pain, and can suffer from both physical and emotional stress.

Having a pet is a lot like having a baby, they both need to be looked after. In general, a pet needs:

  • proper access to food and water
  • shelter out of the elements
  • a relatively sanitary place to relieve themselves
  • proper vaccinations and other medically related treatments
  • attention from you!

It’s hard to deny the emotional appeal of a fluffy little kitten or puppy, but if you find yourself wanting to get a pet, consider these issues first:

  • Do you take weekend trips, or are frequently gone from home for more than a day? If so, you’ll have to find friends/family that would be willing to take care of Fido while you’re away.
  • Do you live alone, and are gone from home for most of the day? This affects dogs especially, because they’ve evolved as social pack animals, and they need companionship.
  • Do you have the extra money needed to support a pet? Pet food, litter, leashes, toys, vaccinations, etc, can all add up quickly, and most of these are recurring costs.

If you’ve considered these issues, and feel confident that you can address them, then read on!

If I fits, I sits!

In general, cats are more well suited to apartment living than dogs. Also, if you are going to be a first time pet owner, or place more value on your free time, I would recommend getting a cat, as they usually require less maintenance than dogs.

Cats are social creatures, but definitely not to the extent that dogs are. A cat will often be able to entertain itself, and many will actually prefer extended periods of solitude. Cats are typically considered “cleaner” than dogs, since they self groom frequently, but bathing them from time to time is a good idea.

One downside to cats is that they do require a litter box. And while it does not have to be emptied on a daily basis, it can cause some odor issues, especially in a smaller apartment.

There are numerous breeds of cat to pick from, and most if not all breeds are suitable for apartment living. We’ll discuss a few of the more popular ones here.

Persian - This breed, that originated in Persia, is famous for it’s long fluffy coat. As far as pedigreed (official lineage) cats are concerned, this is the most popular breed in the United States. They are generally quiet cats, with a docile nature, and they like to show and receive affection. Due to their long coat, their fur can become matted, and because of this, it’s a good idea to use a cat brush on them regularly. Potential owners should also note that this breed has a shortened face and nose, which can lead to breathing complications, and other health issues.

Siamese - The short white fur with dark accents, blue almond eyes, and long sleek body all contribute to the Siamese cat’s distinctive appearance. If you consider yourself more of a “dog person” but for whatever reason cannot get a dog, the Siamese would be a good breed of cat for you. Described as extroverted, they are very playful, social, intelligent, and affectionate. They tend to make a lot of noise, meowing in a loud, low pitched tone known as a “Meezer”. If you are a night owl, however, you should know that for the same reasons that Siamese have blue eyes, they cannot see as well as other cats in dim lit environments, and thus may not be as active at night.

Domestic Shorthair - Sporting a variety of colors and patterns, domestic shorthairs do not actually belong to a breed, because their bloodline is not controlled by breeders. It’s what we would call a “mutt” in the dog world, and it means that the cat is a result of the very large gene pool in its geographical area. Here in the U.S., most of our non-breed cats descended from European ancestry, so they typically have strong, athletic builds. While it may not carry the distinction of a pedigree, a domestic shorthair benefits from the effects of what’s known as hybrid vigor. Through the years, breeders select for certain traits of a breed by mating two similar cats together. This form of inbreeding leaves the breed vulnerable to certain passed-on conditions, such as kidney disorders. Domestic shorthairs typically are considered healthier, on the average, than their pedigree counterparts, because these heritable disorders are not bred into their DNA.

Good things come in small packages

There’s a reason why dogs are called man’s best friend. Our canine friends are generally very active and social creatures, and can show a great deal of loyalty to their owners. If you are a more active person, then you will likely enjoy the company of a dog, as they love to go on walks, and be outdoors. In fact, to keep them healthy, you should walk your dog frequently. Dogs generally also need to be outside to relieve themselves. If you live in a house-like setting, then you can simply release the dog into the backyard, and cleanup later. In a typical apartment setting, however, dogs should be taken daily on short walks around the property, or in the nearby neighborhood to give them opportunities for elimination. Remember to bring plastic bags with you to pick-up after your pet, since besides being unsightly and odorful, dog waste contaminates water and can spread disease.

Potential dog owners should also be aware that on the average, veterinary care for dogs is more expensive than for cats. So make sure you take that into consideration when making decisions on what type of pet to get.

Just like with cats, there are a great number of dog breeds to select from. We’ve picked a few choice that are popular with apartment residents, but we highly encourage you research the various breeds and find one that matches your needs and personality.

Pug - Historically popular with European nobility, this compact breed has a very sturdy body with strong legs. Combined with its strong willed, but not aggressive personality, this makes the pug great for families with small children. It also has one of the most recognizable, and polarizing, faces in the dog world: People either think pugs look very cute, or very ugly! Similar to the Persian cat, a pug’s shortened muzzle can cause breathing complications. It also makes it difficult for the pug to cool down through panting, and because of this, if you are in a very warm climate such as Arizona, you should be especially careful to keep your Pug in a relatively cool environment. Hip dysplasia is also a condition found in the majority (64% by some accounts) of pugs.

Dachshund - Sometimes called a Wiener dog, this relatively long but short legged dog was originally bred to hunt small prey such as rabbits This hunting background gives the Dachshund both positive and negative qualities. It is generally very playful and fun to interact with, but it can also be very stubborn and single minded, especially when it spots a small animal like a squirrel. Unsurprising, due to its long form, the Dachshund is more likely than most other breeds to suffer from spinal complications. This is exacerbated by the dog being overweight, so make sure to feed it only the proper amounts, and to provide enough exercise.

Beagle - Similar to the dachshund, the beagle comes from a hunting pedigree, but its legs and body length are more proportional. It also has an excellent sense of smell that’s put to use all around the world to sniff out dangerous or restricted items. Also similar to the dachshund, the beagle can be easily distracted by small animals and even scents, but in general it has a much more even temperament, and is not considered aggressive towards strangers or other dogs. Because of this, it has gained popularity as a family pet. As far as health issues are concerned, beagles are generally healthy and not especially susceptible to inherited diseases, but due to their long ears, however, they can get ear infections.

A note on Allergies

Both dogs and cats release allergens which can cause uncomfortable complications in certain people. These allergies can result in symptoms of sneezing, coughing, red itchy eyes, rashes, and more. If you or a family member suffer from pet allergies, there are are number of things you can do to minimize symptoms:

  • Use a HEPA air purifier. HEPA is an air filtration standard that guarantees a very high level of air cleansing. It’s even used in hospitals. Place the purifier in a central location, and make sure to change the filter frequently.
  • Change your AC/Heater filter frequently. It’s relatively easy to check the status of, and change your existing filter. If you have any questions, just talk to your manager and they can invite apartment maintenance to give you a quick demonstration.
  • If you are getting a cat, consider getting a female, since they produce less allergens than males.
  • Bathe your pets frequently to keep them clean.
  • Similarly, vacuum and clean your apartment frequently to remove allergens that have built up.

"Help control the pet population. Have your pets spayed or neutered."

Bob Barker, long time host of the Price is Right game show, had a very good point when he closed each show with his famous pet related remark. Spaying and neutering dogs and cats have great benefits to both humans and animals.

If an animal is not spayed/neutered, it is likely to exhibit problem behavior while they are in heat: cats will “spray” onto furniture, and dogs can have problems urinating indoors. Cats will also meow loudly and dogs can have issues with consistent barking. Spaying/Neutering will greatly minimize, if not eliminate, these problems.

Spaying/neutering will also reduce aggressive behavior, especially in males. And probably most important, if your pet is spayed/neutered, they are likely to live longer. For instance, dogs that have been spayed/neutered live about 20% longer than their counterparts.

So have your pets spayed and neutered early!

What if I don’t want a cat or a dog?

There are a number of other alternatives to keepings pets, besides the “big two”.

Birds, fish, and small reptiles such as turtles and lizards are fairly popular choices that generally require less maintenance and costs than dogs or cats.

Even if your apartment community allows for pets, you should still double check with your apartment manager to make sure the animal you specifically have in mind is acceptable.

All in all, I hope we’ve given you some good insight and tips into pet ownership in an apartment setting. Remember, having a pet has its challenges and responsibilities, but in the end if you were to ask most people, they would tell you it’s definitely worth it!

Time to get back to work!

-The DJA Team