By :
Comment : 0

Pets in apartments: How to make sure everyone is happy

Pets in apartments – it’s not such an alien concept these days. As Sydney house prices increase, more people are thinking about units, townhouses and apartments. In Wahroonga and the Kur-ring-gai area, while houses still dominate, smaller types of housing are becoming

pets in apartments

Photo via Unsplash by
Channey Tang-Ho

increasingly popular. And it’s not only about affordability. Family sizes are smaller than they were two decades ago. Plus, many residents that move to the area in their early, family-raising years fall in love with the area and stay. This means downsizing as the nest becomes empty and/or to make for a more manageable lifestyle.

As the independent local veterinary hospital for Wahroonga, Turramurra, Westleigh and surrounds, we know how popular pets are with the residents. We certainly haven’t seen the interest in family pets decline. And why would it? Pets are great companions and they help instil great values in children. They also help remind us to think outside ourselves on a regular basis.

To meet the changing needs of the area and the ways in which we live, we’ve pulled together a guide to keeping pets in apartments

Checking with the law

The first thing you should do before buying a new property, renting a unit or getting a new pet is to check with the building strata first. In New South Wales, a strata committee can refuse a pet to a building on a casual or permanent basis if it is part of their strata by-laws.

The only time this is different is they cannot refuse a support animal such as a seeing eye dog or assistance dog. They can however refuse an assistance dog in training, which makes things complicated indeed.

A lot of places will say no on the outset, but you can present a case. Some of the ways you may be able to do this is to:

  • Appealing directly to the body corporate and strata based on the obedience, condition and habits of your pet. This could include proving they don’t cause mess, allergy or excessive noise as part of living in the apartment that may otherwise lower another tenant’s enjoyment
  • Demonstrate the age of an existing pet plus it’s place in your family and agree not to have another pet in future if it dies
  • Undertake specific training to have your pet licensed as a companion and/or service animal. This may be useful if you have someone in the family that gains comfort and support from a family pet when dealing with Autism Spectrum Disorders, Dementia, PTSD and/or mental health conditions. This would need to be done with the proper certification and support
  • Provide a CV and certification to show that your pet is well trained and has lived in multiple places without damage, noise complaint or associated issue. You can also include their health records and if the pet is well known to us, may include something from the vet hospital to speak to the character of your pet
  • Ensure that high standards of behaviour, especially in shared and public spaces attached to the building such as entries, carparks and shared outdoor areas, are adhered to
  • Create contracts that include hygiene standards (grooming, cleaning up after waste, general fumigation for fleas and ticks etc) also become part and parcel of an agreed standard of care to maintain your apartment and the building. This may include regular steam cleaning of carpets, treatments and using agreed services to complete these tasks

The smartest thing to do is ensure you are compliant with the law. Don’t think that a pet can remain hidden from curious tenants or strata teams. Work with the apartment building management to ensure that a pet in an apartment is an expected and welcome feature.

Choosing the right pet

Choosing the right pet for your family is always a consideration. This is especially true with pets in apartments. You’ll need to think about your pet’s habits, enclosures, cleaning habits, level of noise and general behaviour considering living around others. Equally important is looking after your pet’s safety, health and comfort.

For example, if you have a springy puppy or an adventurous cat, maybe a low set balcony isn’t such a great temptation to have waiting through the sliding door. Size can also matter, but it is not the whole ballgame. For example, you might have a terrier or working dog that has excess energy to burn that won’t appreciate the lack of backyard. You might meet a greyhound that is quite happy being a couch potato in between their daily walks.

It does take some research and working through what kind of apartment, unit or townhouse you must find the right pet match.

This is something our vet nurses can and will talk to you about, by the way. We not only understand where you may be able to exercise your pet locally, we can use some local knowledge as well as animal healthcare expertise to our benefit when advising on the right pet for your family.

A few things that can help when deciding on what pet to have in an apartment setting: 

  • Whether or not there are temptations, trip hazards and things such as balconies or different types of windows that might create potential for accidents
  • How likely it is you can pet-proof the apartment you are in
  • The age of a pet. For example, toileting and training may play a significant role in how comfortable life can be in an apartment for pet and human alike
  • Enclosures- do you have space for a rabbit hutch and a big dog bed, or is it more likely it’ll be a cat scratching post and goldfish bowl that you can fit?
  • How open are you to different pet varieties? Are you into your cats and dogs? Or would a pocket pet such as a guinea pig or rabbit suit? Do you see as birds, fish and reptiles as potential family pets? Are spiders and insects of interest? The wider the scope, the more likely you are to find an apartment suitable pet

Once you’ve selected the right family pet, now it’s time to think like that family pet to test if things really are going to work out.

Think like your pet in an apartment

Cats love to be up high, as do bird and some reptiles. Dogs and cats both love a good view and love having windows and doors to gaze through. Other pets might prefer darker places. But regardless, you should think about your apartment from a pet’s eye-view.

Your family pets care about:

  • Where they eat
  • Where they can toilet
  • Where they can rest and relax
  • Where their toys and bedding are
  • Where they can sleep

This might mean claiming spaces for them up high, away from other areas. It means having a routine and designated place to eat, toilet and sleep to reduce mess and stress. Make sure your pet has their space to call their own in an appropriate place. The same is true from escaping midday sun or being able to enjoy the sun in darker places.

You’ll also need to consider odour. Even clean pets have distinct body odour. This will be reflected in the pet, on their bedding and any belongings and furniture they frequent. Toileting can also increase smell. Kitty litter, training pads, enclosures all smell of droppings and urine. It may mean additional cleaning, extra vigilance and working on specific habits to make sure you, your pets and your neighbours are fine with the scents coming from your apartment.

Always supply even pets that toilet outside on a walk usually with the option to toilet inside as accidents can and do happen. And be vigilant about picking up after your pet in communal areas and shared spaces.

Pets in apartments alone

One of the quickest ways for pets to cause a disruption is through noise. Many pets with separation anxiety will be noisy when you are out. You should keep time spent away from your apartment to a reasonable level. Being out for the workday is one thing but being out all night as well may increase their anxiety. You may also find that doggy day-care or pet sitting may be something to add to your pet care roster when you hit a busy season or to avoid issues at all.

Please, never leave pets unattended when you leave for a weekend or holiday period. Your family pet, no matter how intelligent or trusting, is not capable of coping with the concept of food self-regulation and/or long periods alone. Make suitable arrangements with a neighbour, boarding kennel, pet host or take a pet friendly holiday instead. Emotionally, being left by your family is incredibly stressful. It can lead to your pet acting out and injuring themselves.

Want to make your pet in an apartment adventure a positive one?

Contact Fox Valley Animal Hospital now. We’re happy to help you make the right decisions about your new or existing pet.


About the Author
Owner and Vet Alex Brittan, Vet Katie Syms and the team of Fox Valley Animal Hospital pride themselves on quality service. Fox Valley Animal Hospital is the one you choose for your family pet when the care your animal receives really matters.