Apartment pets to suit your life and personality

Companion animals can become a family member in many households. They can be our fur babies – surrogate kids (or practice kids to make sure you learn how to look after another living creature before you have your own children!).

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With restrictions on pet ownership in many apartment and unit complexes, you may be concerned about leaving your pet home alone (especially if you have not informed your body corporate/ agent that you own a pet).

Sharing your apartment with your companion pet will require some extra consideration so that you don’t upset your (close) neighbours – or the building manager.

Dogs would pose more of an issue with noise than cats, but if you live up high and have a balcony (or open window) you still need to consider pet proofing your place so there are no escapees – such as your cat flying out the window.

More households in Australia have dogs rather than cats, which help you get out more and meet locals in your community. But with dogs, a well behaved dog is a tired dog. They need exercise and stimulation or they will get into more mischief. If you can’t always get outside with them, consider walking/running them on treadmill to get their blood pumping (and tire them out for the day/night).

Work it till he's
Work it till he’s”dog tired”.

Or you could consider doggy day care (if you have the cash) which have streaming video and photos so you can check in to see how your fur baby is coping. A cheaper option is to set up surveillance in your home ( on a laptop etc) and freak out when you watch them chew/scratch your favourite shoes or furniture. Check this link out for naughty pets! 

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The top ten dogs on the naughty /danger list, according to lawyers specialising in dog bite cases, the canine species to avoid based on behavioral issues are the pit bull, rottweiler, Siberian husky, Saint Bernard, German shepherd, Great Dane, Doberman pinscher, chow chow, Alaskan malamute and Akita.

But well trained dogs rarely end up in the dog house (at the shelter). The ones at shelters are dogs that no one works with on obedience or manners. It’s up to you – the owner! (Get a good vet or animal behaviourist to train you and your pet).

The ideal dog breed for a down-sized living environment is mellow, with a mild disposition (or maybe you should just get a cat). You can check out the 8 best dog breeds for apartment living here. These include:

  • the toy sized Yorkshire Terrier (good if you have allergies as they hardly shed hair);
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (highly social but known for a calm, soothing demeanor and are just as happy going out for a short walk or taking a snooze in your lap or snuggled close by);
  • the comical tiny toy sized  Chihuahua;
  • the compact Boston Terrier (relatively inactive indoors);
  • the amiable English Bulldog, or the white powder puff of a dog;
  • the friendly Bichon Frise (which doesn’t need that much exercise outdoors);
  • the playful Daschund (sausage dog – which comes in standard, miniature and toy size) …MY FAVOURITE!;
  • or the fine-boned Italian Greyhound  (can switch from couch potato to fast, agile athlete in an instant).

If you still can’t decide on which cat or dog breed is best suited to your lifestyle and personality – try taking the pet selector test.

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You might also like to consider looking for your new best friend by searching for cats or dogs available for adoption at your local animal shelter.

And if you can’t bear to be apart from your beloved (pet) when you go away on a holiday or weekend getaway, there’s more pet friendly holiday accommodation options now than ever.

If you are still not quite able to commit to owning your own pet yet, you can always volunteer at a local animal shelter or provide foster care for pets in need, or visit the local dog parks and dog friendly beaches to get you fix of pet therapy.

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Four (possible) furry little critters you could share your apartment with

The contenders are: pet rabbit; guinea pig; pet rat; pet mouse –

Rabbits can make great indoor pets. They are affectionate, inquisitive and interactive. Bunnys enjoy social contact with their human care-takers, which is something most pet owners would appreciate. They like to be clean too (a plus in an apartment), so their hutch needs to be as spotless as possible.

two rabbits

Indoor rabbits can live 6-10 years, and some live into their teens (approximately the same life span as some breeds of dogs). According to Pet Finder, rabbits are anything but low-maintenance. Certain health problems can become chronic and require regular (and sometimes expensive) veterinary treatment.

I would have thought that being relatively small creatures, they would suit apartment life and happily hop around inside for their exercise. Not so. Rabbits need the equivalent of two football fields of exercise EVERY DAY. WHAAAAT!!!   So, there goes that idea. Should we buy a leash and go walkies? You can however get them a wheel to run around on.

Rabbits like to get under foot and weave in between your legs, so you would need to watch your step. They also like to jump up onto high places (the kitchen bench, your lap, the bedside table) in search of food.

The biggest drama is they like to chew ANYTHING, including electrical cables, so make sure you bunny proof your apartment to avoid potentially fatal injuries. And if you love your shoes (ladies) make sure you put them away out of rabbit’s reach because, as mentioned, they love to chew! But just like any pet, don’t reward its bad behaviours; only reward the good.

Talking of rewards, carrots should only be regarded as an occasional treat. Having watched many bugs bunny cartoons as a child, I thought that rabbits mostly ate carrots. BUT, apparently not. Vets recommend carrots (and apples) as occasional treats only  – and we don’t want an obese bunny that can’t reach around its girth to clean itself properly.

Rabbits are expert escape artists, so even as indoor pets you would need to get them microchipped in case bunny hops off looking for greener pastures (it may grow tired of the carpet and want to experience the real outdoors).

If bunnys seem too much, how about a guinea pig? Or a rat or mouse?

Guinea pigs don’t require a great deal of space and can very easily be kept in small apartments; although they should have a good size cage -approximately 7.5 square feet for each guinea pig.

guinea pig

They are low maintenance, inexpensive pets and can be left whilst you go off to work because they enjoy their own company. They don’t require a great deal of attention if you have a group of them. Importantly, guinea pigs are affectionate and very good at bonding with people. On average, they live about 5 years. (They have my tick of approval for their cuteness!).

The less socially acceptable options are pet rats or mice.

Usually people equate them with critters you wouldn’t normally choose to share your living space with, however rats can make excellent pets – especially when you have limited space. You can toilet train them too; (for less smell, opt for a female rat).

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Pet rats are more affectionate than rabbits and guinea pigs

Rats tend to be much more affectionate than rabbits or guinea pigs and are very happy being handled if they get regular contact. Although rats are basically nocturnal by nature, they can adjust to spend more time with you when you’re available to play with them.

However the average lifespan of a pet rat is only between 2 and 3 years.

Mice make fair pets too, but are only nocturnal –  so are most active at night.

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Your pet mouse will be most active at night –    when you are asleep!

They are not naturally fond of being handled and only live up to 2 to 4 years. But as far as size goes, they are the smallest critter of rodent that you can share an apartment with. For more info, check out the Rat and Mouse Club.

For me, if I had to choose out of the four options, I like the idea of a guinea pig for a cute, low maintenance apartment pet.

The take away message – with any small creature you choose to live with – is to always watch where you step or sit!

So if you had to choose, which pet would you prefer out of this selection – a rabbit, guinea pig, rat or mouse – and why?

Sharing apartment life with feathered friends

Thinking of a feathered friend to help furnish your nest…?

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There are roughly 10,500 bird species on Earth, many of course are not up to living indoors as our pets though. In apartments, you are unlikely to have room for a large bird aviary. A bird cage is all we could manage. Although I have seen some balconies turned into large bird cages.

For a companion animal, birds that mimic behaviour are popular choices for pets.

two budgies
Budgie buddies

When it comes to parrots, budgerigars are the smallest and least destructive compared to more expensive and noisier parrots such as macaws, cockatoos, Amazon parrots or African grey parrots.

Budgies are also the most talented vocal mimics of all parrot species.

“Budgies are more likely to mimic human sounds, and learn a greater variety of sounds with more clarity, than any other parrot species.”

In fact, recent studies have shown that some small-brained animals in general display surprising and sophisticated cognitive skills. They’re not so bird brained after all!

Alex, a renowned African Grey parrot, did arithmetic, invented words, and the night before he died he told his doctor friend that he “loved his friend and researcher”, Dr Irene Pepperberg.

Birds can live a long life in captivity. This is something to think about in terms of your lifestyle and the longevity of a bird.

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Cockatiels can live up to 30 years

The smallest member of the cockatoo family of parrots is the cockatiel, which can live as long as 30 years when cared for properly.

Cockatiels are very social birds and are popular and affordable pets. Worldwide, they are the second most popular pet bird behind the budgerigar.

Then you have the classis sulphur-crested cockatoo (which is a larger common Australian parrot), which can live 80-plus years in captivity…and they can be very noisy…and cheeky!

I will always remember my grandparent’s cockatoo George who would mimic my gran calling after my grandad Frank; who often worked outside in the garden. Grandad could never tell the difference between the bird or his wife calling him, and wasted many trips back into the house thinking it was his wife, but most times it was the cheeky cocky calling out “Frank”!

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Cheeky Cockatoos…you will need to watch your language around them!

A rather foul-mouthed angry cockatoo named Eric is currently starring on Youtube, swearing at the household’s canine and calling him stupid. Of course, the bird has just picked up this language from his owners. (Don’t blame the bird!).

So you will need to watch what you say around such feathered friends or foul words could be repeated and embarrass you or harass your house guests when least expected!

As for the upkeep of birds, this includes their feed of course, visits to the vet and the most time consuming and ongoing of tasks – cleaning the cage. Ughh. Some suggest daily cleaning of a bird cage is required. This may seem like too much work when you are busy rushing out the door most days and get home tired. Maybe birds are for the more retired types?

The environment you place your bird in will also need to be carefully considered so they don’t get affected by too much heat, cold or lighting, especially by bright lights at night when they should be resting.

Just as us humans can be sensitive to our surroundings, studies have shown that birds can be quite affected by light.

We know that placing a cover over a birdcage at night calms a bird to rest, but I do wonder if household lights and the glow of computer screens would otherwise disrupt their sleeping patterns like they do for humans. Blue light on digital screens and TVs are known to suppress melatonin in humans – the hormone that regulates circadian rhythms –  more than other light colours.

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I suggest you limit the screen time at night that you share with your pet bird, as it could upset their sleeping pattern…and yours.

So a bird can create a lovely bond with their human. But the cleaning and the mimicking need to be factored in. And a Cockatoo may be too noisy if living in close quarters with others in an apartment block.

Have you known a bird that mimics people? …and if so, has it got you or someone you know into trouble with its tricks or abusive language? 

P.S. For fun, and if you have time, check out the talented talking budgie called Disco. At 1 minute 40secs you will see the budgie tease the pet dog. (And yes I spent waaaaay too much time on Youtube researching for this post! ). Enjoy.

Animal behaviours – cats versus dogs and small dogs versus large for apartment living

Living in close quarters with any animal (human or canine or feline etc), one has to consider their behaviour because this affects the whole household. A moody cat could be a downer. A little dog, with a high-pitched incessant bark, could drive you up the wall (and the neighbouring apartments) …and could cause the apartment complex’s Body Corporate to petition you to remove the offending dog.

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How can so much noise come out of such a small being?

However, just because you live in an apartment does not necessarily mean that you should only get a cat or a small dog.

My aunt had a wonderfully large Doberman who had failed security guard dog training school. He had the gentlest nature and I can’t recall him ever barking at anyone in aggression. Just wasn’t in his nature (or wasn’t in his personality, which went against his breed’s nature?). He would sidle up to you and try to push your hand onto his head so you would pat him. Such a giant dog with a big heart and calm nature.

So maybe great things don’t always have to come in small packages for apartment living!?

Research shows that there are:

“significant differences between the behaviours of smaller and larger dogs”.

research study showed that smaller dogs were “significantly less obedient than the larger ones”. Smaller dogs “showed more aggression and excitability to a significant degree” and were “more fearful and anxious”.

Some of these differences have to do with the behaviours of their owners, according to the animal behaviour experts. An important factor the researchers discovered has to do with a dog owner’s consistency when interacting with or training their dog.

Cats seem to be a popular choice for apartment living because of the relative ease of care (although I hear this depends on the cat breed and personality though). A cat’s ability to live in a small residence and the capacity to cope with being left alone for long periods of time make them way more independent than dogs. This can be a good thing or a negative, depending on what you are looking for in your pet-human relationship.

cat looking up at poster of cats

But in a recent study on cats and behaviour, scientists came to the conclusion that cats “don’t really love their owners”.

“The animal behaviour researchers at the University of Lincoln recently found that domestic adult cats do not look to their human overlords as their primary source of security and safety, the way dogs do.”

The researchers didn’t conclude that cats don’t develop close relationships, just that they “don’t appear to be based on a need for safety and security”.

I know many who would disagree with this study’s findings and have experienced great affection from their feline. (Love to hear your thoughts on this). 

And is it true that, “if you live with a cat, you live with a weirdo”, as suggested in The Guardian?

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But I do wonder if cats are more intelligent than dogs, and – the big question – do cats love you back?

What do you think?

Which animals make great pets for apartments?

5 signs you need pet therapy

Pet therapy time
Pet therapy time with my brother and sister in-law’s little dog Poppy

As an inner Melbourne urbanite, living in a third floor apartment, my partner Andrew wondered if it was time we got a pet because of some of the signs I was displaying.

Do you also:

1/ make all the appropriate sounds and smile spontaneously at the sight or sound of a cute animal you come across in your travels or online or on the TV?

2/ look longingly at the playful pets in the dog park and make a special detour to visit the park on your way home from work…every single time?

3/ pat every neighbourhood cat on your way walking to the shops?

4/ rage at injustices of any cruelty to animals and want to adopt every single orphaned furry being? (If only we had the room)

5/ visit your relatives and spend more time hanging out with their pet?

If you are (guilty as charged) and display any of these signs, you may be in need of some pet therapy too!

But, should you get your own pet?

If yes, then the big question is – what makes a great apartment pet?

This could depend more on your character and lifestyle rather than your living space, however I enjoy sitting on my own couch and may feel a little pushed out if my furry friend gets too big for their boots!

great Dane sleeping on small couch
Hmmm, where to sit?

Many Parisians and New Yorkers have been sharing their small space in the sky (apartments) with a pet for eons, but if you can’t take your pet [dog] with you to work everyday, is it fair to leave them in an apartment for 8+ hours, 5 days a week? I have witnessed a dog’s separation anxiety. It isn’t pretty. Cats don’t seem to get anxious, maybe because they sleep most of the day and barely notice when you get home (unless they are hungry!).

Pets of course don’t have to be only the canine or feline variety!

What about smaller, more convenient, pets like the Mexican fighting fish?

Mexican fighting fish
I wonder if fish get bored in those little bowls?

Fish like these don’t need much room, but then again they wouldn’t give much back in the way of companionship. Fish have feelings too, according to researchers at Macquarie University’s biology department. They say that:

basically everything you might find in primates you’ll find in fish.

I personally am still not convinced.

This journey continues to find the best pets for apartments. Next post will explore the psychology of pets/animal behavior. Apparently the type of pet you have says a lot about the type of the person you are (so the pressure is on).

Do you have any stories or thoughts on the best – or worst – pets for apartments? 

References: Great Dane photo ; The Age article on studies into animal intelligence ;