It cannot be overstated how much the right pet can brighten up apartment living. Especially if you live alone, a pet can bring life and companionship into what might otherwise be dreary surroundings. If you are thinking about moving to a pet-friendly apartment or talking to your current landlord about bringing in a new pet, read our post on negotiating a pet-friendly lease.

For those who already have pets, you may know that unfortunately, they can do a lot of damage to a small apartment. A pet-proof apartment that is completely safe from your pet’s activity may be a little much to hope for, but there are some things you can do to minimize the damage.

Pet Proofing Your Home:

  • Unobtrusive Pets: First of all, you may not need to really pet proof your apartment if you get the right kind of animal. Fish will not destroy your apartment, nor will snakes or any animal that stays in a tank or cage—unless you let them escape. Small rodents like guinea pigs or mice will also do minimal damage, although trying to catch an escaped rodent can be a serious challenge.

  • Size Matters: If you’re getting a dog, try to take size considerations into account. Most landlords won’t allow dogs that are too big and over a certain weight limit—and with good reason. Dogs need to roam, and a big dog in a small apartment is a perfect example of the proverbial “bull in a China shop” problem. That being said, even small dogs and cats in an apartment can create a need for a pet-proof apartment. They can run around knocking things over, scratch up furniture, and throw up or go to the bathroom on your floor. Fortunately, many animals can be trained fairly easily to avoid most of these behaviors.

  • Training: For cats, spraying with a water bottle immediately after the undesirable behavior can usually trigger an avoidance response, as is a gentle swat on a dog’s nose. It may take a while, and you need to be clear on what behavior is being punished, but it should still work. You may have to reeducate your pet every so often, however. Cats are pretty smart, and usually just putting the cat in the litter box and showing them they can dig in it when they are about to go is sufficient. Dogs definitely need to be walked outside, but you can also try using puppy pads if you have a balcony or patio to help them out when you are gone during the day. Sometimes, inappropriate urination can be solved by neutering your pet. If you need extra help with your dog, consider hiring a dog trainer.

  • Off-Limits Areas: You can make some part of your unit pet-proof simply by not allowing the pet in that room. Your pet does not need to have access to the entire apartment, and if you have a room or two with particularly sensitive features, such as expensive furniture, computer equipment or delicate objects, simply close the door and keep the pet out.

The possibility of some damage to your apartment shouldn’t dissuade you from getting a pet and enjoying all the fun and positive energy they can bring. Just follow these simple pet-proofing tips, and you and your pet will probably be better able to share the apartment than many human roommates can.