Talk to the Animals

Zoologist and animal behaviour expert, Sally Hibbard, is interested in the relationship between people and their pets. She’s a fan of frogs, scared of spiders and can be seen spotting stick insects.

Talk to the Animals: Pets in apartments

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Which pets are best suited for an apartment lifestyle? Photo / Thinkstock
Which pets are best suited for an apartment lifestyle? Photo / Thinkstock

I have a long history of stuffing as many pets as possible into small apartments. My first experience with apartment living was ten floors up in a flat just off K Road. I had a chinchilla in the laundry, about thirty native geckos in the office, aquariums everywhere and a turtle pond on the balcony.

I then moved to nearby Grey Lynn to a ground floor apartment with a courtyard - imagine the possibilities! My rabbits and guinea pigs that had been farmed out to friends were immediately installed outside, there were bearded dragons on the bedside table, a two metre aquarium in the hallway and for the most part it was all quite workable.

I have recently returned to apartment living after some time out of Auckland, and I think I have now got it exactly right. There is a commercial space and courtyard for the animals on ground level and an apartment above for me - and my two cats and two dogs. My animal collection has grown to a point that even I will admit there are too many to share my living space with. No I'm not a mad animal collector; I run educational workshops in schools with the animal team, so the menagerie helps me earn a living as well as all being my own special pets.

From my experience with sharing apartment space with assorted animals, I've come up with the following tips on choosing and caring for pets in small spaces:

Choosing an Apartment Pet

Cats

Cats are great apartment pets, particularly when introduced to the lifestyle as a kitten. A litter box, some toys and a cosy place to sleep will keep most moggies happy and they are also great company for their humans.


Photo / Thinkstock

Dogs

Keeping dogs in apartments takes a serious commitment to exercise. An unexercised dog becomes bored and frustrated with subsequent nuisance behaviours. Small dogs are obviously the best choice, though this does not let you off exercising them. Interactive toys and long lasting chew items are useful boredom busters where there is limited space to run around. Ideally an apartment dog is better suited to people who work from home or can take their pet to their workplace.

Aquaria

An aquarium is like a window into an underwater world and is a great hobby. Perfect for a dark corner, an aquarium of tropical fish or exotic goldfish is easy care with the installation of a good filtration system and regular partial water changes.

Lizards

For those who like their pets less than ordinary, bearded dragons or leopard geckos are easily housed in apartments. See last week's story all about keeping lizards.

Birds

A chattering pair of budgies or a friendly parrot can be great apartment pets, though keep in mind that proximity to neighbours may make the noisier species an unwise choice.

Birds create dust and mess with feathers and seed husks which will need daily attention.


Photo / Thinkstock

Balcony / Courtyard Pets

A small pond made from a half barrel or a sealed planter with a water lily and a few goldfish can bring even a small balcony or courtyard to life.

The addition of bird feeders and insect friendly plantings can bring animals to you and it really is amazing how wildlife will turn up even in the middle of the city.

Apartment Pet Care

Ventilation

Apartments can get very hot during the day, particularly when no-one is there to open the windows. Maintaining a comfortable temperature for pets, whether it's a goldfish or a cat is crucial.

Cleanliness

Keeping a pet's environment clean is important regardless, but in the confines of an apartment a litter box or cage due for cleaning will certainly make its presence felt. A commitment to regular cleaning will make yours and your pets home much more pleasant.


Photo / Thinkstock

Cage Size

Just because you have chosen to live in a small space doesn't mean your pets can.

Pets like rabbits and guinea pigs need large enclosures so may not be the best choice for apartment dwellers unless there is a large sheltered courtyard.

Not everyone is going to want to have as many pets as I have, but it is certainly nice to have the company of an animal at home, regardless of how small that home may be.

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