Having a pet is both a heartwarming experience and a responsibility. That’s because when you take a pet into your life, you need to be prepared to care for it. Plus, many aspects of your life change because of your pet, including how you live and the place you choose to call home if you’re renting with pets: finding a pet-friendly apartment, taking care of all the associated pet costs, plus caring for the pet itself are all things you need to consider.
Data shows that, as of 2020, 67% of U.S. households had a pet, which translated into a total of 84.9 million pets in the U.S. alone. Needless to say, people love their pets — and they’re increasingly looking for homes that accept them.
Fortunately, for those of you living the renter lifestyle but are also pet owners, we’ve compiled the ultimate guide for renting with pets so you’ll have all the info you need — from finding a pet-friendly apartment to prepping it for pets to added pet costs and how to best live in an apartment with your pet. We’ve also included input and insights from a number of experts for the most reliable information. Click on the links below to jump around to the sections you’re most interested in:
How to Find a Pet-Friendly Apartment for Rent
The journey begins with finding a place that both you and your pet can call home. First, when browsing rental apartments, make sure to use secure, dedicated platforms that you can filter to show only pet-friendly apartments. To that end, a look at the number of listings with pet-friendly options on RentCafe shows that 86% of apartments are pet-friendly and only 28% of those pet-friendly apartments have some form of breed restrictions.
Granted, you may have better or worse luck finding a pet-friendly rental depending on where you’re renting. For instance, only 55% of Washington, D.C. apartments are pet-friendly, whereas 98% of Seattle apartments allow pets. So, if you have a certain big city in mind, it’s likely to fall in between those numbers.
|City Size||% Pet-Friendly Apartments||% Breed Restrictions|
|Total / Average||86%||28%|
Tips for finding a pet-friendly apartment
To make sure you’re optimizing your search, first determine your priorities and set a budget. Ask yourself these important questions: Where are you looking to rent? Do you need to be close to an office or to public transit to get to your workplace easily? If you’re working remotely, perhaps location is not as important now, in which case you could reduce your housing costs by renting further from downtown.
Next, how much space do you need? For example, if you’re moving with family and a pet, you might want a large apartment. But, if it’s just you and your pet, maybe an apartment with one bedroom and a larger living room would suffice. These considerations all vary from person to person, so make sure you set your priorities and know what you need — and what you can live without.
- Pet Amenities
When browsing, filter your search to display the community amenities. This will help you find the properties that are friendlier than others when it comes to pets. In particular, look for amenities like:
- A bark park
- A pet spa
- Grooming stations
- Pet-sitting services
Additionally, when you’re looking at apartments, check surrounding pet amenities, as well. For instance, if you have a dog, make sure your next home will be near a park or a green space where you and your pal can go for a walk and exercise. Pet salons and vets are also good amenities to have nearby.
Likewise, pay attention to where the apartment is located within the building. Katherine Porter, MSW, CPDT-KA, advises the following:
“When looking at apartments, consider how frequently you’ll have to take your dog out. Living on a ground- or even first-floor apartment may be the best bet for those with puppies and/or senior dogs so you can limit the number of times [you’re] going up and down stairs or in an elevator.”
Then, when drawing up your budget, be sure to leave plenty of room for pet-related expenses, including rent.
Pet Costs Explained: Pet Rent, Pet Fees & Pet Deposits
Now that you’ve found your dream pet-friendly apartment, it’s time to get down to business and discuss the financial aspects. Specifically, the main pet costs in rentals are pet rent, pet deposits and pet fees.
What is the difference between a pet rent, a pet deposit, and a pet fee?
The pet rent is a fixed amount that is added to your regular rent and charged monthly. Conversely, the pet deposit and pet fee are one-time costs that are paid when signing the lease. The difference between the two lies in refundability.
The pet fee is not refundable. It’s simply a tax you pay upfront to allow your pet to be in a rental. Alternatively, the pet deposit is a fee you pay upfront that can be refunded at the end of the lease if there are no significant damages done to the property. When signing your lease, clearly discuss the conditions for receiving your deposit back at the end of the contract.
If you have a service animal, an important aspect to remember is that you’re protected under the Fair Housing Act. Under this act, service animals are not actually considered pets, so you should not be charged pet fees. However, landlords are within their rights to request some documentation to prove that your pet is indeed a service animal, such as an official ESA letter.
Average pet rent and one-time fees
Looking at the data gathered from RentCafe, the average pet rent comes down to an additional $20 per month, and average total one-time costs are around $210. Of course, these vary not only from place to place, but are also dependent upon the type of pet you have. For instance, a larger dog breed will warrant a larger pet deposit than a fish.
|City Size||Total One-Time Cost||Pet Rent|
|Total / Average||$210||$20|
What is pet insurance?
Another important decision to consider is whether you want to acquire a pet insurance policy. Opinions vary, so it really depends. Yet, between veterinary check-ups, vaccines, medicine and other unexpected pet costs, you’re looking at a pretty large sum in the end. A decent pet insurance policy that covers accidents and regular check-ups might save you this hassle.
However, there are many types of insurance and providers, so if you do decide to invest in a policy, make sure you do your research and get the coverage you need for a good price. An important factor in determining the cost will be the breed of the pets. For example, if you have a dog that’s prone to various conditions and, therefore, is more susceptible to health problems, the price will go up. Pre-existing conditions, the age of the pet and the rates of vets in the city in which you live will all contribute to the final cost of the insurance.
- How much is a pet insurance policy?
Generally, an insurance policy for cats will be lower than one for dogs, and other pets will be covered under even less-expensive policies. More precisely, insurance packages for cats range between $150 and $400 per year, whereas coverage for dogs ranges from $200 for a small breed to up to $1,000 for larger breeds.
Similarly, if you decide to get a renter’s insurance policy, as well, keep in mind that not all of them cover damage done by pets. As a result, you might want to find a policy that will cover this issue. Larger umbrella policies might even cover more than just the damage done to the pet-friendly apartment. For example, if someone gets hurt in your apartment, some plans will cover that person’s medical bill. So, thoroughly research your options and obtain a good policy that will prevent any significant costs due to damage caused by your pets.
Landlord Pet Policy: Discussion & Negotiation
- Get everything in writing
Before all is set, you and your landlord will need to sign a lease. During this discussion, double check that your pet is allowed and that the contract specifies clearly that it is a pet-friendly apartment. All of the required pet costs should also be set in writing, as well as the conditions for losing your security deposit.
- Show openness
At the same time, answer any questions the landlord might have to demonstrate your transparency and to ease their mind. Note that some people may be reluctant to allow pets into their properties. As such — and despite the fact that the demand has led them to offer this option — they still might be nervous about possible damages that might occur. But, remember, this is a negotiation. So, don’t be afraid to bring a pet CV or references from a past landlord for your pet. Such guarantees will help.
- Check breed restrictions
Before setting your heart on a place, make sure you check into any breed restrictions (if applicable). Specifically, if you’re moving to a different state, make sure you’re allowed to keep your pet, as some pets and breeds are banned in certain states. Most often, breed restrictions refer to dogs. Restricted breeds in some areas include German shepherds, pit bulls, rottweilers, mastiffs, great Danes, cane corsos and Staffordshire terriers.
However, if you do have one of these breeds, don’t get discouraged. There are plenty of buildings without any restrictions. If you can’t find one, discuss your predicament with the landlord and make the case for your pet with all of the evidence you need to be accepted, including the pet CV, references, and perhaps even a pet interview so your potential landlord can meet the dog and decide whether they will accept them.
- Bring a pet CV
If you’re looking for a template for your pet’s CV, we’ve got you covered. Download this Pet CV template and add all of the required information.
Moving with Pets
The stress and excitement of moving can be felt not only by humans, but also by our pets. In particular, the preparation, packing and general commotion in their environment is a signal that things are about to change — and that can stimulate strong feelings in your pet.
According to Suzy Gray, BVetMed and Dip ACVIM:
“Moving can be very stressful for our pets, and anticipating stressors in advance of the move can help limit the stress caused. Familiarize the pet with their transportation carrier/crate weeks prior to the move. Leaving the carrier out, feeding in the carrier and positive reinforcement of using the carrier can decrease this stress.”
Next, when the day of the move arrives, it’s best to be prepared and have everything you might need within easy reach to ensure that you can calm a distressed pet. Gray recommends the following:
“Ensure basic pet supplies — food; food and water bowls; litter boxes; and medications — are easily accessible and not packed until the last minute. Making an overnight bag for longer moves with these essentials and favorite toys can also be useful. During packing and moving out of the current home, consider taking the pet out of the environment to avoid stress, but also make sure you avoid moments in which they can run away, which may occur if doors are left open. This is particularly important for cats.”
Additionally, Karen Reese, animal behavior manager at Operation Kindness, advises:
“Keep a normal routine in the days preceding the move. Feed them and take them outside at their normal times; talk to them as you normally would; and play with them, too. Also, plan on having one spare room [that] you plan to pack up last and keep them in there whilst you’re moving and packing.”
Then, once you’ve brought your pet into the new apartment, hang around and stay with them. Allow them to explore at their own pace and maintain your normal behavior so that they know it’s still you who is going to be there with them and not much else has changed except for the place. Likewise, feed them normally, play with them normally, and give them the chance to find their own new favorite spots to hang out in.
Pet-Proofing the Apartment
Pets are generally curious and excitable, and the novelty of the new space after the move will make them nervous and prone to explore the space. So, to ensure you avoid any potential harm to your pet — and any damage to the apartment — pet-proof the space before you bring the pet in. Of course, pet-proofing is different from one situation to another. But, generally, the carpets and furniture are most prone to damage — no matter the pet you have.
Dog-proofing & puppy-proofing tips
Gray explains some of the necessary pet-proofing that dog owners need to take care of:
“Pet-proofing requires the owners to understand the needs and behaviors of their pet. If dogs urinate inside, providing a designated surface for urination — such as a ‘puppy pad’ — can prevent damage to carpeting. However, this would be considered a short-term solution while behavioral modification is underway. Affixing baby-proofing locks to kitchen cupboards can prevent both dogs and cats from getting in. Dogs who chew when anxious may chew door frames, windowsills or other wooden surfaces. Provide chew toys and place the furniture in such a way as to prevent access to areas that are susceptible.”
Cat-proofing & kitten-proofing tips
According to Gray, one aspect to focus on when it comes to pet-proofing a new place for your cat is the carpets.
“Carpets are a major source of pet-related problems: Cats often enjoy scratching carpets, so keeping their nails trimmed and providing other scratching options — such as scratch pads and toys — may help offset this behavior.”
Toxic or safe plants for pets
If you plan to decorate your pet-friendly apartment with plants, make sure you check to see which ones are toxic for your pets and avoid them, as they can cause severe reactions in both cats and dogs. Find a comprehensive list of plants and their toxicity level for pets. Then, if you have a specific plant in mind, do your research to determine whether it’s safe in your situation.
Apartment-Training the Pet
After you’ve finished the move and pet-proofing, it’s essential to get your pets accustomed to the apartment and train them properly to prevent less-desirable behaviors. Reese also encourages pet owners to allow the pet to explore the new space gradually so as to not overwhelm them:
“When you’re in your new space, have a pet-dedicated room they can stay in until they get accustomed to the new environment. This should include all their essentials and allow them to gradually explore and get comfortable in their own time. Keep the crate in the dedicated area so they have a comfortable place to retreat to if they feel more comfortable in their crate.”
Apartment training for dogs
If you have a dog, it’s important to train them properly for apartment living. One important aspect of that is reducing barking, especially if you live near an area with high foot traffic. Lots of activity might excite your dog or cause them to become protective of their territory — particularly if there are neighboring dogs. So, train them not to bark when they hear footsteps in the hallway, and then reward good behavior.
- Potty-training puppies
Another issue is related to urination. Dogs — and especially puppies — need to be potty-trained so they don’t pee in the apartment. Fortunately, this can be achieved by creating a routine for going out. Then, when that isn’t possible — or until you achieve a proper schedule — invest in a puppy pad and teach your dog to use that space when they’re indoors and can no longer hold it in. Note that this is a temporary solution, but it could protect your floors and carpets.
- The crate method
If your dog feels safe in a crate, use the crate method when you’re away. If you create a positive environment with the crate and teach your dog to associate it with positive experiences, they’ll be more likely to stay calm and patiently wait for your return when you have to be out for a couple of hours. However, if you’re going to be away for longer than that, it’s wise to ask a friend to check in, especially on puppies.
Living with Pets in a Rental
After taking care of the research and negotiation and then pet-proofing the apartment and moving in with your pets, you’ll be living in a pet-friendly rental with a four-legged friend. So, let’s move on to some of the aspects of apartment living with pets.
Common apartment-related health issues
Although there are pets that have adapted extremely well to apartment living, there are still some issues that might arise as a result of living indoors and in a smaller space. Dominique Hemmings, DVM, clinical instructor at the College of Veterinary Medicine of Tuskegee University, discussed the most common health problems that might occur for indoor pets. First, dietary issues are a common problem for dogs:
“Dogs and cats are curious animals and, oftentimes, they (especially puppies) will go sniffing, licking and consuming random items — whether that be food, treats, medication, candy, plants or garbage. This can result in mild or severe gastrointestinal (GI) upset, varying toxicoses (from chocolate, sugarless gum, garlic, Easter lily, or onion) or pancreatitis, causing painful abdomens, vomiting and diarrhea, and other diseases. This can leave owners with stained carpets and a hefty bill for veterinary care.”
Dr. Hemmings went on to share what can happen when dogs are kept indoors for a long time:
“When locked in smaller apartments all day with limited space, cats and dogs become bored and end up scratching and chewing on furniture, carpeting, wires and even their own toys for enrichment. Extensive damage of household furniture may occur and give way for pets to be electrocuted or ingest foreign material, potentially causing an obstruction of their intestines. Electrocution, toxin ingestion and intestinal obstructions, especially obstructions caused my sharp objects, will likely then necessitate an emergency veterinary visit.”
However, there are some precautions you can rely on to reduce this risk significantly:
“To prevent these issues, renters should ensure their garbage, pet treats, and their own table food are secured on high tables or locked away far out of reach of their pets. They should additionally ensure that smaller cords and wires are unplugged when not in use. When not at home, it may be of benefit to keep pets in a locked room or crate if they have a habit of chewing on foreign objects and getting into food and trash. This, however, can increase boredom and compulsive behaviors. Safe, hard, rubber toys [that are] too large to ingest (feeder toys, ropes) are advised for activity and enrichment purposes. If smaller toys are bought (small squeakers and stuffed animals), those toys should only be out for the pet’s access when the owner is present to monitor what they are doing with it.”
Most common apartment pets
Although most people think about cats or dogs when discussing pets, there are others that delightfully fill the homes of renters. In fact, according to a national pet owners’ survey, freshwater fish are #1, especially when considering that most people don’t own just one fish, but many. Cats and dogs follow at numbers two and three, respectively. Other popular choices include birds, saltwater fish, small animals and reptiles. And, for those who are living in a house or on a farm or ranch, horses are also favorite pets.
Source: American Pet Products Association’s 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey
Exotic pets for apartments
Before adopting an exotic pet, make sure you do your research and see which exotic pets are illegal in your state. All states have specific legislation when it comes to exotic pets, so these will vary depending on where you live. If you’re moving from one state to another, check the legislation and make sure you have a certificate stating that, at the time of purchasing or adopting the pet, it was legal to do so in the state in which you were living.
However, even after checking state laws, make sure you also check county and city laws to confirm that it’s legal to own your exotic pet in that area. Then, after taking these precautions, check with the landlord or property manager to find out if you’re allowed to own that specific pet in their apartment or building. Additionally, provide all of the required paperwork and certificates to prove that the pet is approved by local laws, and bring recommendations and a pet CV to make the case for your pet, as well.
Compensating for lack of space for dogs
Dogs are very active pets and if you are living in a smaller apartment, it’s very important to know how to keep them active. Luckily, there are many games you can play with your dog even in small spaces, so try to find new and exciting ways to stimulate them when staying indoors.
Recommended reading: https://www.rentcafe.com/blog/apartmentliving/renting-with-pets/7-indoor-dog-games/
If you don’t own a dog just yet, but are thinking of adopting one, you might consider apartment-friendly breeds, such as Basenjis, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, French bulldogs, or Boston terriers.
Caring for indoor cats
- Let them climb
Wild cats are natural predators climbing trees and chasing prey, and the domesticated cat retains some of those instincts. So, to keep your indoor cat happy, install a cat tree that can allow the cat to climb. While you’re at it, place it next to a window so your furry friend can have a nice view of the outside and monitor what’s happening in the neighborhood. Many cat trees also offer cats the opportunity to scratch their surfaces and, consequently, take care of their much-needed claw maintenance without damaging your furniture.
- Play with them
Playing with and offering attention and love to your cat will help keep them happy and healthy. Note that it’s not necessary for cats to go outside as they can be a danger to local wildlife and get into trouble. Plus, many cats thrive indoors, especially if taken in as kittens. A buddy cat also helps for when you’re not around and they need a companion to make those moments easier.
- Allow them to graze on cat-safe grass
One important aspect of having an indoor cat is to offer them the option to graze by planting some wheatgrass or cat-safe grass. Cats have a natural tendency to nibble on greenery, as it can help with their digestion. So, to prevent them from chewing on your houseplants (even the non-toxic ones), it’s best to offer this alternative.
How to handle multiple pets
Renting with multiple pets will require more attention from you, as well as a larger financial investment. That’s because, sometimes, the pet costs will depend upon the number of pets you.
Meanwhile, as for how to best live with multiple pets in an apartment, this depends on the type of pets you have. For instance, with two cats, you’ll want to provide a litter box for each one; separate feeding and water bowls; and plenty of opportunities for them to climb and scratch surfaces for their claws. Other than that, it shouldn’t be a challenge if the cats are accustomed to each other.
However, if you’re introducing two pets — such as a cat and a dog — make sure to do so gradually and always be present for their interactions to make sure there isn’t any hostility. Some dogs or cats might feel threatened by another pet in their territory, so providing both of them with plenty of space to call their own is advisable before the two get acquainted.
If you’re searching for pet-friendly apartments to call your home, browse rentals in your area at RentCafe.
We analyzed the share of pet-friendly apartments and the pet costs in 10,900 total listings from 400 cities, which translates into a total of 2.5 million units. For the purposes of this study, we considered large cities as those with a population of 600,000 people or more; mid-sized cities as those with a population between 300,000 and 600,000; and small cities as those a population of less than 300,000.
Total one-time pet costs include pet deposits and additional pet fees. Pet rents were analyzed separately.
For accuracy, the comments for each listing were checked for additional specifications related to breed restrictions and other pet costs. Outliers were eliminated.