How To Live With Pets in Small Apartments (5 Key Principles)

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While I tend to focus on living with cats, there are a lot of common key things that I follow that might be useful for any pet owner living in small apartments such as a one-bedroom or studio apartment.

We know that living with pets can be very enriching and stimulating for both humans and animals but it can also be quite stuffy and cramped in smaller living spaces. Therefore, figuring out some rules and principles to live by, can increase the living quality for everyone involved.

Picture 1. Having an animal companion in a small space can bring a lot of benefits – just remember to do the preparation so that both you and your pet are happy!

Whether it’s cats, dogs, or other animals – the more we understand our pets, the better it is for our pets (physically and mentally), and the easier it is for us to lead productive lives.

So how do you live in a small apartment with pets? There are a few things to keep in mind when living with pets in small spaces – specialized spaces have to be determined for both you and your pets, having the correct systems in place to minimize menial tasks and chores associated with your pet, and choosing the right items within the apartment that provides benefits for pets and their owners.

For those that are looking for choosing the right type of apartment for cats specifically, I wrote an in-depth article on what to look for in a cat-friendly apartment.

Determine Specialized Zones for Your Pet

The first thing to do is to take a look around and see which area can be used specifically for your pet. Picking a good pet “area” is important to minimize the amount of walking around that pets or their owner need to retrieve pet products, food/snacks, or tools.

This zone doesn’t have to have definite boundaries nor does it need to be closed off. Just a general area that is chosen for your pet and their stuff is the point.

Doing this also decreases the likelihood of accidents and mishaps. Just by having a zone that your pet knows is theirs, they will typically stay in or around that area – therefore, you can predictably determine your pet’s whereabouts. This is especially useful if you’re outside and want to set up a camera to check up on your pets since all you would need to do is set up the pet camera in that zone to see what they’re up to instead of guessing where they might be.

Developing Good Habits For Pets in Small Spaces

Pets are living things and they can develop habits as any living thing would. Now whether or not these habits are good or bad depends on their environment and routine.

Similar to us humans, whenever we have a bad routine and environment – we don’t do too well mentally or physically and that’s because our habits are bad. Our pets are the same.

Declutter, Organize, and Secure to Prevent Bad Habits in Pets

Any home that is messy or disorganized is merely asking for pets to be destructive. Keeping valuables or items out in the open is at risk with pets interacting and damaging said items.

Cables and small items pose a big safety risk because of chewing and accidental swallowing. Cable management and putting away items that are either toxic or smaller items that can fit in your palm is a priority.

Picture 2. My current small apartment living with 4 cats! For my story: read the article here!

Food and snacks should also be secured in an airtight container that isn’t easily opened. Many pets (usually dogs and cats) are able to sniff out snacks and learn to open simple containers. Even cabinets are recommended to have extra safety locks just in case.

Treat your pet like a human toddler – you might think they aren’t able to get into anything for now but later on, you might be surprised. Therefore, prevention is the best way to keep you, your belongings, and your pets safe in a small living area.

For more information about specific ways we can pet-proof our apartments and homes (many of my articles are more focused on cats as pets but the information on them can help any pet owner):

Routine and Schedules Promote and Strengthen Our Pet’s Good Habits

Good habits are the way to create good lifestyles and it’s directly linked to having a good routine and schedule for your pets. Depending on your pet, having a time in which you interact with your pet physically is important in their energy management day-to-day.

A pet that is bored all the time will likely lash out randomly throughout the day either not letting you sleep or interrupting times in which you need to be productive. It might also have a totally opposite effect of making your pets lethargic and inactive – thus increasing their risks for health issues such as diabetes and obesity.

Keeping them on a schedule helps owners to keep an eye on their pets properly – behaviorally and physically. It lets us predict their activity levels, weight, and general contentment and when they deviate from that, it’s easily noticeable so we can get them the help they need quickly and effectively.

Streamline Everyday Pet Management Tasks

There are a lot of things that a pet owner has to do every day to manage their pets. Think about the most time-consuming things and create a system to streamline or simplify those tasks.

One of the biggest things that a pet owner has to manage is pet hair. Many pets have fur, hair, or even whiskers that are shed from their bodies. So unless you have a hairless pet, this is something that most pet owners will have to deal with on a daily basis.

For example, having appliances that automatically clean hair and fur saves me a lot of time. Pet hair can get everywhere: on the floor, on furniture, and in the air. In my small apartment, I have an air purifier running at all times to suck out the air that’s flying around in the air and a robotic vacuum to take care of the stuff on the ground. Then, once a week or whenever I have to entertain guests – I’ll use the pet hair roller to remove the rest of the hair from my furniture.

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Multi-use and Multifunctional Furniture For Pets and Humans

In a small living space with pets – we have to be very picky about the furniture and items we have in the home or apartment. Items that only have one use or are very specific in their use are generally not very space-efficient.

Pet owners also have to think about how the pet is going to respond to the furniture itself because believe it or not, pets have their own preferences too! So depending on the type of furniture, it can either have a positive or negative effect on your pet.

Of course, this depends on the pet – so it’s up to you to do the research and know what it is that your pet really needs!

Light, Moveable, Foldable For Flexible Living With Pets

Try to have things around your home to be light and easily moveable. It makes it easy to make room for activities that you want to do in your small home. People are sometimes surprised that I play virtual reality games in my studio apartment! However, it’s not hard to do with a little bit of thought about the layout of your room and have super light furniture that can be moved around to create the space that you need.

Stuff around the home should be able to be put away neatly and in a compact way. Having furniture that can either be folded or can collapse down to a smaller size is just super useful for maximizing space and keeping your home clutter-free!

Understand Your Pet – Focus on the Essentials

Every pet will have different needs and essentials that have to be taken care of. Essentials don’t mean just have what the pet needs to survive but what they need to thrive.

For example, cats have the essential need to hunt, climb, and burrow. Therefore, having products that emphasize these cat traits, is the best way to make purchasing decisions. For people with cats or wanting to have cats, I have curated a list of the best cat products and toys that have been the most effective in my experience (especially in studio apartments!)

So for whatever pet that you might have – make a list of what is the most important to your pet and have only the toys, furniture, or products that promote and develop these parts of your pet.

In conclusion, when living with pets there has to be a compromise between what your pet needs and what you need. This is emphasized more in a smaller living space. Therefore, being picky about what you have around the home and having a good eye for what is needed or unneeded is an important part of having a pet in a small apartment.


With a science background and years of experience including learning, observing, and training cats - increasing our beloved feline's welfare and wellbeing is the priority and passion.

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