What is pet-friendly housing?

The best pet-friendly apartment communities do more than just allow pets. They welcome animals, and the community is friendly towards them. Nearby areas include important pet-related services you need.

This guide tells you what you need to know to find the best new home for you and your furry roommate.

In this guide:

How to find pet-friendly rentals

When using the Apartment Guide website to find an apartment, you can search by city, state, neighborhood, apartment community or zip code. To view rental properties that allow pets, make sure you select pet-friendly from the amenity list. Once you’re in touch with an individual landlord or apartment complex, tell them you have a pet and are looking for an apartment with pet-friendly amenities. 

Note: Pet-friendly doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing to all apartment communities. Each complex may have different expectations about what they expect from pet owners. Make sure you ask specifics about whether your pet will be allowed and what the rules will be. Many apartment communities have weight limits and breed restrictions, and many do not accept cats and other kinds of pets. Ferrets, birds, fish, rabbits, hamsters, snakes and other reptiles are the kinds of pets you’ll need to ask about specifically. 

What amenities pet-friendly apartments include

When you call to ask if your pet is allowed in apartments, ask about the amenities that are most important for your pet. For dogs, you may find dog-walking stations with free poop bags, pet washing stations and dog parks on the ground or on the roof. Having on-property or nearby green space is also important. Greenspace can be as simple as a nearby patch of grass or large field. For single-family home rentals, a fenced-in lawn is ideal. 

For cats, you may want to consider mantles and shelves they can jump on or window seats for them to hang out on while you’re gone. Your cat may have a preference for carpet over hardwood floors. Consider what your cat likes and dislikes in your current place before choosing your next apartment.

For any kind of pet, you’ll also want to take into consideration the size of the property, layout of rooms, ease of cleaning, natural lighting, window orientation, pet hazards or dangerous areas, location of neighbors and other on-site or close-by amenities. Some multifamily apartment communities offer pet boarding and grooming services. 

Important neighborhood features for pet owners

A pet’s community can stretch a mile or two. For dogs, parks offer a convenient place to run and play. Many art galleries and restaurants with outdoor patio seating allow your dog to hang out with you. And, of course, sidewalks are a critical amenity for taking your pooch for a stroll. 

Dogs, cats and other pets need pet stores that sell their favorite food, treats and toys. While it may be easy to order your dog or cat’s regular pet food online, you may run out at some point. If you do, your pet could get sick if you switch foods. Living near a pet store that has your food of choice can alleviate a big worry for pet owners. 

You’ll also need a good groomer and veterinarians you trust. When you call apartments, check to see if these services are nearby. It also never hurts to read online apartment reviews, including those on Apartment Guide, Rent and Yelp.

If at all possible, visit the neighborhood at least once, preferably during the day when it’s light out, to see what it looks like and whether it feels right for you and your pet. 

Pet fees, security deposits and other financial considerations

There are several common fees associated with having pets in apartments: Security deposits, pet fees and pet rent.

Security deposits can vary from $100 to $500 and perhaps even more, depending on where you live and the size and type of your pet. The amount of the deposit is completely up to the landlord’s discretion. In some cases, you could pay a $100 deposit with a Pit Bull and at another apartment complex, you could pay a $500 deposit to have a cockatiel.

Deposits are generally at least partially refundable. Just be wary that when someone charges a pet deposit, they’re looking for typical damage an animal might make like cat scratches or carpet stained from dog pee. To avoid these charges, make sure your cat has scratching posts and your dog is walked every few hours or crated when you aren’t home.  

The non-refundable fees are pet rent and pet fees. Pet fees are generally an amount charged once or annually. They can be as high as security deposits. Pet rent is an extra monthly charge, generally in the $50 to $100 per month range tacked on to your existing rent. If you are paying pet rent or pet fees, it’s a good idea to make sure your apartment has amenities such as green space or dog walking stations to make it worth it.

As a pet owner, you should also take into account the hidden costs of renting with your four-legged friend. Beyond fees the apartment itself charges, check the costs of local dog walkers and rental insurance policies that include pet liability in case someone sues you for something your pet does. When you put together your rent budget, be sure to include costs of food, toys and vet care in your monthly overhead.

Adding a pet after moving in

In some circumstances, you may want to bring a pet into an apartment you’re already renting. Ask your landlord or property management office about the rules for the pet you would like to have. 

For instance, you may want a large dog and will need a community that will allow one. Be prepared to write a pet letter introducing your new friend and asking for permission beforehand. 

Use this helpful sample letter to request a pet in your existing apartment.

Prepare for moving out clean-up procedures

Unless you have a pet monkey, your furry roommate probably doesn’t have opposable thumbs to help with the cleanup process. Before moving day arrives, look around for pet wear and tear and stains. Get a good product for pet messes that can be cleaned and disinfected. If there are any wall holes from cat scratching get triangle tubes of caulk in the correct color from a home improvement store. Spending a few dollars in repairs and cleanup can help you get hundreds of dollars in deposits back.

Tip: Pets often get anxiety after a move, which may cause them to chew up baseboards and other wooden finishings in an apartment. When you move into your new apartment, spray the baseboard with bitter spray to prevent this. This will save you a lot of money when it comes time to move out. 

Special rules to look out for

Most rental properties will have rules and regulations specific to the apartment unit itself. Here are a few of the most common:

  • Size restrictions: If you don’t have a dog or cat under 20 pounds, renting an apartment can sometimes be a bit more complicated. Size restrictions are usually pretty cut and dry limits on dog or cat weight. Ask if there are size restrictions such as not allowing dogs over 25 pounds if you have one.
  • Breed restrictions: These rules are often a little trickier. Some apartments, for a variety of reasons, will only allow certain kinds of dogs. Common breeds that may be restricted include Pit bulls, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Wolf dogs (part wolf and part dog), Presa Canarios (also known as a Canary Mastiff) and Doberman Pinschers. 

However, many dogs, especially those from rescue shelters, are mixed breeds. Your dog could simply look like one of the restricted breeds and not be allowed. If the complex you want to live in has this restriction, consider the presentation of your dog and how you announce him or her. For instance, having a good response to simple commands such as “Sit” goes a long way. Offer a visit with your dog based on the landlord’s schedule.

  • Some properties will request a letter from a veterinarian or a DNA test to prove a dog’s breed. There may be no way around this, but if you suspect that getting your dog’s breed approved might be a challenge, talk to a vet and get their recommendation.
  • Exotic animals: If you have an exotic animal such as a snake, ask if there are restrictions. If the apartment doesn’t allow snakes, you probably won’t be able to convince them that your snake is sweet and well behaved. But if there’s no written ban, you may have some wiggle room to tell them all about the gentle behavior of your pet.
  • Number of pets: Some properties may have a limit on the number of pets you are allowed to have. In multifamily apartments, it’s typically no more than two. 

The rules at one apartment complex likely won't be the same as rules at another. Make sure you confirm all of the regulations before moving in.

Behavioral guidelines to avoid noise complaints and violations

Noise complaints and violations can lead to both you and your pet getting evicted if they happen repeatedly. It’s a good idea to remind yourself that you and your pet are part of a community. Your neighbors want a relatively quiet place to live. Introduce yourself and your dog to them. They are less likely to complain if they know you.

Ask about what constitutes a noise violation. For instance, a neighbor might say your dog was barking all day, but the dog may have only barked for a few minutes. The landlord may dismiss the complaint if it’s invalid based on the rules. Make sure you know the policy for how the property verifies complaints before they turn into violations. Several violations can turn into fines or evictions. 

The possibility of violations is one of the biggest reasons pets should be introduced to the property manager. Landlords are less likely to believe a resident if they have personal experience with your pet.

Easy ways to reduce noise from your dog:

  • Walk your dog frequently
  • Don’t buy toys with really loud squeakers
  • Don’t get them excited for playtime past 10p
  • Get a training lesson or two when needed

In addition to noise violations, failure to clean up after your pets in public spaces can cause both violations and bad relations with neighbors. Carry poop bags with you. If you don’t have one, go inside your apartment and return to pick it up as promptly as possible. 

Cats and birds can also be introduced. Pay attention to your pet’s needs, like feeding your cat quickly if it’s meowing at mealtime. 

Tip: When searching for an apartment, take note of what material the building is constructed of. Concrete and steel frame buildings are much better at insulating noise between apartment units. Sound will carry more loudly across walls in wooden framed buildings.

How to prepare for a landlord meet and greet

Introducing your pet to a landlord can essentially be an audition, and you may not get a second chance to make the right impression. Here are some quick tips for making the most of it:

  • Before your cat or dog meets your landlord, groom them. For both cats and dogs, try to make sure claws and paw nails aren't sharp. Grooming signals the pet is well-taken care of. Subliminally, people assume this means the pet is also well behaved, and that you as an owner will respond quickly to complaints to fix problems. With cats or dogs, feed them at least an hour or two beforehand. You don’t want a pet that’s antsy for food or needs to go to the bathroom during the meet and greet.
  • Always walk your dog first. They’ll be much less likely to jump or be anxious if they used the bathroom and have worked off energy. 
  • Always be close by. Your pet looks towards you for signals for whether to trust someone and how to behave. You may want to hold your pet during the meet and greet, but you should always look casual.

It probably goes without saying, but your landlord will also be judging you on how you interact with your pet. Your dog or cat might be nervous by a new person or environment, so remember to be patient and calm to show that you are maintaining control over your pet at all times.

Independent landlord, Steven Patzer’s best tips for presenting your pet

Steven Patzer, up and coming landlord, rents a small apartment building in Brooklyn, NY. His pet policy is geared towards how it affects other tenants. 

“I’m open to any breed staying in my rental homes," says Patzer. “I’m more concerned that they won't cause a disturbance for other tenants.”

When presenting your pet:

  1. Try to make sure dogs don't bark incessantly. If they bark a lot at me, I’ll worry they may disturb other tenants in the building.
  2. Make sure you can tell me they haven’t damaged other properties. I want to be able to rent to other tenants in the future without having to do major repairs.
  3. Reptiles should largely be in cages. I wouldn’t want a snapping turtle loose in an apartment.
  4. Dogs and cats should be friendly enough that if someone such as a delivery driver or maintenance person approached the door, they wouldn't have fear of attack.
  5. Nothing illegal. I don't want to be fined for an illegal animal.

Do's and Don'ts for pets in apartments

Do train your pet with good behavior

One of the most important parts of pet ownership is training your pet to behave well in most situations. Dogs and cats should have some basic behavioral training. A dog should be able to listen to commands for both sit and stay. Cat behavior is more about not scratching or bolting outside. Generally, landlords want to know your cat will be happy living indoors.

Do look for apartments that genuinely want your pet

There's a difference between places that are pet accepting and pet welcoming. Ask enough questions that you know the community will be happy to have both you and your pet. Consider the neighborhood beyond the walls of your complex or building, too.

Do survey the pet-friendliness of the space itself before signing a lease

The apartment may be considered pet-friendly, and you may love the layout. But will it functionally work well for you and your pet? For example, where will you place the kitty litter? Does the unit have a dangerous balcony from which a pet might accidentally jump? Where will your pet sleep? These are just a few super important questions to consider before renting.

Do respond quickly to complaints and fix behavior when needed

It can’t be emphasized enough to respond quickly to complaints as they happen. Behavior that is fixed when it needs to be makes you a positive member of the community who your landlord and your neighbors value.

Don’t sneak in pets

Unfortunately, your pets that have been welcome otherwise may not be if you sneak them in. Inform your landlord of the arrival of your furry family members and request a meet and greet if possible.

Don’t leave your dog alone without a walker for more than 8 hours

Dogs that aren’t walked enough may have accidents indoors or tear up furniture. While your cats may not need to go outside, they do need attention. Make sure they have plenty to do while you're gone so that they don’t claw furniture or hardwood floors.

Don’t be that dog owner

The worst offense a dog owner can commit in a community environment is to not clean up after their pet. Always pick up poop, wipe down doggy drool and other pet waste as much as possible and try to be respectful of any fur shedding in community spaces.