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Owning a pet while renting isn’t without its challenges, as pet-friendly properties are rare and in high demand.
A large part of the reason so many landlords don’t allow pets is the damage they can potentially cause to the property.
But according to Dr Bronwyn Orr, scientific officer, companion animals at RSPCA Australia, when it comes to property destruction, giving your pet appropriate training and stimulation is more important than choosing a specific breed.
“A pet will quickly show problem behaviour and could become destructive, which is not ideal for renters, if it is not getting enough attention and enrichment.”
What to do before getting a pet
“In the first instance, always ensure your tenancy agreement allows for pets to be kept on the property,” Dr Orr said.
If you aren’t fortunate enough to live in a rental that allows pets, it’s still worth asking. Landlords may amend the terms to allow certain pets in order to retain a quality tenant.
Even if you do live in a pet-friendly property, Dr Orr recommends thinking about how long you will be staying there, and taking into account future moves before getting a pet.
“As pet-friendly accommodation can be difficult to secure at times, ensure you will be able to care for your animal for its natural lifespan before bringing it home.
“Relinquishing pets due to a lack of pet-friendly accommodation is a common reason animals are surrendered to shelters.”
How to choose a pet when renting
Dr Orr said the most important thing that needs to be considered when choosing a pet is whether you have the space and time to interact with them.
“If you are thinking of getting a dog, cat or bird, remember these animals are highly social and require a considerable amount of interaction every day,” she said.
According to Dr Orr, dogs are more likely to cause property destruction if they don’t have adequate enrichment. “It’s important to consider their physical and psychological needs and how the size of the house or apartment you are renting might impact these needs.”
Puppies need near-constant attention as they are growing, and their exercise requirements make them less suitable for apartments. Teething, chewing and toilet-training may also cause property damage.
“If you are considering getting a dog to live in your apartment, consider adopting an older dog from a shelter who will have lower energy levels,” Dr Orr said.
Adoption may also be a way to ensure the needs of your pet suit the accommodation you are living in. “In most cases, the shelter staff will be able to give you an idea about the personality of the pet, and some insights into their individual requirements.”
Dr Orr said those thinking about getting a cat or kitten should consider consider purchasing two cats together. Siblings, kittens of a similar age, or any two cats that are known to get along will provide each other with company while you aren’t at home.
“Cats and kittens need enrichment, so be sure to provide scratching posts, climbing spaces, toys and sleeping and hiding spots,” she said. “This will help to ensure that they are not scratching furniture and fly screens, which is essential for renters.”
Which dog breeds are best for renters?
Although choosing a specific breed of dog won’t guarantee a problem-free tenancy, different types may be more suitable for you, depending on the type of property you live in and your lifestyle.
“Exercise levels vary among dog types,” Dr Orr said. “Working dogs such as kelpies and border collies will require significantly more mental stimulation and exercise than other types of dogs.
“Some types of dogs don’t shed much hair. These are the poodles, the poodle crosses and hairless dogs, such as the Chinese crested.”
For apartment dwellers, small, low-energy breeds such as the bichon frise, pug and shih tzus, may be suitable, although regular daily exercise and socialisation with other dogs is always essential.
What other types of pets suit renters?
Fish are low-maintenance pets and their compact enclosures keep them contained, minimising the chance of property damage.
“Fish can make perfect pets for small spaces,” said Dr Orr. “Make sure you have an appropriate aquarium setup with proper filtration, temperature control, aeration and maintenance of water quality.”
Breakages and spills during cleaning are possible causes of property damage, so it’s still a good idea to check with your landlord if fish are acceptable.
Although they are small, guinea pigs and rabbits need plenty of space to move around outside their cage. “Regular access to an outdoor, grassed area is important so they can exercise and explore,” Dr Orr said.
“Guinea pigs are highly social, and are best kept in pairs, but be careful not to mix genders as you will end up with unwanted babies.”