Dogs / Birds / Cats / Fish & Reptiles / Small Animals

What Is the Best Pet for Apartment Living?

If you live in a smaller space like an apartment, condominium or tiny home, you may find yourself wondering if you can even have a pet. Good news – apartment living does NOT necessarily mean living pet free. Today we’re going to help you find the best pet for apartment living and your lifestyle!


There are many benefits to sharing your life with a pet.

According to an article published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, having a pet has been shown to have a positive impact on your cholesterol levels, blood pressure, mental health, and more!

However, living in a smaller space means that you must consider some limitations on the pets that you can realistically add to your family.

With limited space, little to no yard, nearby neighbours, the risk of damage to a space that you don’t own and tenancy restrictions to consider, the search for a ‘perfect pet’ can be overwhelming!

Review Your Lease & Check Local Regulations

Before we even get started, you need to do some initial research…

Pull out your lease and read through the restrictions that you agreed to upon signing.

Restrictions are often put in place for very valid reasons – concerns about damage, allergies, and more.

If you have a good relationship with your landlord, there may be some room for negotiation, but first you need to know what you’re working with!

Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you are unsure about anything.

In addition to understanding the terms of your tenancy, you may also need to dig into local regulations regarding the ownership of specific pets.

Some of the pets on this list are considered ‘exotic’ and may be banned in certain areas of the world.

Always do your due diligence BEFORE going out and committing to care for a pet.

small white dog sitting on the floor in front of an off white dog bed with a plaid bow and a white bookshelf

What Is the Best Pet for Apartment Living? Check Out These 7 Options…

#1 – Smaller Dog Breeds

While you may not have the space in your apartment for a larger dog like a German Shepherd or a Rottweiler, there are many smaller breeds to consider.

But don’t let their compact size fool you!

Not all smaller dogs are well-suited for apartment living.

There are a few factors that you need to consider, including:

  • Activity Level (Some dogs NEED a yard to run around in)
  • Breed’s Tendency to Bark
  • Standard Sizing (Check your lease for size restrictions)
  • Personality and Patterns of Behaviour

You want to find a dog that will not only fit your space, but also your lifestyle.

For example, if you are someone who works long hours, a breed that is known for suffering from separation anxiety isn’t ideal.

Related: ‘Find the Best Shelter Dog for Your Family by Following This Advice!

#2 – Cats

The fact that cats are generally completely happy living their life indoors means that you don’t need to worry about a lack of yard.

They are also well-suited for smaller spaces due to their ability to make use of the vertical space in your home.

Are you lacking space for your cat to play?

Consider using taller scratch posts and perches to create additional space!

Worried about the smells from a litterbox?

There are many great products on the market that can cut that smell down including covered boxes, litter disposal systems, and more.

While cats are generally known for being quieter pets, there are some breeds that are known for being more vocal, such as the Siamese.

Take some time to research different breeds to find the best fit for your home, your family, and your lifestyle.

#3 – Pocket Pets

The term ‘pocket pets’ is used to describe smaller mammals such as hamsters, gerbils, mice, guinea pigs, rabbits, hedgehogs, chinchillas and ferrets.

These pets range drastically in terms of size restrictions.

Chinchillas, ferrets and rabbits require larger habitats as well as more time out of their cage to exercise.

Meanwhile, pets like hamster and mice require a much smaller space.

These smaller creatures are often considered a front runner when considering the best pet for apartment living as they are cute and cuddly like the dogs and cats but in a smaller package.

As mentioned at the start of this article, it’s necessary to consider the restrictions and legislations where you live.

Ferrets and hedgehogs, for example, are banned in some states.

brown and white hamster standing on a counter on it's hind legs, front feet held up to it's mouth

#4 – Birds

Often, when we say birds, people automatically think about larger, talking parrots.

With that in mind, it’s easy to see why they often aren’t permitted in apartment complexes.

An important consideration, if adding a bird to your home, is that they are highly social beings.

Birds that are left alone regularly will suffer from stress and anxiety.

Feelings of loneliness lead to behaviour problems. More specifically, lonely birds are often louder.

However, with regular socialization and mental stimulation, you can raise a happy, healthy bird in a limited space.

Consider the cage setup necessary and the space that you have available.

Finches and canaries are popular choices for apartment living as they tend to be quieter and easier to care for.

#5 – Snakes and Lizards

For those who are interested in something a little ‘out of the box’, reptiles like snakes and smaller lizards may be the perfect fit.

These creatures aren’t generally as social as our ‘furry friends’ above.

If you’re looking for a cuddly and affectionate pet, you may want to reconsider.  

However, they require limited space and make no noise, meaning they are a great choice for apartment living.

The size of reptile that you can welcome into your home will depend, largely, on the space available for your pet’s habitat.

Smaller lizard, like geckos, can be kept in relatively small enclosures.

Research the species that you are most interested in to ensure that you provide for all of their needs including heat lamps, unique diets, and more.

These fascinating creatures don’t require exercise, or the level of attention needed by many of the other pets on this list.

If you work long hours, they are quite happy to hang out at home alone.

For those who are looking for a little interaction, some species are more interested than others.

It’s been said many times already on here, but I’ll say it again – Make sure to do your research!

Reptiles fall under the heading of ‘exotic pets’, meaning that you may be facing restrictions.

Carefully read over your lease and look into local regulations.

Related: ‘Is A Pet Snake Right For Me?

#6 – Tarantulas

It has been estimated that as many as 1 in 3 women are afraid of spiders to some degree.

For those who aren’t included in that statistic, you may be interested in bringing an 8-legged friend into your home.

This is another option on the list that will require careful research to ensure that you’re not coming up against regulations or restrictions.

Other options under the umbrella of bugs, insects and arachnids include:

  • African Centipedes
  • Emperor Scorpions
  • Praying Mantids
  • Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches

Alternatively, you could keep it easy and add an ant farm to your home!

Bugs, insects and arachnids require small enclosures, meaning that they fit nicely into your limited living space.

They are independent and require limited care.

Depending on the species, you may not be able to handle your new pet at all. This could be for your own safety (bites/stings) or theirs.

black and brown fuzzy tarantula being held in someone's hands

#7 – Fish

The most obvious choice in terms of apartment pets, most apartment complex will allow for an aquarium.

However, you should check into whether or not there is a limitation to the size of tank that you are permitted.

With so many different options of fish and tank decorations, you have the opportunity to personalize your aquarium to match your own unique style.

Factors to consider include which fish are compatible with each other, as well as their needs in terms of temperature and filtration.

You want to create an atmosphere that you enjoy but also that provides for their needs.

Don’t fall for the misconception that the smallest fish tank available will require the least care.

Larger aquariums are more stable, meaning that they are more forgiving should there be a fluctuation in the water chemistry.

For this reason, it is often recommended that beginners start with a tank of at least 10 gallons.

Looking to change things up a bit? Don’t limit your aquarium to just fish!

Consider adding other water creatures, such as shrimp or snails.

grey cat laying on it's side on white bedding with the title 'the best pet for apartment living'

Are you currently living in an apartment or other small space? If so, what do you consider to be the best pet for apartment living?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

About Author

Britt is a digital/social media marketer and the owner of The Social Alternative. When she’s not working, she enjoys spending her time with her ‘pack’ which includes her husband John, their 2 dogs Daviana and Indiana and their 2 cats Pippen and Jinx. A proud pet mom, she shares all her pet-related tips, tricks and funny pet antics on Shed Happens.


  • Dorothy "FiveSibesMom"
    September 4, 2020 at 8:01 pm

    Great advice! I know of many folks who get Siberian Huskies for their beauty with no thought about whether they would be good a small apartment. They need to run, so it works out fine for some as long as they have place they can get their energy out. I think it’s great advice here so folks have something to really seriously ponder before they get their pet.

    • Britt
      September 5, 2020 at 1:35 pm

      Unfortunately, I think a lot of people underestimate the energy that some of these larger dogs have. My girl is a German Shepherd mix and she would be MISERABLE in a small living space. She needs to run and play, even at 12 years old. That’s why we were so careful to make sure that we were moving into a house with a yard for her.

  • Ruth Epstein
    September 4, 2020 at 8:56 pm

    I live in a tiny studio but it suits Layla and me, plus when I was looking for a place I made sure it would be close to a dog park so that we would have place to spend outdoors with her off leash and have been very lucky. It is so important to get a pet that suits your lifestyle so that they will stay with you and not be dumped when something happens

    • Britt
      September 5, 2020 at 1:33 pm

      Exactly! While our cats would be happy in a smaller living space, I know that we have 2 large, active pups. We moved into our current house nearly 4 years ago and the search for the ‘right space’ was more focused on the dogs than it was on my husband and I lol! We were determined we would find a large, fenced yard that they could run and play in. Sure, it made house hunting a little more challenging, but we made the commitment to keep them safe and healthy when we brought them into our family.

  • Nancy
    September 5, 2020 at 12:06 am

    I love having pets – they bring so much joy but they come with a responsibility. We need to ensure that their needs are tended to as well. So important to make sure that you are following the regulations set by your living area. I have some friends with tiny dogs in their apartments. Cats are great where they can take care of themselves. I have always been intrigued when people have pet spiders. Tarantulas are something else. I love that there are so many options with keeping pets. Thanks for sharing!

    Nancy ✨

    • Britt
      September 5, 2020 at 1:29 pm

      It’s SO important that pet owners recognize whether or not their current accomodations will provide for the pet that they are considering. You may have wanted a German Shepherd your whole life, for example, but it would be unfair to bring a large and highly active dog into an apartment. My girl is 12 and still runs laps of our back yard lol

  • The Dash Kitten Crew
    September 6, 2020 at 7:53 pm

    I love that your suggestions goes beyond cats and dogs to reptiles and fish. These are two areas that take up a lot of space in a pet shop for a reason. They can be amazing!!

    Small dogs can be yappy and as you say have a tendency to bark. If you are in an apartment your neighbours will not welcome the constant howling and yowling if you pick the wrong dog so your advice about due diligence is absolutely critical. DO IT. Many a small dog can be quiet but NOT a Chihuahua, miniature poodle or a Yorkshire terrier. They are the dogs from hell if left alone and people WILL complain.

    Cats can be the perfect companion AND to ensure they get fresh air I might suggest selecting a breed that works well in a harness. Just make sure you work from home if you have an Oriental Shorthair, they can drown out a dog’s bark! (Although they are totally gorgeous!!!!)

    • Britt
      September 7, 2020 at 6:40 pm

      Yes, it is SO important to consider the typical behaviours of different breeds as well as the individual pup. Sure, a dog that gets mouthy when you’re not home isn’t going to bother you (you’re not there to listen to it) but you have to consider everyone else in an apartment complex. If your neighbours are all complaining, you’re going to get hit with a fine or even kicked out! A little advance prep and research can go a long way!

  • Faye
    September 7, 2020 at 12:39 pm

    I’ve thought about having a cat in the future but also always envisioned myself living in an apartment. I definitely agree with you that cats could be the ideal pet for apartment living!

    • Britt
      September 7, 2020 at 6:39 pm

      Cats are a great choice in a smaller living space as long as you take steps to control the litter box smells. The first pet that I had after living in a student residence was a cat.

  • Sweet Purrfections
    September 7, 2020 at 1:56 pm

    I thoroughly enjoyed this post. I’m so thankful I live in a home I own. If I were to move, I would definitely make sure it was a location where I could have pets. I need to research assisted living facilities (should I ever need one) where pets are allowed.

    • Britt
      September 7, 2020 at 6:35 pm

      We’ve moved a couple of times now and it was hard to find places that would allow us to have 2 larger dogs – but it wasn’t optional for us. They are part of the family and we weren’t going to leave them behind. Luckily for us, we are now in a home with plenty of space and a nice yard for the pups to play. A lot of rentals around here have limitations in terms of pets in their units. There have been rules passed about not being able to say ‘no dogs’ or evict for having pets. They can’t say ‘no pets’ unless it’s a situation involving allergies. However, they will often create other restrictions to discourage it – limiting where dogs can go/exercise, size restrictions, etc.

  • Angela Schneider
    September 7, 2020 at 2:57 pm

    Chacun a son gout! I lived in urban one-bedroom apartments with a giant breed livestock guardian dog who happily flumped himself into a corner next to me. He was happiest as long as we were together. It’s all about how you feed their energy and we daily went to the park and on weekends hiking in the mountains. As a rescue, he found his place with me and I was fortunate to always find landlords who welcomed us.

    • Britt
      September 7, 2020 at 6:30 pm

      I’m glad to hear that he was able to find his forever home with you! Most apartments around here have size restrictions in the units, so it’s not an option even if your dog would adapt to the smaller space. That being said, some dogs never do adapt to a limited living environment. My girl is constantly go go go – we could take a 3-hour hike and come home to find her throwing toys around our dining room. At 12 years old, she’s clearly not going to grow out of that puppy energy! Haha! We have gone out of our way to set up the house to give her that space to play safely without breaking things. It’s not that she doesn’t get her outside time, she’s just high-energy and always on the go. Knowing that, an apartment wouldn’t be the best situation for her. She needs her space to play and have fun.

  • Emilia
    September 7, 2020 at 4:23 pm

    Ferrets are tons of fun. They’re like a puppy, a kitten, and toddler that never grows up. They chew like puppies and they aren’t as easy to train. They dig like crazy too. We take ours out on leash and they love!! to dig holes all over.

    • Britt
      September 7, 2020 at 6:26 pm

      They are SO playful! Definitely not a low-maintenance or hands-off pet, but they are great if you’re looking for a pet to play with and engage with regularly. A friend of mine created a dig box in her living room with dried beans in a very large clear bin. It was so much fun to watch the ferret move through the bin, playing!

  • Jana Rade
    September 7, 2020 at 6:09 pm

    We’ve lived in apartments and now we’re living in a tiny home; and we always had Rottweilers. We never had any problem–indoors, a dog needs just enough space to comfortable stretch out. As long as they get their exercise and fun outside.

    • Britt
      September 7, 2020 at 6:23 pm

      It really does depend on the dog. While some larger dogs will do well in a smaller living situation, others become restless. I know that my girl is a well-behaved dog, but she’s a playful puppy and runs through our house playing with us even after hours of hiking outdoors. She’s high-energy and needs to have space to be happy. Our boy Indy, however, would do better in that situation. As long as he gets his exercise time in, he’s quite happy to curl up and snuggle on the couch. That being said – a lot of apartment buildings around here have size limitations on the dogs that are permitted in their units.

  • Unwanted Life
    September 7, 2020 at 6:32 pm

    My living space is way to small for a car or a dog, I use to have snakes but they can become an issue with your roommatea and storing of frozen mice. I had no idea hedgehogs could be bought as a pet though, hedgehogs are so cute

    • Britt
      September 7, 2020 at 6:44 pm

      There are some areas where hedgehogs are banned, so you have to check the local bylaws to find out. That being said, my best friend has an adorable little hedgehog. They do make really cute pets.

  • Mrs. P&P
    September 7, 2020 at 7:12 pm

    Do compost worms count? That’s the only animal I could convince hubs to keep in our small apartment!

    • Britt
      September 7, 2020 at 9:48 pm

      I actually have heard of people keeping compost worms as pets!

  • Beth
    September 7, 2020 at 9:41 pm

    These are good things to think about before getting a pet. My daughter started with a Bearded Dragon, and now also has 2 small dogs, a bird, and a small aquarium in her apartment.

    My friend’s dogs got so much more exercise when they lived in a small apartment than they do since they moved into a house with a big backyard. They always went for long walks three times a day. They don’t run around the yard and play like my friend expected they would, so she still has to take them on walks to get their exercise.

    • Britt
      September 7, 2020 at 9:48 pm

      That is definitely something to consider! Looking at our two dogs, the one is quite happy running and playing in the yard (and everywhere else where there is enough space to run). Our boy, however, is much more laid back. He only really runs in the back yard when our girl convinces him to play. He gets most of his exercise on our walks and our hikes.

  • Jupiter Hadley
    September 8, 2020 at 10:14 am

    I love the term pocket pets! We have a cat – and those are some great tips about smells!

    • Britt
      September 8, 2020 at 11:09 am

      That’s the biggest struggle in a smaller living space, I’ve found. However, with the right products, you can keep your house smelling fresh and clean!

  • kittycatc
    September 9, 2020 at 6:49 pm

    In my openion having a cat as partner is something incredible ^^

    • Britt
      September 9, 2020 at 7:40 pm

      Highly agree – our cats add so much love to our lives!

  • Giulia
    September 16, 2020 at 6:56 pm

    I own my apartment, and techinally we are not allowed pets. However, over the years I have realized that many people here have cats. I started off with fish, extended it to birds, (budgies and diamond doves), snuck in a hamster because who was going to know? And more recently adopted a rabbit. I love all of them equally but they definitely all require different care, and I have spend hours researching and learning about all of them. It’s been so much fun, and they bring me so much joy! I think they are all perfect apartment pets, and I would have a cat if my husband was not allergic. Though not sure I’d have the bunny if I had a cat. Doesn’t seem safe to me.

    • Britt
      September 17, 2020 at 8:13 am

      You may be surprised! When I lived in an apartment with my best friend, I had a cat and she had a bunny. They were both quite young when they met one another (and we were SUPER careful in the beginning) but they ended up developing quite the friendship.

  • Karalee Shotola
    September 20, 2020 at 2:23 pm

    I live in a small apartment & I definitely think hamsters, gerbils & mice are the pet for me & my daughter as they don’t require as large of a cage as a guinea pig, rabbit or chinchilla. I’ve seen other people at my apartment complex with dogs of all sizes, but the dog would always have to be on a leash outside as there is nowhere for them to just run. We did consider a cat as my bf’s mother cat sits a lot, but my bf was concerned about where the litter box would go as our bathroom is TINY. We wouldn’t get a snake as I’m terrifed of them & I think my daughter would prefer a more cuddly pet over a reptile. I’m not scared of spiders & neither is my daughter but my bf is haha. We also considered a fish, but we wanted a pet my daughter could actually play with.

    • Britt
      September 23, 2020 at 4:49 pm

      It sounds like you have put a lot of thought into this decision, which is great! Based on what you’ve shared here, it definitely sounds like you’re on the right track!


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