Your Complete Guide to Renting with Pets

If you’re an animal lover, there are few things better than your dog’s enthusiastic greeting when you come home, or your cat’s happy purring when she’s curled up on your lap. You spend many happy hours exercising, grooming and caring for your pet. So why should you sacrifice all of that joy when you rent an apartment or home? It might be a bit unrealistic to keep your horse in your back yard like Caroline in CBS sitcom Two Broke Girls, but regardless if you own a dog, cat, rabbit, cockatoo or a boa constrictor: he or she is likely part of your family. If you rent a home, it’s important that both you and your pet feel safe and at ease.

You might have seen an episode of My Cat From Hell or The Dog Whisperer, reality shows in which Jackson Galaxy and Cesar Millan addresses problems between humans and their pets. What renters can learn from these shows is that behavioral problems such as anxiety, extreme dominance, aggression, neuroses and marking can become exaggerated and therefore serious issues when pets feel in any way unhappy or threatened. Both Galaxy and Millan explain time and again that what works for humans, doesn’t always work for our pets. And, since you want your furry family member to be happy, keep the following tips in mind when looking for a place to rent:

  • Give yourself plenty of time to look for a home. Many rental properties don’t allow any pets at all, so it’s best to start looking for a pet-friendly place as early as possible. The Humane Society of the United States offers an online list of state-by-state animal-friendly apartments. In addition, the local chapter or animal care and control agency might have a more extensive list.
  • Vet your new place. Make sure the property is clean and has adequate resources to dispose of pet waste. Check that there are plenty of entrances and exits, so you don’t get stuck in long hallways with dogs that have to pass each other, because dogs that are unfamiliar with each other may get aggressive when in close quarters. Speak with tenants and ask them what their experiences are as pet owners in the building.
  • Find out what the property’s pet policy is. Some places only allow small animals and cats; others allow dogs less under a certain weight limit and many have a restricted breeds policy. Consider whether you’re comfortable with these conditions for your pet.
  • Promote yourself and your pet. The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) recommends providing your prospective landlord with convincing evidence you’re a responsible pet owner. Provide a pet license if your municipality requires one. It’s smart to have letters of recommendations from previous landlords and neighbors. In addition, ask your vet for documents that prove that your pet is spayed or neutered, as well as up to date on vaccinations and flea control.
  • See if the unit itself is suitable. Does your pet have enough room to move around? Do the walls have adequate sound-proofing so your pet doesn’t become anxious hearing people and other animals? Consider visiting the rental unit at two different times of day to listen for sound levels. Is there enough light and air? If you own a dog, make sure there are plenty of places to walk him nearby.
  • Get it in writing. Make sure your rental agreement clearly states you have permission to keep a pet. Include a clear description of your pet, as well as a photo and license number if applicable.
  • Be conscientious. Make sure your pet isn’t left alone for too long, and always provide enough food and water. Don’t let your pet roam the property unsupervised. If you have a dog, pick up after it. Ask your neighbors if your pet is making noise (barking, screeching) while you’re away. If your landlord or neighbor is disturbed by your pet’s behavior, be open to working together to find a solution. And, last but not least, if you notice any signs of anxiety or restlessness in your pet, address them before his unhappiness leads to neuroses or aggression. The MSPCA offers a list of helpful animal care guides you refer to, but you can also speak to your vet about it.

Renting with pets can be challenging, but with good planning and great pet ownership, you can make a true home for you and your furry friend.