9 pawsitive tips for downsizing with pets

When it's time to downsize your living space, here are all the tips you need to bring your furry friends along or even adopt a new pet once you're settled in.

By Dr Katrina Warren

People choose to downsize for many reasons, including reducing living expenses and simplifying their lifestyle. It’s a common scenario for empty nesters who prefer less upkeep, which comes with more compact housing like apartments and townhouses.

However, downsizing doesn’t have to mean giving up on pet ownership. Many people successfully transition to a smaller home and still enjoy the companionship of pets. They choose suitable pets for their new lifestyle and adopt appropriate management strategies to go with it.

What to consider when downsizing with dogs?

1. Choose the right breed for your space

Over the past decade, small poodle crosses like the cavoodle have gained popularity due to their compact size and low-shedding coat, which makes them ideal indoor companions. However, not all suitable breeds are small.

Larger breeds like the Great Dane and Greyhound can also thrive in apartments, provided they receive adequate exercise and companionship. Other popular apartment breeds are the Bichon Frise, Boston Terrier, Pug, French Bulldog, Whippet, Italian Greyhound and Poodle.

2. Train to reduce barking and noise

Nothing upsets neighbours more than a barking dog.

Some breeds, like Chihuahuas and Dachshunds, tend to bark, while others, like the Greyhound and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, are much less likely to bark (there are always exceptions).

Early training to minimise noise and destructive behaviour is essential.

3. Consider your pet’s exercise requirements

All dogs, regardless of size, require regular exercise and mental stimulation to maintain their physical and mental wellbeing. Providing ample outdoor space for activities, especially for active breeds like working dogs, may prove challenging in an apartment.

Before moving into an apartment, research nearby parks and green spaces to ensure convenient access for daily walks.

4. Toilet training dogs for apartment living

Your dog will need somewhere easily accessible to do its business. Many people with balconies successfully train their dogs to use a portable dog toilet; there are many different types on the market, some using natural grass and others artificial.

Ease of cleaning and smell are essential considerations, and for this reason, portable dog toilets are a better option for small dogs. Dogs trained to use these from an early age are usually very comfortable using them.

What to consider when downsizing with cats?

Most cats adapt well to smaller spaces, provided their needs for mental and physical stimulation are met. However, it can be challenging when a cat has been allowed to roam and is suddenly moved to an indoor-only lifestyle. To ease this transition, start making changes well before your move by bringing your cat indoors.

1. Choose the right breed for your space

Just like dogs, certain cat breeds are better suited for smaller spaces.

Siamese cats are very vocal, and Abyssinians, Bengals, and Burmese cats are very active, whereas Ragdolls and British Shorthair cats are typically more relaxed. Moggies come in all shapes, sizes and energy levels.

2. Older pets thrive better in downsized living

Adopting an older cat may be a good option if you are considering welcoming a new feline friend.

Older cats don't have the boundless energy and constant need for stimulation as kittens. Plus, you can usually get a good indication of their personality and whether they would suit your lifestyle and live in a smaller space.

3. Create an enriched environment for your feline

The most important thing for any cat living in a small space is that it has an environment that allows it to exhibit its natural behaviours and satisfy its mental and physical needs.

Cats love to be elevated and climb. Provide a climbing tree, or use your vertical space by placing shelves for them to perch on. Cats love basking in the sun, so place a shelf or bed near a sunny window ledge for them to snooze on throughout the day.

As scratching is an innate behaviour, all cats need a sturdy scratching post tall enough to stretch on.

4. Consider a catio

You can create a "cat patio" or catio by enclosing a balcony or small outdoor area. It provides a safe environment for cats to enjoy the benefits of outdoors without the risks of allowing a cat to roam.

Your catio can be as simple or as complex as you like. Search "catio ideas", then click on "images" and prepare to go down the rabbit-hole.

5. Prioritise playtime for your cats

Although indoor cats sleep up to 18 hours a day, they still need things to do when they are awake to prevent boredom and destructive behaviour.

Play games that encourage them to move and chase, and provide interactive toys. Toys don't need to be expensive; most cats love chasing ping pong balls and climbing in boxes!

By carefully selecting the right pet for your lifestyle and making a few adjustments, you can still enjoy all the companionship and joy that pet ownership brings, just in a smaller setting.

If the commitment of full time pet ownership feels overwhelming, or your living arrangements simply won’t allow for it, read Citro’s article on fun ways to care for a pet without the commitment.

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