The companionship of an animal is among the most rewarding relationships humans can experience. Pets lower our anxiety levels, strengthen our immune systems and they even help some people interact socially with others.
But these relationships go both ways. In addition to providing affection and basic necessities, pet parents have a responsibility to ensure that they're enhancing the lives of their pets too. One of the primary needs animals have that people often overlook is the amount of space a pet requires for biological and mental health.
Which pet is best for small apartments: rabbits or cats?
The amount of space you have to offer an animal is important to consider when evaluating the best type of pet for your lifestyle. Pet parents who live in small apartments have a variety of options when it comes to pets who are able to call moderately-sized spaces home. In this article, we examine two of the more popular pets for small apartments: rabbits and cats!
Rabbits in small apartments
In the wild, rabbits are tense and nervous because they are constantly scanning their surroundings for predators. Domestic rabbits, however, are able to relax, which helps their charming personalities surface.
Cuteness' guide to caring for a bunny shows you the finer points of socializing and feeding a new house rabbit. But here we look at the pros and cons of having a rabbit in a small apartment.
3 reasons rabbits are ideal for small apartments
Aside from being furry, good-spirited companions, rabbits are also good roommate material because they can be litter-box trained, groom themselves and are fairly quiet.
Rabbits can be trained to use a litter box
Rabbits can be trained to use a litter box, but spaying or neutering is an important first step. Many experienced rabbit owners say that a bunny who hasn't been spayed or neutered cannot be litter-box trained. Furthermore, litter-box train your rabbit sooner, rather than later. It's difficult to re-train rabbits for the litter box once they've made a habit out of defecating throughout your apartment.
Rabbits enjoy spending time in their litter boxes, and it's important to purchase one that is large enough to accommodate your rabbit along with fresh grass or hay. Again, it's natural for rabbits to nest in their litter box; so be sure to make the space is pleasant for them.
Rabbits groom themselves
Rabbits are fastidious groomers, and they'll lick themselves clean like cats do. However, unlike cats, rabbits do not vomit. This means that the hairballs your rabbit will develop are typically passed through the digestive system. Complications can occur where the hairballs block a rabbit's gastrointestinal tract. Regular visits to the vet are recommended to ensure that your rabbit's digestive tract is clear.
While rabbits do groom themselves, they do require brushing several times a week. Rabbits typically shed every three months. During these shedding seasons, your rabbit will require more frequent brushings to avoid any hairball problems.
Rabbits are quiet
Rabbits don't bark or meow, which makes them quiet roommates! Rabbits will make a thumping noise by pounding their hind legs against the flooring when they're nervous. But, for the most part, rabbits don't make many loud sounds.
2 Reasons rabbits are not the best for small apartments
Rabbits chew and dig more than dogs
Many pet parents who are new to rabbits are often shocked by how much cute bunnies chew and dig. Rabbits will chew furniture, cords, flooring and even baseboards. They'll also dig through couches and carpeting. These seemingly destructive behaviors comes quite naturally to them.
Rabbits burrow and chew because it's in their nature. In the wild, rabbits dig holes for both housing (which are known as warrens) and to find fresh, soft vegetation to eat. They chew to keep their long, sharp teeth from growing too long. While training and redirection can lessen these instinctive behaviors, rabbits will never be able to fully abandon their wild heritage.
Rabbits need space and are not as quick to adopt an indoors-only lifestyle
It's a popular misconception that living indoors comes naturally to rabbits. In the wild, rabbits roam a large 10-acre range. Domestic rabbits have adapted to more moderately-sized spaces, but it's important to understand that small cages are inadequate longterm housing for rabbits.
3 tips for keeping rabbits as pets in small apartments
Spay or neuter your rabbit
Spaying or neutering rabbits helps rabbits live longer and become more social with humans. Rabbits who have been "fixed" experience a reduced risk of reproductive cancers and exhibit less aggression towards other animals — humans included — and each other. Fixed rabbits are also less inclined to urinate and mark territory.
Be aware that rabbits hide their injuries
Regular visits to the veterinarian are just as important for rabbits, as they are for dogs and cats. Rabbits are prey animals and as such, they have instincts to hide injuries and wounds. This means that owners may not be aware that their rabbits are suffering from an ailment or life-threatening condition.
Rabbits do well with a companion
Rabbits are social animals, and they typically live in large communities. If you have a busy lifestyle that keeps you away from home for long periods of time, it's recommended that your rabbit have a companion — whether it's a cat, dog or other rabbit.
How to bunny-proof your apartment
Youtube is full of video tutorials filmed by experienced rabbit owners who share tips on bunny proofing apartments. We've gathered several of the most-popular bunny proofing tips.
Use NIC grids to protect baseboards and walls
Rabbits will chew walls and baseboards, which is problematic for renters living in apartments. Erecting NIC grids along the perimeter of your living space prevents rabbits from having access to chew in the first place.
Rabbits will chew just about anything they come into contact with, including cords. Unlike furniture and the other household items rabbits will chew, cords present a danger of electrocution.
Rearranging your home to keep cords out of reach of curious bunnies is an important step in rabbit proofing your home. Purchasing cord covers or for any cords that can not be shifted out of harm's way will prevent your rabbit from chewing through dangerous wiring.
Block off areas
Some rabbits can jump as high as 36 inches. They're also flexible and capable of squeezing between tight spaces. It's important to establish perimeters between your bunny-proofed space and the rest of your home to ensure that your rabbit doesn't get into any trouble.
Don't bunny-proof the entire home
Pet parents will typically bunny-proof a single room in the home, rather than an entire apartment space.
Cats in small apartments
Cats are among the most popular pets for small apartments because they quickly adapt to indoors-only lifestyles, use litter boxes and generally take care of themselves.
Reasons cats are perfect for small apartments
Cats can be trained to use a litter box
Training cats to use a litter box is typically a fairly easy process. Not only are most cats trained to use a litter box by their mothers, they have a strong instinct to bury their excrement. Check out our guide on how to litter box train your cat.
Cats quickly adapt to indoor-only lifestyles
While it's common for cats to enjoy spending time outdoors, many — by some estimates as many as two-thirds of all house cats — enjoy living exclusively indoors. Outdoor living increases the risk of death through disease, accidents involving cars or larger animals, and becoming lost. The trick to transitioning an outdoor cat to adopting an indoors-only lifestyle is to make the home exciting and comfortable.
Cats groom themselves
There are a lot of theories on why cats groom themselves. Some experts believe self grooming helps cats hide their scent from predators, while other behaviorists say cats just like to groom. Either way, mother cats typically teach their kittens how to groom themselves at an early age.
Cats make good use of vertical space
Cats love to spend time surveying their territory from above. Not only does their skilled use of vertical space increase the real estate inside your apartment, it helps cats get extra exercise and sharpens their mental acuity.
Tips for keeping a cat as a pet in a small apartment
Living with cats in small apartments can be easy, enjoyable and rewarding. But sharing smaller spaces with a cat does come with a few challenges. These several tips will help you and your kitty have an optimal living experience.
Keep your cat's litter box clean
Keeping your cat's litter box clean not only spares your apartment of unpleasant odors, it's also good for feline health. Dirty litter boxes increase the risk of your cat developing a urinary tract infection, cystitis and even chronic renal failure.
Check out our litter box guide for tips!
House cats need lots of toys
Not only do house cats need lots of love and attention from their humans, they also need an array of cat toys to keep their minds sharp. It's best to keep a variety of toys around the house for your cat including play-alone toys and toys that are more of a game between pet parent and cat, like a laser pointer.
Install shelves near windows or get a cat tree
Cats love to climb. Providing them shelving or furniture to access the vertical spaces in your apartment helps to keep cats active and engaged.
Indoor cats need scratching posts
Cats are born with the instinct to scratch. While behaviorists disagree on the primary reason cats engage in scratching behavior, popular theories attribute scratching to territorial behavior, stress relief and grooming habits.
Cats will scratch the furniture in your home if they're not provided with designated spaces for them to have a good scratch. Visit our DIY cat-scratching post tutorial to make your own stylish and scratchable furniture.
Which pet is best for a small apartment: rabbits or cats? The truth is that there isn't a definitive answer. Rather, the answer depends on the lifestyle and time a pet parent can devote to an animal.
Rabbits can thrive in small spaces, but they need more attention and care than cats. Rabbits will instinctively chew and dig in your apartment, which means your space needs a fair amount of safety preparation and maintenance. If you're not ready for this level of commitment, a cat may be a safer pet for a small apartment.
Whether you decide on a rabbit or cat for your modestly-sized space, you will have a wonderful experience as long as you focus on their needs.