If I’ve learned anything from getting my first NYC pet (a two-pound Pomeranian puppy who thinks my carpet is his designated toilet), it’s that you will have a series of questions, anxiety and sleepless nights...even before you pick up your sweet little fur baby. Having a pet anywhere has its challenges, but it’s especially daunting when you consider doing it in NYC, where there are lots of dangers for pets, jarring sounds and a lack of green space, not to mention the fact that vet bills—like everything else—are at a premium. This is not to dissuade you from investing in the *best life decision* ever, but being prepared is paramount, so we brought in experts from Chewy and PetSmart to help guide you through the ins and outs of urban pet ownership.
6 Expert Tips You Need to Know Before Getting a Pet in NYC
Consider Breed (over Size)
First and foremost, that old adage that it’s “cruel” to keep a dog cooped up in an apartment just isn’t true, and it shouldn’t be a deterrent for you considering one as a pet. Even though you may feel as if the walls of your apartment are closing in on you sometimes, your pet probably won’t. “Dogs get used to their home regardless of whether it’s in the city or the suburbs,” says Jennifer Freeman, DVM, PetSmart’s resident veterinarian and pet care expert.
“Most pet owners think smaller dogs are better for smaller living spaces, but that’s not always the case,” Freeman explains. “Plenty of larger dog breeds have lower energy levels and are perfectly content relaxing on the couch. A few breeds that tend to work best in an apartment or condo setting include French bulldogs, pugs and—believe it or not—greyhounds.”
Go For High-tech Cat Gear
Samantha Schwab, Chewy’s resident pet expert, tells us, “Cats are perfect for apartment spaces; they don’t require as much exercise as dogs, and they do a pretty good job at keeping themselves clean. Plus, new technology, like automated cat litter boxes and cat feeders, has made caring for a cat even easier for apartment dwellers.” And while you don’t want to leave Mr. Fluff home alone too long, smart pet gear is a big help for those with a demanding schedule.
Give Your Pet Some Exercise (yes, Even In A Small Apartment)
Speaking of those demanding jobs that keep most New Yorkers busy Monday to Friday (and let’s face it, sometimes Monday to Sunday), it doesn’t mean you can’t carve out enough time in your schedule each day to give your pet adequate exercise. The best and most obvious way our experts recommend is at your local dog park or even a doggie day camp, especially if they’re comfortable around other dogs. But you can also exercise your dog indoors with the help of an indoor agility kit, Schwab advises. Look for interactive dog toys—like the Kong, Starmark treat-dispensing toy and Outward Hound brick puzzle toy—or nose-work games that help you hide dog treats throughout your home so your pup will stay extra busy while you zen out on the couch after a long day with a glass of red and your favorite podcast.
Be Smart About Your Space
“Dedicating an area for your pet is important. It gives them a place that’s just theirs and cuts down on the clutter around the rest of the home,” Freeman tells us. And since you’re working with limited square footage, there are quite a few smart ways to maximize the space that won’t totally kill your design vibe, like this handsome Casper dog bed, for instance. (Bonus: It uses the same plush memory foam as the human mattress version.)
For cats, Schwab loves window-mounted cat beds, which give your feline a good view while saving floor space. For dog peeps, “If you do go the dog bed route,” she says, “it’s very important to place it in a quiet location in the apartment. If there’s space in your bedroom, your dog will quickly learn to associate the bedroom, and the pet bed, with sleep and relaxation.”
Those blaring ambulance and fire truck sirens in the city can be a lot for any human to handle, let alone your pet. “A covered pet bed stuck in the quietest corner of your apartment can help comfort your cat or dog. You can also try using a pet-calming diffuser that releases pheromones into the room for a more relaxed pet in general,” Schwab tells us. A lot of pet parents are helping their pets alleviate pain, anxiety, stress, itchiness and even anti-inflammatory problems by giving them proper doses of CBD oils, like this one from Highline Wellness, and other new CBD-infused treats. While it’s still under evaluation, the World Health Organization has determined that CBD “does not appear to have abuse potential or cause harm” to humans or our furry friends.
When it comes to crates, many options can blend in with your home decor, like this crate that can be used as a side table. “If you want to maximize the space you have in your apartment, consider pet supplies that serve a secondary function, like a cat litter box disguised as a planter or a crate that can be used as a side table. You can keep all of your pet supplies in one place with a cute storage bin or opt for a piece of furniture with built-in storage,” Schwab says. “Cat parents can elevate their cat and avoid crowding their floors with some floating cat shelves or window-mounted cat perches.”
Keep The City Grime Out Of Your Apartment
A big city might not be the ideal place to walk your pet, with all the street litter and droppings some inconsiderate pet owners don’t scoop up. “Regular grooming appointments are key to keeping your pet healthy and clean, and also allow you to catch any skin irritations or other paw issues. In between grooming appointments, use paw wipes, like Top Paw Soap-Free Dog Paw Wipes, after walks to make sure paws are clean and that dirt from the outside doesn’t get tracked into your apartment. Booties are definitely an option, especially during prime winter and summer months. I recommend something reflective that will work for both day and night, like the Top Paw Reflective Booties.”
Take Precautions For Urban Dangers
“Big cities have a lot of foot traffic, and your dog might meet other dogs while out and about. It’s important to ensure all vaccines and flea and tick preventatives are up to date so thatencounters on walks or at dog parks don’t lead to health issues later on,” says Freeman. In a city setting, Schwab advises keeping your dog on a short leash while in crowded areas and being cognizant of whether your dog is investigating any trash on the street or in receptacles. “If you go walking at night, make sure your pet is visible with a light-up collar or leash,” she says.
And if you’re considering bringing your pup to a dog park, Schwab advises only visiting dog runs that have separate areas for big dogs and small dogs, and going during off-peak hours. “Always keep your dog under close supervision, and be prepared to leave if a large or aggressive dog approaches,” she says.
Simple dog training can also save your pup when dangers abound. “Making sure your dog knows training cues, like ‘stay’ and ‘leave it,’ is the key to navigating public areas safely,” says Schwab. “Finally, asphalt and pavement can get extremely hot in the summer. Check the ground with your hand to determine if it’s too hot for your dog to walk on,” she says.