Taking Care of a Pet When You Have Roommates

Roommates walking with dog

You may adore your pet but the same might not be said for your non-pet-owning roommates. While you love your dog or cat, know that pet ownership can sometimes come with its challenges. There are a few golden rules of taking care of a pet when you live with roommates. Follow these guidelines to avoid annoying your roommate or causing a dispute:

Live With Fellow Animal-Lovers

It should be obvious, but living with fellow animal-lovers is a practical way to avoid pet-related disputes of any kind right from the get go. Even if you're the only one who actually owns a pet, your roommates will at least understand and tolerate Fido's hijinks or Fluffy's litter box. To ensure you live with people who like animals, either opt to share an apartment with a friend you already know well or be careful when interviewing people. If you're looking for a new place and are being interviewed, make sure you're up front about owning a pet and that everyone who currently lives in the apartment is OK with it.

Keep Common Areas Clean

People who don't own dogs or cats often choose not to because they aren't interested in that kind of responsibility right now. That means that when Fluffy throws up on the carpet or Fido tears apart one of the pillows in the living room, it's up to you to clean it up (and to do so quickly). Your roommates probably don't want to pick up after your pet, but if they do, make sure to let them know how much you appreciate it.


Be Cognizant of the Litter Box

The litter box is one of the hardest things for non-pet owners to get on board with. It can sometimes have an odor or look unattractive and a lot of cats are really adept at tracking litter all around the vicinity. So, if you own a cat, make sure his or her litter box is as inoffensive as possible. If you can, keep it in your room or your own personal bathroom to try to contain any potential for a mess to your own area. If not, look for creative ways to keep it hidden, such as under an end table or inside a cabinet, and make sure you're cleaning it daily.

Don't Assume

You know what they say about assuming, so just don't do it. If you're planning on spending the weekend at your boyfriend's lakeside cabin, for instance, that does not mean your dog is now automatically the responsibility of your roommates. Always ask your roommates first before assuming they'll want to walk Fido while you're at work, pick up a new bag of food for Fluffy on their way home, or take care of your pet over the weekend. If not, it's up to you to find an alternative.

Take Responsibility for Damaged Items

You break it; you buy it. The same rule applies to your pet. Whether your cat scratches up your roommate's chair or your dog chews through his or her computer charger, it's your responsibility to replace any damaged items. If you can't afford to, sit down with your roommate and come up with a plan to repay him or her in some way. And remember: Investing in training, giving your pet ample opportunity for exercise and providing proper enrichment are great ways to prevent boredom or destructive behavior.

Check in Regularly

Even if your roommates are totally laid-back and help you take care of Fluffy or Fido every now and then, it's a good idea to find ways to check in with them about your pet. What's worse than having a difficult conversation now is allowing them to build up resentment toward your pet (and in turn you) that bursts one day. Try opening with a simple question, like, "Has Fluffy been leaving your stuff alone?" That should open the door for them to bring up anything your pet is doing that they aren't thrilled about.

Know When to Call It

If your pet and your roommates really don't get along—and that does happen sometimes—know when it's time to move on and find a new place. Try to look for ways you can keep the peace while your lease runs out, and then find a new living situation that will be better for everyone.

Niccole Schreck is a rental experience expert for Rent.com, a free rental site that helps you find an affordable pet-friendly apartment and provides tips on how to move with your pet. She is also the proud owner of two dogs, Bella and Wallace.