When you love animals, of course you’re going to open up your home to three dogs, the stray kitten that needs a family and the hamster your daughter begged you to get. Your home knows no limits. But how do you make sure that your pets get along with other pets in your house, especially if you live in a smaller home?
Blogger Kate Spears has rescued three dogs and lives with all of them in her home of less than 1200 square feet.
Kate and Ruthie
Kate's dog Grampy
Kate and Sweetie
She’s given us the 5 tips below for small space living with pets.
Tips on Having Multiple Pets in a Small Apartment or Home
- Make sure they have different eating areas
“Dogs can show aggression around their food,” Spears explained.
Since animals tend to be territorial about food, Spears makes sure each of her three dogs is fed separately. This helps prevent them from nipping at each other or trying to steal one another’s food. Spears has even separated eating areas by room—one of her dogs eats in the kitchen while her Chihuahua eats in a different room.
In other words, to help reduce conflict in your home between pets, especially if you’re still figuring out how to take care of multiple dogs and cats, create barriers between animals while they eat. Using a baby gate as a barrier between your dog feeding area and cat feeding area is one strategy. You can also feed cats up high to keep their food out of reach from other curious pets.
When taking care of multiple dogs, it’s also helpful to reinforce their pack order. Once it’s clear who the pack leader is, feed him or her first to reduce chaos at home and make your dogs feel confident in their natural positions. In a small home, managing your pets’ interactions is essential.
- Repurpose furniture and décor
Living in a smaller apartment or home obviously means you have limited room for pet beds, feeding areas and pet toys.
“Any time you want to get something to do double duty for you, I think that’s awesome to have that,” Spears said. “If there is a table with a little space underneath, why not put a blanket or a pillow in there and make that a little spot for them to chill out?”
Like Spears suggests, turn empty bottom shelves into cat or small dog beds. Purchase coffee tables that have open space underneath for pet beds or lounge chairs that have a designated pet space underneath!
- Make sure each dog has its own safe space to go to
Some pets can get anxious in small homes if they feel too crowded or don’t feel like they have their own space where they can retreat. Spears’s Yorkie, Ruthie, has a blanket basket that she’ll curl up in where she clearly feels safe. Creating a designated pet space helps soothe your pet if they feel anxious with any other dogs or people around.
Spears explained that to the dog, “it reminds them that everything’s still the same, it’s still your house.”
To create a secure pet in a small space, place a small basket with blankets underneath a coffee table or desk. You can also invest in dual purpose, small home furniture like we already mentioned.
Multipurpose furniture options, such as dog crates that double as living room side tables, are often a perfect way to create a unique space for your pet. When you’re caring for multiple dogs and cats, make sure you have at least one bed option for each pet!
- Have multiple pet toys
Dogs can get territorial about their toys. Spears’s older dogs may not play with toys as much, but she buys three versions of her dogs’ favorite toys so each dog has their own. Spears has noticed that having a toy for each pet helps reduce the conflict between pets.
Having multiple toys helps prevent “resource guarding” that pets inherently do. You can also teach your dogs to share if you truly don’t have room for multiple toys.
- Socialize them
It’s important to socialize your dogs at a young age to get them comfortable with other animals of all sizes. Otherwise, keeping your pets in a smaller space will cause you and them numerous problems and stress.
Socializing a dog while it’s a puppy is the prime time to train their behavior and help them become a friendly and confident adult dog. After the first three years of their life, many dogs stop enjoying playing with other dogs. That’s why as they age, you should introduce your dogs to new animals and humans in a gradual manner.
“If we are entertaining and having people over, sometimes we introduce them to the people slowly,” Spears said.
Continuing to introduce them to strangers and other dogs can be useful as it reminds them of how to behave appropriately around other animals. Some dog breeds, such as Golden Retrievers and Golden Doodles, tend to have very friendly temperaments and are easy going with adults, children and animals alike. However, it’s perfectly normal for older dogs to stop wanting to meet other dogs.