best pets for small homes

Pets best suited for high density dwellings

Pets best suited for living in townhouse, cluster complexes, apartments.

The steady progressive contemporary migration of people into high-density dwellings over the past four to five decades for reasons of practicality, security, economics and spatial deprivation due to the human population explosion has caused the demise of certain dog breeds from the popularity poll and has markedly narrowed down the range of companion animals appropriate for confined walled-in spaces.

The numbers of animals owned has decreased significantly. Gone are the days when people used to boast a menagerie of a dozen cats and half a dozen dogs. The sizes of the dog breeds selected for ownership, in many instances, has also changed from the Pyrenian Mountain Dog, Newfoundland, Irish Wolfhound to the Dachshund, Jack Russell Terrier and Miniature Schnauzer. The costs of feeding giant breeds like the Great Dane and Saint Bernard digs very deep in to the monthly budget.

Many people do not have the time for the large and giant dog breeds and pet owners are becoming incredibly lazy in attitude towards exercising and training their canine pets. For these reasons alone a large percentage of pet dogs develop behaviour disorders in an environment deprived of visual, physical and mental stimulation. In order to prevent our canine companions from being a nuisance to the family and the neighbours the selection of suitable pets becomes further narrowed down.

Too often potential animal owners are misguided in their choice by obtaining distorted ideas from television programmes and cinema. “Frasier” has misled pet-owning people to believe that a Jack Russell Terrier (JRT) is suitable for an apartment. The JRT is a hunting breed requiring enormous spaces on which it can chase creatures, stalk prey and relieve its endless energy. It is cruel to imprison these hyperactive, attention deficit disorder dogs in townhouses. “101 Dalmatians” tempts children to demand a puppy from their parents without realizing that this breed was selected for running alongside horse carriages for most of the day. Their stamina and fleet-footedness is designed for long distance endurance and not to be locked up behind four walls.

Some breed individuals are chosen because they are fashionable e.g. Siberian Huskies (from “Snow Dogs”) but these are working dogs designed to pull sleds in the Arctic and Antarctic regions and certainly do not have a coat suitable for the African climate. They suffer in the heat.

Most residents in dense communities, over the past 30-40 years, have adapted to modern noises and become intolerant towards other long-standing natural sounds. Neighbours accept the sounds of motorbikes, head-banging music, computers humming, cellphones ringing, alarms going off etc. but have become intolerant towards chirping crickets, croaking frogs, hadeda ibises and barking dogs. Taking this in to consideration noisy pets should be scratched from the “must buy” list e.g. macaws, cockatoos, touracos, certain parakeets, Dachshunds and Jack Russell Terriers. Noisy dogs may have a genetic basis to their excessive vocalizing behaviour, but this potential noise pollution problem may be prevented if they are properly understood by their owners and correctly managed from early puppyhood to develop in to calm mannered individuals. Most noisy pet dogs are over-indulged insecure animals expressing separation anxiety by excessive whining, yapping or barking. Some are bored pets isolated in courtyards compounded by a deficiency in the human-animal relationship.

There are many pet birds with low noise levels e.g.

  • Lovebirds
  • Pekin robins
  • Rosellas
  • Budgerigars
  • Canaries
  • Diamond doves
  • Finches
  • Grass parakeets
  • Senegal parrot
  • Moluccan Cockatoo
  • Waxbills
  • Quails

Guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters, rats, mice, terrapins, fish, snakes and lizards are non-intrusive, exotic, economical, undemanding and easily contained “pets”, provided the management thereof is thoroughly researched beforehand.

Canine breeds most adaptable for high-density existence:

  • Affenpinscher
  • Bedlington terrier **
  • Bichon Frise
  • Boston terrier **
  • English Bulldog **
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Chihuahua
  • Chinese Crested Dog
  • Chow Chow **
  • Clumber Spaniel
  • American Cocker Spaniel
  • English Cocker Spaniel
  • Japanese Chin
  • Corgi
  • French Bulldog **
  • Mexican Hairless
  • Poodles: Miniature, Toy, Standard
  • Griffon
  • Irish terrier **
  • Italian Greyhound, Whippet
  • Greyhound
  • King Charles Spaniel
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Maltese
  • Miniature Pinscher
  • Yorkshire terrier
  • Papillon
  • Pekingese
  • Pomeranian / Toy Pom
  • Pug
  • Rough Collie
  • Schipperke **
  • Shetland Sheepdog
  • Scottish terrier **
  • Shar Pei **
  • Shih Tzu
  • West Highland White terrier **

(** = dogs that tolerate confinement but not easily compatible with other breeds)

Cat owners should build “look-in” fences to prevent their feline companions from climbing over the wall, entering neighbouring properties and becoming an intrusive nuisance. Too often there are complaints about an intrepid cat going in to another residence eating another cat’s buffet, fighting with the resident moggies, urinating in the new territory and causing sufficient havoc to cause the institution of litigation between neighbours.

Suitable cat breeds include:

  • Persian
  • British shorthair
  • Ragdoll
  • Exotic
  • Birman

The Siamese, Burmese, Abyssinian and Domestic shorthairs are most likely to wander, patrol and intrude due to their hyperactivity status, especially if they have not been taught as kittens to be cooped up in a smallish area during their early impressionable kitten-hood.

A novel concept for townhouses and cluster complexes is for those people with newly acquired puppies to subscribe to reputable puppy socialization classes and a course of basic obedience training after which they can continue to interact with all the young dogs on the same townhouse or cluster homes’ property within a specially built dog park, a facility as part of the development. An in-house canine crèche is the most meaningful manner in which to constantly stimulate the dogs mentally, physically, emotionally and socially. Tired puppies will be good puppies. This has to be under constant responsible human supervision. When the dog owners return from work they can then take their own pets back to where they belong, until the next day.

A common cliché heard in small claims courts is that “good fences make good neighbours”. There is a rider to that: “good pets behind good fences make good neighbours”.

Choosing a suitable pet for high-density living must include a consideration of the well-being of that particular animal in this type of environment.

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