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City Slickers: 5 Tips for Urban Living with Cats & Dogs

The allure of the big city can be hard to resist.

Millennials are repopulating urban areas in records numbers, causing growth in U.S. cities to exceed growth in suburbs for the first time in decades. Yet this same group – comprised of young people aged 18-35 – refuses to sacrifice pet ownership for the sake of city living, with more than one-third of millennials now owning a dog or cat.

Just what is the implication for these city-dwelling pets? Simply that they must adjust to urban living. While cats and dogs don’t have a say in the city vs. suburb debate, most are adaptable to whichever living condition presents itself.

If the appeal of city life draws you in, though, it’s important to have a plan for acclimating your pet to this lifestyle. Here are five tips for successfully integrating your cat or dog into urban living:

1. Select an Appropriate Living Arrangement

When you opt to move to a large metropolitan area, chances are you’ll be giving up the backyard with a white picket fence. This transition can be difficult, but your pet is up for the challenge.

Make the switch easier by finding a suitable living arrangement. If a first-floor residence is not possible, seek out an apartment with easy elevator access and close proximity to a city park. Some high-rise apartment even offer an indoor dog-specific area.

Apartment-living likely means your cat will need to remain indoors, regardless of whether he was previously an indoor or outdoor feline. Find alternative means for ensuring your cat receives adequate stimulation, such as toys, puzzles, and the existence of perches from which to view his surroundings.

2. Acclimate Your Pet to the Action and Noise

A walk along a city sidewalk is bound to be accompanied by plenty of interesting sights and sounds. Car horns will be honking, pedestrians will be chatting, and patios will be bustling with activity.

While this vibrancy may appeal to you, it will take your pet time to develop a comfort level. Take your dog on walks exposing him to this aspect of city life early and often. Have your dog confront his biggest city fears early, whether it’s hearing a motorcycle zoom by or approaching a gathering of people. The more exposure for your dog, the better.

Your cat may hide upon first experiencing the sounds a city entails. However, once your feline becomes comfortable with his urban surroundings, he will be inclined to seek out a window sill from which he can monitor the city streets below.

3. Take Advantage of Pedestrian-Friendly Neighborhoods

Most urban areas boast high scores for walkability. Whereas a suburb or rural area may be partially covered with sidewalks at best, a city typically contains plentiful sidewalks, stoplights, and crosswalks.

Capitalize on this and enjoy walking your dog safely without fear of being struck by a car while on sidewalk-less streets. A city offers a maze of sidewalks, enabling you and your dog to explore a seemingly endless supply of routes without duplication.

Although cats are generally less inclined to cooperate, it’s not out of the question for you to convince your feline to heel on a leash and stroll the city sidewalks with you.

4. Remember: Safety First

Just as cities can be vibrant and exciting, they also pose certain risks your pet would not experience in suburbia. Take precautions to protect your dog or cat from the dangers that lurk within a city environment. The more crowded an area, the more likely that hazards abound.

You will encounter numerous people while walking your dog along city sidewalks, many of whom will request to pet your pooch. This is fine, so long as your dog is comfortable with the attention. Should your dog prove anxious when approached by overly-enthusiastic strangers, you’ll need to learn to politely decline their petting requests.

As population density increases, crime rates tend to increase as well. Even though it seems unlikely that anyone would attempt to steal your cat or dog, keep your apartment door securely locked whenever you’re not home. Moreover, be meticulous with ensuring your cat or dog does not find a way outside to the city streets without being accompanied by you.

5. Locate Your Nearest Dog Park

The popularity of dog parks has risen exponentially in recent years, with it now being virtually unheard of for a major metropolitan area not to offer at least one within its city limits. Even before you move to your new city, find where the nearest dog park would be.

Dog parks afford your canine companion an unparalleled combination of fun, exercise, and socialization – all within a controlled, supervised environment that doesn’t require a leash. And dog parks also represent a pleasant social experience for like-minded dog owners.

Believe it or not, your cat can benefit from the dog park as well. When you take your canine to the dog park, it frees up your entire residence for your cat to explore without being disturbed by the presence of your dog.

The millennial generation has come of age, and the rise of urban living is not diminishing anytime soon. But with proper planning and foresight, you can ensure your urban dwelling improves your quality of life without negatively affecting that of your pet.