There are many advantages to strata living. Unfortunately, pet ownership isn’t one of them with many landlords and strata committees quite vocal in their distaste at sharing their living space with four, six or eight legged companions.
Yet for those luckily enough to live in pet approved strata complexes, the rewards can be immense, with studies showing that owning a pet can decrease depression, stress and anxiety while also lowering your blood pressure, improving your immunity and even decreasing your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Dr David Vella is the director of Sydney Exotics and Rabbit Vets. Having graduated with a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Veterinary Science two decades ago, he specialises in the care of mammals such as rabbits, ferrets and rodents.
A volunteer for the NSW branch of the Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service (WIRES), he is involved in reptile and amphibian rescue and trains others in handling, rehabilitation, foster care and rescue.
Dr Vella says there are many animals that can thrive in indoor environments such as within strata complexes with the most common of these being cats, rabbits, ferrets, and rodents such as guinea pigs, rats and mice.
It is important to note that some animals are considered invasive. In Queensland, rabbits are illegal and not permitted as pets.
Dr Vella says reptiles, amphibians, birds and fish can also be great choices for apartment living.
“If you wanted something a little more different and adventurous you could even consider invertebrates such as insects (eg stick insects, beetles), snails and even spiders.”
Dr Vella, himself the proud owner of several long-necked turtles, says in addition there are several other elements of pet ownership that need to be considered, most of which centre around the lifestyle you as the pet’s owner lead.
These include the animal’s suitability to smaller indoor environments, the maintenance required, noise, costs of feeding, housing and veterinary care and suitability to your hours of work or time away from home.
Dr Vella says commonly cats and rabbits are among the lower maintenance of options as they are very clean animals and can be readily toilet trained. While rabbits are often best housed with a companion, they should only be caged for small amounts of time and allowed to roam free in a ‘rabbit proof’ area of your home.
Other mammal pets such as rodents and ferrets typically require a cage to live in, but ferrets especially require some daily free roam time in a ‘ferret-safe’ area, he says
While recognising that reptiles and amphibians are not everyone’s “ideal” pet choice, Dr Vella says they can be excellent pets for smaller spaces.
“Lizards, turtles, frogs and even axolotls can be set up in a vivarium or tank and can require little maintenance as long as the set-up is appropriate for the species. These animals are quiet, relatively easy to keep and are highly adaptable to enclosure living.”
Birds are a popular choice for apartment dwellers as they can readily adapt to indoor living, he says.
“There are a wide range of species available, and some of the biggest factors to consider are their ‘noise’ potential and behavioural needs. Birds require a lot of mental stimulation and behavioural enrichment to thrive.”
Likewise, fish are an obvious apartment pet choice. Like all aquatic animals though, regular and routine aquarium maintenance and upkeep are essential to good health.
Invertebrate pets such as insects, snails and spiders are becoming increasingly popular. They often don’t require a large enclosure and can be a unique and fascinating pet to care for.
But whatever type of pet you end up selecting, it is of critical importance to always clean up after your pet to minimise mess both inside and outside of your property.
If your puppy decides to do his business in your building’s common area, or your cat decides to avoid its kitty litter and wee in your community garden, it’s your responsibility to pick it up and dispose of any mess they make.
There are several important steps you must take before any decision on what type of pet you would like to bring into your home is made.
Strata laws govern most apartments and, when it comes to pets, they vary from state to state and unless it’s a guide or assistance animal, most require residents to seek permission first.
For example, rabbits are illegal in Queensland. Permits will not be issued for keeping pet rabbits of any variety for any private purpose in this state. You need to do your homework when researching your preferred pet.
It pays to check with your owners corporation to verify your strata scheme by-laws and ensure your scheme allows animals on the premises, and to clarify any rules about noise restrictions or allowing pets on common property.
If renting, you should also seek permission from your landlord or rental agent to ensure there are no issues with allowing a pet to co-habitat in your apartment or townhouse.
The good news is that an increasing number of developers are cottoning on to the fact there is big demand for pet-friendly apartments and making moves to better facilitate them.
Some newer constructions have fully secured parkland incorporated into their design and others include specific animal welfare clauses in their tenancies.