Can cats and dogs really live happily in an apartment?

ANIMALS AND THE CITY (4/4) – is interested this summer in these animals which, despite the concrete, the pollution and the rarer flora than elsewhere, manage to live with us in town. The last episode of this series is concerned with the well-being of our apartment pets.

A German shepherd in the middle of Paris, a cat behind the window of a building… Even in town, in apartments, without a garden, there are cats and dogs. For some, having a pet in a small space is an aberration, because these animals would need a larger territory to be happy. But according to various specialists interviewed by, this a priori is false.

“There are happier dogs in the studio than in a garden,” says Jasmine Chevallier, behavioral veterinarian.

“The idea that a dog is necessarily happy if it has a large area is not true”, abounds Sylvia Masson, veterinary doctor, specialist in medicine of the behavior of pets. “There is no rule, if the animal is well in his head that he has no diseases, he can live in town.”

“Some love having access outside, others are terrified”

She explains that part of the adaptation of a dog or a cat to an environment comes from its first months of life, because “up to three months they will register everything, noises, objects”. “And identify what is dangerous or not” for them. In this sense, “if you take an animal in an isolated farm in the countryside, without noise, its brain will be trained for this, and it will not be easy for it to adapt to city life”.

“A kitten born in a barn, a farm, found in the fields of a hunting mother, will be less easy to acclimatize in an apartment” abounds Anne-Claire Gagnon, veterinarian, “even if it is possible”.

As for cats, some breeds of cats do not necessarily require large spaces, “Skogkatt, Maine Coon, Ragdoll, Persian, Russian Blue are particularly calm”, says the veterinarian. “The received idea that a large dog cannot live in the city is also erroneous”, explains Sylvia Masson. Saint Bernards are more lymphatic than other dogs like Jack Russels, which are known to be much more energetic.

However, there again, there is no real rule because even if we can find common traits, “race is not predictive of character”, recalls Jasmine Chevallier: each individual has a certain vulnerability, a certain capacity adaptation to a new environment. Two cats from the same litter placed in a similar apartment could thus react very differently.

“Some cats love having a cat flap and access outside, not just to the garden, and others are terrified by other cats, dogs,” notes Anne-Claire Gagnon.

“A garden is never worth the happiness of going for a walk in the company of its master”

In the dog, more than tens of square meters of land, it is the contact with man that punctuates his days. “A garden is never worth the happiness of going for a walk in the company of its master. Some dogs go around in circles, dig holes in the gardens, out of boredom,” says the veterinarian.

“Some dogs stay on land from which they never leave, but the dog needs new olfactory experiences, social experiences, it is activated in contact with its masters for play and social relations”, declares also Sylvia Masson who recalls the importance of interactions and outings for this animal.

As for cats, for Anne-Claire Gagnon you still need at least 18 to 20 m2, and “obviously, in a studio a person can only share their living space with one cat”.

For this animal, it is important to have a three-dimensional space in which it can jump high, perch, and circulate freely, but also “friendly contact with us, when it feels like it, as well as games and toys,” emphasizes Anne-Claire Gagnon.

How to identify the suffering of your animal?

In some cases, the animal may show signs of discomfort. “Those who can’t do it can become anxious, sick,” says Sylvia Masson.

In these animals, suffering can manifest itself “by uncleanliness, isolation, aggressiveness or even behavior” of self-mutilation, such as licking their belly until they tear out their hair, explains Jasmine Chevallier. They may also have “difficulty channeling themselves, be restless”.

The veterinarians interviewed advise that if your animal shows any of these signals or acts in an unusual way, to consult a veterinarian, or even a behavior specialist. “You have to look for the causes and the solutions, for the animal but also for the owner”, supports Sylvia Masson.

If a cat shows signs of anxiety in an apartment, this does not necessarily mean that the home is the source of the problem: it can be a sign of another illness, illness or even a mental disorder, specifies the veterinarian, in which case it will be necessary to consult a specialist.

In any case, for Sylvia Masson, “if there is a good relationship between the animal and the master, living in the city or in the countryside does not really matter”.

Both in the apartment and in the open air, veterinarians insist: it is important to understand the responsibility that the acquisition of an animal represents and to be sure to have time to take care of it.

Salome Vincendon

Salome Vincendon BFMTV journalist

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