ONCE, LIVING IN an apartment was reason enough to exclude animals from the household. Dogs require a backyard, many believed, and cats need freedom to explore. Besides, with so many local apartment buildings adopting a no-pets policy, the joy of having animal companions often wasn't an option. Today's more flexible mindset means it's easier to find a pet-friendly landlord and, with a bit of creative design, pets can live happily in smaller spaces. Mary MacLeod, of relocation service Residences + Relocations, says most corporate building owners now recognise the benefits of animals. 'They understand that people appreciate a wagging tail when they get home - that it helps to ease stress and loneliness,' she says. But tenants also have a role to play. 'If you have a yapping dog, you need to ensure it doesn't cause a noise, especially in the evening,' says MacLeod. According to the SPCA, cats and dogs are suited to apartment living provided owners consider their well being. For example, the biggest risk is the danger of a fall from a window or a balcony, so it's essential to ensure that doors and windows are properly secured. Cats need to be allowed to behave like normal felines (which stalk, pounce and scratch) so installing a 'cat gym' - a series of shelves fixed to the wall at staggered heights - will provide the necessary mental and physical stimulation. And a scratching post will alleviate wear and tear on your sofa. Apart from sharp household objects that could hurt playful pets, indoor plants should also be checked. Some, such as lilies, are highly toxic to cats and dogs. With dogs, smaller to medium-sized, low-activity breeds such as Pekinese, Pomeranian, Shitzhu, miniature poodle, Maltese or Welsh corgi are the most suitable, although even these must be walked twice a day. All dogs should have toys to play with at home. And potentially dangerous items such as household chemicals and cleaning agents should be securely stored. In addition, kitchen bins should be kept closed to prevent pets digging into garbage. Flora Ho, founder of the Companion Animal Federation, says there are also social issues involved in keeping animals in apartments. Pet smells may offend neighbours, so dog owners should wash their floors every day with a strong disinfectant. Easy-to-clean flooring such as marble or ceramic tiles makes a wiser choice than carpet or timber. Or you might consider revamped vinyl, which has staged a comeback recently in terms of style, function and form. Washable slip covers will help protect your upholstery, and stubborn pet hair is best removed by hand using a wet rubber glove. Childproof barriers can be installed in doorways to designate rooms that are doggie 'no-go zones'. Designer-home cats and dogs can have their own luxuries. Burberry makes feeding bowls in its famous plaid design, and Gucci has put its name to a pet carry bag. Online shopping sites offer everything from fung shui toys (postmodernpets.com) to plush newborn cradles, available in pink or blue (pamperedpuppy.com). Beds come in all manner of styles, including timber sleigh and orthopaedic designs. Animalcomforts.com has upholstered pet sofas in a choice of designer fabrics, including leather. They're also available in a rather fashionable chaise longue. Mollycoddledpets.com.au has a range of accessories such as stain remover and odour eliminator, and it even stocks a pets' toilet - a system designed to be buried in the ground for hygienic disposal of biological waste. Companies such as Pets World in Australia can customise a cat scratching post in the same carpet as your home, and everydaystudio.com has taken the stainless-steel trend to new heights by designing a wall-mounted feeding station in laser-cut steel. Pet doors even come in high-tech designs, with a range of fully automatic, electronic models (hitecpet.com) for standard doors, patio doors and windows. Kitty Wong Sui-Wa and Tony Chiu Sin-Wing enlisted the help of designer Catherine Cheung Sze-Wai, of The XS,S Ltd, to ensure their home was cat-friendly for their beloved puss, Michael. They wanted to be able to open a window, but were concerned he might fall out. Cheung designed a sliding, Japanese-style shoji paper screen fitted to a sliding track over the window, just big enough so the opening portion is slightly smaller than the cat's body. The price was $2,500. Cheung also came up with a novel way for Michael to share the bedroom, without having three in the bed. She had a smaller bed, with a stepped platform attached, custom made for $15,000, so Michael can sleep beside the couple. The cat bed includes storage space below. In the bathroom, Wong and Chiu paid $6,500 to have a cabinet built to provide a combination grooming area, feeding centre and litter tray for Michael, fashioned to match the other more conventional cupboards. In the kitchen, Cheung designed an attractive acrylic safety screen to allay her clients' concerns that Michael might injure himself on the hot oven. 'It looks great, has a stylish handle, and can be opened up when they need to cook,' Cheung says. Taking advantage of the flat's high ceiling, Cheung created a false ceiling for $20,000, making an elevated pathway for him to climb and explore. Space has also been left above the closets, so Michael can move around freely. From a design point of view, the spatial flow provides a measure of visual relief. Dog lover Jane Schrantz has also adapted her home to suit Solomon, her boxer, and Georgia, a Dalmatian. Both dogs have lived their entire lives in apartments - first in New York and later in Hong Kong. In order to spare the family's valuable rugs and furnishings, the dogs aren't allowed in a room by themselves. Child-proof barriers have been installed to keep certain rooms dog-free. Schrantz used the repellent solution Bitter Apple early in their lives to deter the dogs from chewing the furniture. She says she's also found it a good strategy to give the dogs their own designated space, which could be under the stairs or a corner of the living room, for keeping their blanket, toys and treats. But she says anyone contemplating sharing their living space with dogs should do so with realistic expectations. 'If you can't cope with a dog that drools a lot and sheds hair, then don't buy these breeds,' she says.