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Pet résumés may be required for your next apartment — yes, really

Heather Barnett is a freelance writer and foodie whose work has been featured in blogs, websites, magazines, and TV and radio ads. She spends her free time relaxing with her soulmate, Keith; her dog, Mosby "The Fly Slayer;" and Felix th...

Pet résumés are a thing, and this is why you need one

Trying to rent an apartment? The newest trend you may not have heard of is the pet résumé. Yes, that's a thing. And when it comes to one of these résumés, it pays to be prepared. Know how to write it and take it seriously (because the people who are reading it will).

First, you have to understand the purpose of this résumé. Professional pet résumé writer and graphic designer (and pet-owning renter) Cathy Klein notes, "Like a human's employment résumé, a pet résumé is a sales pitch, but there is a difference. An employment résumé seeks to answer the question, 'What can this person do for my company?' whereas a pet résumé seeks to answer the question, 'How can I be sure that this person and their pets will respect and take care of my property?'"

Pet résumés are a thing, and this is why you need one

Image: Cathy Klein/PetResumes.net (A real pet résumé created by Klein published with the dog owner's permission.)

She goes on to note that you're not trying to excite the landlord — to make him or her desperately want you to move in so he or she can play with your dog — but to put the landlord at ease. And make no mistake, landlords are also looking for it to show you're a caring and responsible pet owner.

Additionally, you should have the résumé prepared as you're looking for apartments. There's nothing worse than finding the perfect place and not having it ready to go.

The elements of a good pet résumé

The basics — Include your pet's name, breed, sex, age and any special training. If it has attended obedience school or if it's a "professional" dog, like a police dog or therapy dog, that should be included because it speaks to your pet's behavior.

Description — You need to have a brief paragraph about your pet's personality. This is where you'll include any positive attributes that also indicate good behavior. Maybe it likes to swim or play with kids. But always frame it in the context of showing how good your pet is and how much the other people in the complex will find it enjoyable (and not a nuisance… so this probably isn't the time to mention your pet's penchant for digging through the trash).

This shouldn't be longer than a few sentences. Feel free to liven it up with personality, but don't be too cutesy. Klein reminds us that just like with professional résumés, the landlord is likely only to give it a 10-second glance unless something catches his or her eye or more info is needed. "Be professional, be informative, and most of all, be brief. We love our pets, and we all have a lot of cute stories to tell, but this is not the place for them," Klein says. "A pet résumé should tell us about your pets in a simple, easy-going, straightforward manner."

Pet résumés are a thing, and this is why you need one

Image: Cathy Klein/PetResumes.net (Sample of a two-dog, single-page pet résumé showing how simple and straightforward the résumés can really be.)

She goes on to advise, "Start with all of the info you can think of about your pet, then whittle it down and try to present the most relevant information in the most positive way you can. Never focus on negative things. If your dog is a barker, describe their excitement and non-destructive joy of life. If your dog isn't up to date on their vaccinations, get them up to date before you write your résumé, and feature that. These kinds of things are important, and can even have legal implications."

Medical information — This is where you'll list info about your pet's vaccination records and whether it is spayed or neutered.

General info — This is where you put information about how your pet lives with your family. Whether it's litter box trained/house trained, deals well with unexpected visitors, participates in regular exercise or events, and how well your pet gets along with other animals (including those in your house).

Note: Never lie about your dog's history of aggression. As previously noted by Klein, some things have legal implications in addition to other housing concerns.

Photograph — This is really important, especially if you have a large breed or one that's generally thought to be dangerous. Nothing makes it look like a pit bull couldn't possibly be vicious than a tiara and a goofy grin. Props and costumes are OK if your pet doesn't react badly to them, and they can be a huge boon for black animals, which are notoriously difficult to photograph, but they aren't necessary.

Make sure it's a high-quality photo so it won't be blurry or grainy on the page, and you can resize it as necessary. I recommend taking landscape photos because they tend to be more versatile (you can crop them to a vertical shot if necessary), but be careful that there's not a mess in the background!

Additionally, make sure your pet's personality really shows through and that it looks fun or sweet and friendly. Klein recommends checking out animal photography tips if you aren't already good at it. But you can also pay to have your pet's photo professionally taken.

How to get out of writing a pet résumé

"There is an art and a craft to creating a pet résumé that works," Klein says, and after researching this, I have to agree. I assure you Klein didn't pay me to say this, but as a professional advertising copywriter myself, I can't help but feel that hiring a pro is the best option. As with advertising a product, as Klein points out, "… one wrong word or an overly busy, unattractive layout could make a potential landlord choose another tenant over you and your pets."

And now for the best news. Believe it or not, professional pet résumés aren't only for people who have too much money to spend. Klein, for example, charges between $32 and $55 dollars, depending on the number of pages and how many pets you have.

More on living with pets

What to do if your house-trained dog starts peeing indoors
4 Women who designed their houses for their cats
6 Tips for apartment hunting with pets

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