Not all relationships last forever, and there may come a point when you and your partner decide to part ways. This process can be extremely painful…but it’s even more so when you share ownership of a furry friend. Having a pet in the middle of a separation can be tricky—both for you and for your pet.
When navigating a breakup with a pet involved, it’s extremely important that both parties act in the best interest of their pet. This might mean giving custody to the pet parent who is able to take care of them more easily. However, acting in your pet’s interest goes far beyond choosing which home they will live in after the separation. Keeping your pet comfortable and happy during this difficult transition is of the utmost importance.
Both dogs and cats can experience significant stress during a breakup. Not only are tensions high, but separations usually come with a number of big changes—from moving into a new home to suddenly losing a best human friend. It’s not possible to completely shield your pet from these adjustments or the pain and grief that comes along with them. However, there are some steps you can take to ensure your pet lives as happy a life as possible while they adjust.
During the breakup or transition
While tensions are high and decisions are being made about the future of your relationship, it’s very important to keep your pet in mind. Living in a stress-filled environment is not healthy for pets, and these stressful situations might pave the way for behavioral problems like separation anxiety later on.
Keeping things calm and stable in your shared home prior to a breakup is essential for your pet’s happiness. Use these tips to minimize your pet’s stress.
- Don’t argue in front of them: Separations can get heated, and arguments between you and your partner may happen. However, pets can sense when things are amiss and are very good at picking up cues of stress or anger. Tensions in the home, combined with loud arguing, could stress your pet out before major decisions are even made. Avoid arguing in front of your pet or even in the same home. Keep things as calm as possible to make the process easier on everyone involved.
- Keep things consistent: If you’re going through a hard breakup, it can be difficult for you to maintain a consistent routine. Grief and the stress of making future plans can throw you and your partner off your usual schedule. Unfortunately, this means your pet may suffer. It’s very important to keep your pet’s routine consistent as you work through the logistics of your separation. Both you and your ex should take time to play with your furry friend and maintain a semblance of normalcy to keep them calm.
- Minimize moving stress: If you are the one who is maintaining full custody of your pet but you need to move, try to avoid displacing your pet until you make the final move to your new home. Avoid taking your dog to stay a night or two with a friend, at a hotel or another location while you figure things out. The rapid changes in environment can cause stress early on and make moving to your new, final home harder. It’s easier to leave your pet at the home they know until you’re ready to move them. You might also consider boarding your pet for a few days—where they will get lots of love and attention—while you pack up your old home and go through the process of moving to the new one.
After the breakup
Once your separation has been finalized and you’re ready to start fresh, you need to be mindful of how difficult the upcoming changes will be for your pup or cat. These tips can help your pet work through their transition more easily.
- Make your house a home: When you finally bring your pet to your new home, it will likely be difficult for them to adjust. Make this process a little easier by surrounding them with familiar things, like their favorite toys, beds and blankets that carry scents of your old house. It may also help to swap a T-shirt or towel that carries your ex’s scent to place near your pet’s bed so they can be comforted by the familiar smell.
- Maintain the schedule: Maintaining a consistent schedule is even more important in the new home than it was during your breakup. When your pet is surrounded by so many new things, they’ll be comforted by the fact that they are fed, walked and played with around the same time. You may need to make some arrangements to make this happen, but it can go a long way in helping your pet stay stable and happy.
- Get ahead of separation anxiety: Pets who are subjected to a breakup might develop separation anxiety as a result of the stress and grief of losing an owner. Knowing this, it’s important to keep an eye out for the signs—including whining, destruction and clinginess—so you can get your pet help as soon as possible. You may need to speak with your vet about counter-conditioning therapies or anti-anxiety treatments before their condition gets out of hand.
There’s nothing fun about a breakup, and figuring out how to keep your pet happy and healthy adds another layer of pressure onto the situation. By keeping your pet’s wellbeing in mind and putting them before your and your ex’s disagreements, you both will be able to get your pet through this transition more easily and efficiently.