Multi-Pet Households: Is It Right for Your Family?
Congrats on Your New Furry Roommate!
I know you're dedicated to seeing your dog or cat happy! Once you have bonded with your new pet and created a routine to keep them happy and healthy, you may begin to notice how often you and your family are away from home. Maybe you’ve noticed that your dog or cat gets extremely clingy when you arrive or has gotten into trouble while you are out. Now you may be worried that while at work, school, or social events that he/she feels lonely, bored or unhappy. Do you want to adopt another dog or cat so your furry roommate has someone to play with and keep company while you’re away? A good solution could be to do just that! Even if you simply feel that your life will be enhanced with multiple pets, remember each pet will have its own expense and responsibility. Before you head out to your local animal shelter or pound, I recommend keeping a few things in mind.
New Pets Require Lots Of Attention
All Animals Have Unique Personalities
Caring for an animal ultimately means adjusting to their natural behavior, taking care of the expenses, allowing them their own space while addressing their emotional needs, and making sure they don’t harm anyone else. While you certainly feel you have mastered one pet, bringing another personality into the mix can go smoothly or get out of hand quickly. Animals are just like humans in a way. They like to socialize with some people and can adapt easily or with difficulty to change. Animals also can react to things with an emotional response such as anxiety, jealousy, happiness, stubbornness and over-excitement.
Learn to see how your dog or cat behaves in a variety of different situations and with other animals before adopting another pet. Take them to a dog park, on car rides, family vacations, and have friends come over and interact with your dog or cat. Another good way to learn your pet’s personality is to leave them in boarding when on vacations. Make sure to ask the caretaker how your beloved pet behaved and how they reacted to being away from you and surrounded by strangers. This will clue you in on how they may react to being around a new furry roommate.
If you notice negative behaviors such as aggression, stress or panic, you need to really consider whether another animal will be good for you and your current pet. Positive behaviors such as interacting nicely and most importantly, respecting another animal’s boundaries without your direct supervision are good signs. You'll have a greater chance at your current pet adapting to another household member. However, you will only find out 100% when you bring another animal into the picture. Know it will take time for your pet to adjust to any new situation but it is up to you to facilitate boundaries, take safety precautions, identify and resolve conflicts.
Keeping A Clean House
You knew that cleaning up after your pets was part of the deal. One pet can be easily managed but I currently have 1 cat and 2 dogs! It can be a chore to keep the house clean when they must remain indoors during extreme weather. Muddy paws will dirty any good floor, wet dog smell isn’t the best fragrance, cat litter can definitely be an issue, and fur balls piling up in the corner is unappealing and could cause a visitor’s allergies to flare up. It's especially important to keep your house or apartment clean if you are renting! Plus, keeping a good routine will help you notice behavioral or health changes, and any damages to your furniture or floors. Here are some easy tips that I hope will help you when you live with multiple pets.
- Have a regular routine.
- It doesn't have to a whole day of cleaning and in fact, you will have less to clean up at once if you devote some time each week. See table below for my current schedule.
- Be prepared for outside forces.
- When it rains or snows, have dedicated towels or floor mats for your dogs to step on immediately as they come in.
- Be prepared for them not to sit still when wiping their paws. They will learn to sit still but it's a great idea to have throw covers or blankets covering your furniture beforehand.
- When your pets have to bathe, have a designated area for them to be in while they dry.
- Unless you have awesome grooming tools, most likely you will have to wait for your pets to be completely dry before letting them roam in the house or in the yard. Using towels in their crates and giving them a treat while they wait will help reinforce good behavior.
- If you have small dogs or cats, you can easily bathe them in your bathtub but be warned that your floor will not be free from water and fur. Lay out towels before bath time for easy clean up.
- Wash pet bedding regularly.
- Not only will this keep your home smelling fresh, this will also alarm you to fleas or ticks that may be crawling around on their bedding. Make sure to ask your veterinarian for flea/tick prevention.
- A great way to organize and keep them busy while away is to have a heavy duty basket filled with a variety of toys.
- Keep their toys in one spot so they know exactly where to go to have some fun. This will come in handy when you are away from home. Make sure these toys are safe to play with unsupervised.
- My cat does well with free roam of the house but if you have a new kitten you may want to keep them in one room if leaving for a few hours. Make sure their litter box, water and toys are accessible.
- If you are picky about pets in a certain area such as the bedroom or kitchen, keep these areas gated off with baby gates.
- Cabinet locks are also great for curious cats and dogs. This will teach your pets about boundaries and you can rest assured that household cleaners and chemicals will be out of reach.
- Some cats need their own territory so having an area gated off from any dogs will be beneficial.
- With multiple pets, you will not always know which was the source of your household mess.
- If you haven't directly caught the perpetrator, you'll just have to assume each one played their part and get them all to understand that the action was not OK. You'll have to see what methods work best for every individual pet.
- If you're in the stages of potty training your dog or cat, know that accidents are inevitable and always reinforce good behavior.
Example: Multi-Pet Household Cleaning Schedule
Clean Litter Box
Wash Pet Bedding Or Furniture Throws
Wash Out Pet Bowls
Check Toys For Damage
Check Pets For Injuries/Fleas/Ticks
Pick Up Dog Poop In Yard/ Check Litter Box
TIme: About 25min
Time: About 1.5hr
Time: About 45min
Keep Your Pets Occupied
Reducing Conflict Between Pets And Visitors
We all have to deal with others even on bad days. You can prevent conflict and trouble as much as possible but some things just happen in life. One or more animals may not feel like socializing on some days. In the very beginning, all household members may not be used to each other and will need time to adjust to sharing space. Here are some reminders to keep conflict and accidents at a minimum.
- Sometimes animals like to pick on each other causing one or more pets to get irritated or annoyed.
- I suppose it's like sibling rivalry. If you notice that one or more of your pets is becoming extremely agitated or showing signs of aggression, know when to diffuse the situation. Read more with the links provided.
- If you have visitors who bring their pets or young children along, make sure each visitor knows how to "introduce" themselves.
- Start slow. If you've taught your pets commands like "sit" or "stay" keep treats with you so they further learn how to interact with newcomers.
- Let your visitors know which areas your pets have domain over and each pet's personality. If you're worried, keep dogs on a leash so you can control their movements.
- For cats, you can keep them out of the room when unfamiliar dogs are about. Friendly cats may come to the visitors at their own pace but always have a close eye on everyone.
- Know that boundaries need to be respected by all and to give each pet their own space.
- Have a plan just in case things go awry. For example, keeping pets in separate rooms, in their designated crates or outside for some cooling off time can be beneficial in the new member transition stage. Make sure they are aware of each other, can smell each other but are safe from harming one another out of territorial issues.
- This is very important if you have a sick or recently spayed/neutered animal.
- This can be helpful if you discover fleas on one pet but not the other. This has happened to me and it's very possible when living with indoor/outdoor animals.
Wet Paws Alert!
Pros Of A Multi-Pet Household
- Your pets have playmates when you are away from home
- More memories to share with other pet owners
- Each animal has their own personality making it a unique experience to be a part of
- You can rest assured that they at least know each other when they have to be kept in boarding while you are on vacation, family emergencies, or work travel.
- More love and laughs to go around
- If you have more than 1 same type of pet, you can buy food in bulk, toys in bulk and share items when appropriate such as leashes, toys, cat furniture, play pens, furniture throws, water bowls etc.
- Teaches you important lessons such as patience, forgiveness, and responsibility
Cons Of A Multi-Pet Household
- Might not be the best for extremely busy people
- Veterinarian bills can be high
- More responsibility, possible damages, or household conflicts
- Need more space for pets to roam, play, or sleep
- Food costs can vary with type, age or size of animals
- Each pet will still need equal individual attention to prevent behavioral issues
- At first, they might not get along
Adopting From A Shelter
Ready For Another Pet?
In my experience, living in a multi-pet household has been fun and challenging. A great tip is to set aside funds for veterinarian bills. If you choose to adopt more than one animal, be prepared for scenarios to arise and realize that taking on more than one pet will be more costly. Please keep in mind that shelters are looking for "furever homes" and that abandoning any animal for whatever reason can lead the animal to psychological stress, making them less likely to find another home.
Make sure you're ready! Know how much time you need to be available. Know how to create a pet budget and learn each pet's behavior so you can be aware of health and behavioral changes when introducing any new family member. You are bound to have a great experience with this knowledge. If you're ready to bring another animal into your home, have fun, love them, do your best to make everyone comfortable, and keep the peace when necessary!