Clinic Stories

Do Pets Need Pets?

About half of our clients have more than one dog or cat. There are many reasons for having multiple pets – enjoyment, one is aging and the owners want a replacement ahead of time, some are passed down from family members especially children whose lifestyle changes. But often people feel guilty that one pet is alone for much of the day and reason that their pet needs a companion. This usually works. A couple of dogs or cats or even a dog and cat generally get along well. Clients frequently send us pictures of dogs playing together, cats grooming one another or a cat sleeping on the dog.

However the exceptions are many. The standard limit to avoid social problems in house pets is two dogs or three cats. Beyond that the likelihood of dominance issues or behavioral problems increases and the problems increase exponentially with each additional pet.

Some clients do not consider another pet because they recognize that the personality of their current pet would not mix well with another animal. Some are aggressive, some anxious or fearful, others are simply not social. Some very friendly dogs are cat aggressive and some cats are terribly frightened of dogs.

Often it is not apparent that there is tension between pets. Sometimes after one pets dies, the remaining pet or pets are much more active and social. This happened in my home. Our oldest cat, now 15, lived with one or two other cats until she was 13. I wondered if she would miss the other cat as they often spent time together. But she seemed indifferent when her 17 year old “sister” was confined to the bathroom. Once alone her personality changed – she was more active and curious, more playful and affectionate. Witnessing how she has blossomed by herself I will not add another cat until after she goes. It wouldn't be fair to her.

Whether a pet would be better or worse off with another animal in the house depends on the personality of your pet. If they are very social, a playmate is likely in order. If they are aloof, dominant or anxious, it is less likely. Also the chances of a positive outcome decrease as the number of animals in the house increases. It is best to make an honest and critical evaluation before getter an additional pet.

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