As the shelter supervisor, animal services officer and cat behavior consultant, I talk with a lot of people having problems with their pets. As much as we love having multiple animals in our homes it often has a price – cats that don’t use their litter boxes, dogs that fight and constant tensions. Those of you that have harmony are very lucky!
It’s amazing some of the lengths people have gone to in order to make it work when things are going wrong between the housemates; barricades, crates, rotating schedule of who is out at any given time, separate feeding rooms and more. It’s wonderful to know that so many people are committed to their pets and will do what is needed to make it work. Once, when I personally consulted an animal communicator because of tensions in the home, she asked if she could assure the pets that I was committed to working this out. She said often they worry about being given away (how do they even know that is a possibility?) and just this assurance can dissipate some of the tensions.
On the other side of the coin are the people who give up one of the pets as soon as there is a problem. They will often say that they “have tried everything,” but in reality, they have tried a couple of things and not done any change in a sustained way to give it a chance to work. Nor are they willing to pay to work with an expert, preferring to try random things they read on the internet or heard about from a friend. It’s also interesting that they wait for a long time so that a pattern of behavior becomes set before reaching out for help and by that time they are beyond frustrated. Especially with litter box issues, you want to jump on it the minute you notice.
A bigger question for me is when is it legitimate to rehome an animal? Obviously, if there is any aggression and there are children in the home, you might have to separate the animals to keep everyone safe. I often wonder though, if some of these super committed pet parents are actually doing a disservice to their pet by keeping them in a home where they are being bullied or worse. I get the credo of never giving up on your family members but sometimes we have to let go in the animal’s best interest. Not to surrender to a shelter necessarily. It would be ideal if the animal was rehomed directly by the parent, perhaps to a family member or friend already familiar with the pet. But, especially if the animal is young, otherwise healthy, and of a desirable breed, there is no shame in placing him in a home that would be free of the stress he was living with.
My husband’s business is building cat furniture and outdoor enclosures – so cats can be allowed outside safely and he recently got an order for multiple enclosures that someone was going to put inside the house to keep the warring cats separated. That would manage the problem but certainly isn’t a solution. They’re obviously committed to their cats and willing to spend money on them but won’t seek out a cat behaviorist for a program on how to ease the tensions and re-introduce the cats to produce harmony, probably because it would take time and daily work on their part. Keeping them in enclosures is less work! This couple also wouldn’t think of parting with either cat since they believe in keeping the commitment you make when you acquire a pet and don’t want to feel like failures.
That’s admirable but I do wonder if the cats wouldn’t be happier if each were in their own home where he could reign king and not be in competition with another cat. If you are having issues with your pets, please call for suggestions sooner rather than later. And be open to hearing all suggestions!
Bark After Dark – dinner and auction for the animals! Join us for this fun fundraiser on Sat., Nov. 3, 6:30-10 p.m. at the RP Community Center to support the lifesaving programs of the Animal Shelter League. Get your holiday shopping done and give presents that give twice – something nice for the recipient while knowing you helped animals in need. Tickets are just $25/person or $40/couple in advance and are available at the shelter or online at tinyurl.com/BarkafterDark2018.
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.