pets and breakups - who keeps the pet?

Pets and Breakups: How to Protect Furkids


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Pets and breakups are like chalk and cheese. On the one hand we have pets who love and comfort us – it’s all about bonding and feeling good. On the other hand we have breakups, which are never nice even when they’re necessary. So navigating a breakup where both partners share a bond with the pets can be especially tricky.

When a relationship ends, it’s to be expected that you and your former other half will both feel the blues. What’s important to keep in mind is pets also feel the stormy weather. Changes to the emotional landscape, and possibly changes to their living arrangements, will have an effect on them.

You and the ex have lost a partner and your pet has also lost a pet parent. This is why we’ll help you navigate splitsville and limit the impact it has on pets.

Who gets pet custody after breakup?

The glaring question around pets and breakups is “who gets pet custody after breakup?”.

This is an especially grating question, as there’s no legislation for courts to navigate living arrangements for pets. Sadly, despite their emotional significance, pets are seen as personal property and treated as such by the law.

That tends to mean pets who were in the picture before the relationship started stay with the original owner. But if you got your pet together the situation can be trickier to navigate. Especially when one of you is moving and getting a new place that may be less suited to your pet. This is why we recommend getting a pet prenup.

Even though no one plans on leaving relationships when they’re just starting, it often happens. Having a pet prenup gives both human parties and furkids the safety net needed to have a relationship without added stress.

That’s because a pet prenup is an agreement you make (when you’re in agreement) about who will keep the pets in case of a breakup. That way, if you ever reach a stalemate and can’t agree you’ll be able to fall back on your agreement. This will also help reduce the possibility of resentment or anger being taken out on pets.

There are other ways to help pets adjust through breakups…

pets and breakups are hard to imagine in happy times

Pets and breakups: Helping them adjust

During the admin, trauma and pain that comes with a breakup, it’s easy to forget about your pets and their needs. Making sure you don’t will not only help keep pets safe and happy, it will also help you through the transition.

To make the transition smoother and more bearable, stick to these guidelines:

1. Don’t argue in front of pets

Pets have highly developed senses, which means they can hear especially well. Screaming and shouting around them can easily spook them. Not to mention they’re highly attuned to our feelings, so displays of negativity in their presence can lead to them becoming anxious and afraid.

Fights can’t always be helped. After all, the boiling emotion of a split needs an exit route. Just be sure to keep the fights away from your pets.

2. Keep pet’s routine the same

A breakup may make it hard for you to maintain your own schedule. You may end up eating cereal for supper and arriving to meetings late. But whatever you do, try to keep schedules the same – especially for your pet. The last thing you want is to neglect them in any way, no matter how small.

Keeping their feeding, playing and exercising schedules the same will limit the trauma they experience. Not to mention it will have the same effect on you too.

pets and breakups are hard on people and dogs

3. Keep the move smooth

If you need to move home and your pet will be moving with you, move them with their familiar set up. That means moving them with their bed, crate and a familiar toy. Try to have a similar area ready for them at your new place, with things from the old one that retain familiar smells.

If moving is stressful for you and you want to limit the transference of stress to pets, consider holiday pet care for a few days. That will give you a breather to get your new place sorted while your pet is given some special attention.

Pets and breakups: Managing separation anxiety

Despite your best efforts, it’s possible your cat or dog will still feel significantly unsettled by the breakup. As pet parents, the support and comfort you both provide your pet will go some way to levelling the bumpy road to the next phase.

Separation anxiety in pets is a very real problem, one that modern pet parents learn more about each day. It can lead to all sorts of behavioural issues, from pooping or peeing outside their toileting area, to obsessive-compulsive disorders in dogs to dog skin conditions to excessive scratching and meowing for cats… to name only a few.

Separation anxiety is common for pets in the middle of a breakup. Much like if one parent were to pass away, your pet can wonder where they’ve gone and miss them.

You can help reduce anxiety in pets after breakups by trying the following:

  • Give extra attention and love (and remember, love goes both ways, so you’ll feel better too!)
  • Up the exercise and playtime to release more of those great endorphins (provided your pet is healthy and more physical exercise is safe for them)
  • Ask a friend or family member to pet-sit while you’re out (or hire a pro)
  • Avoid long trips until your pet is fully settled
  • Get your pet anti-anxiety medication from your vet (like pet pheromone sprays and diffusers)
help pets through breakups by settling them well after a move

Sharing custody of pets post breakups

If you and your ex can miraculously emerge as friends from a breakup, then sharing custody of pets is a great solution. There are a few provisions you’ll need in place, such as both parents having suitable home environments for pets and agreement on a visitation schedule.

Sharing custody means your pet won’t have to forgo a relationship with one of their people. It very likely means that when either of you is away or has an emergency, the other is available to care for your pet.

If you think this works for you both, you’ll need to map out a clear plan for what to do in an emergency. A pet prenup is still a good arrangement to have in place, especially in case the balance of friendship shifts when one of you starts a new relationship.

You’ll also want to decide who pays what for pet insurance so if your pet ever needs to go to hospital, the vet, or get prescription medicine, neither of you will suddenly have to pay out of pocket. Insurance covers a broad range of health costs and, if you purchase online now with us, the first month’s free! Why wait?

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