Is a multi-pet household for you?
As of this writing, we live with three felines and three canines. This is a first for us, having three dogs. Previously, we maxed out at two, both males, both approximately the same age. We have always had multiple cats, upwards of 20 when we lived on the farm, as many as seven at a time, here in suburbia.
Our experience with three dogs happened gradually. FIrst, our beloved hound, Hector, died suddenly in 2011, leaving us alone with our equally-beloved Hobie, who was age 11 at the time. The single-dog shared his humans with three cats that we had just adopted in 2009. Three cats and one dog didn’t last very long, for I was on the hunt for a rescue dog. We could afford an extra pet, and I was anxious to help out one of the needy canines in our area. We found Charlie Brown online, and adopted him in 2012 just five short months after Hector’s untimely demise. Seven months later, we adopted Charlie Brown’s litter mate, Cooper — the three-legged wonder.
Years earlier, we were a one-dog, multi-cat household. And never has my home been devoid of pets. There was a brief period of time when we were cat-free. It felt so wrong, we couldn’t wait to fill the void with meowing feline friends, and admittedly went overboard by adopting three at once! After a week or two of reminding Hobie and Hector of the rules for living with cats, it quickly became a love fest with cats sitting on dogs’ heads, dogs snuggling with cats, and me saying silly things like, “I caught you liking each other!”
It takes a certain patience to live with six animals. They say that pet owners have better mental health, lower blood pressure, and fewer health-related issues. But, conversely, living with several pets can be stressful, especially if you have two or more younger, same-aged pets as they like to play… a LOT.
I still think the benefits outweigh the stressors. Sitting on my couch, or at my desk, I can turn any which way and see a pet sleeping, chewing on a toy, watching a bird or squirrel, or grooming itself, and that means six separate smiles. The smiles turn into large grins and giggles if two of the menagerie are interacting together.
The rules need to be strict, boundaries and limitations clear. Fights (real ones) are few and far between. Spats are more regular, but still rare. All in all, it’s pretty much one big happy family.
Multi-pet households are not for everyone. Sometimes it’s better to have a one-on-one relationship with just one dog. Sometimes I miss that, and when I do, I sneak away with one dog and have “special time”, because it’s not quantity, it’s quality time that counts.
If you’re considering adding a second pet (or more) to your household, do your homework. Ask questions of others who have multiple-pet homes. Make sure your current pet meets and gets to know the new pet at a neutral location, if at all possible. Ask yourself if you have the time, and financial resources, and whether your lifestyle will accommodate an additional critter in your home. And above all, prepare to be amused and amazed.
As much as I said I would never do it again (two male dogs of the same approximate age) I am doing it all over again with Charlie and Cooper, it’s going fine, and once again I hear myself saying, “I wouldn’t change a thing.”
K.S. Mueller is a travel executive living in Massachusetts who writes essays about dogs, cats and other topics in her spare time. Check out her web sites: ksmueller.com; k2k9.com; and fibroworks.com. Follow K.S.Mueller on Facebook and Twitter.