someone else's adoration for an animal can add a
thorn to communication in the kingdom of living
you’re moving in with someone, and it turns out he or
she already has a roommate — one that is sometimes
smelly and at times quite charming.
furry form, that is.
happens when your new roommate — whether a friend,
significant other or family member — has a pet?
someone else’s adoration for an animal can add a thorn
to communication in the kingdom of living together.
carefully, experts advise, whether Fluffy belongs to a
platonic roommate or a romantic interest. People can
have emotional attachments to a cat or dog that rival
similar feelings toward kids, said Dr. Jeremy Martinez,
a Los Angeles-based psychiatrist.
people will see their pets like children and may tie a
lot of importance to that pet, more than you might
realize," Martinez said. "You might see the
pet as just an animal, but they might see it as a family
Warren, the Durham, N.C.-based author of "What the
Dog Knows" (Touchstone), has been both the one
moving in and the one with an at-times rascally pet.
she moved in with her husband while they were dating,
her asthma compelled him to find another home for his
two cats. But years later, when they took in her parents’
dog, an Irish setter named Megan, he adopted her as his
own, albeit reluctantly.
really was a complete pill," Warren said. But when
Megan died 12 years later, she recalled, "we
actually both cried."
you’re moving in with someone who expects you to be a
pet parent — or if you are deciding how much of a role
you want to play in the pet’s life — experts offered
An animal, which should be a spirit lifter, can, in
fact, become a wedge. Before moving boxes in, make sure
to sit and speak. Just as you would talk about bills,
discuss who will care for the pet and where it is
are really good at invading space," Warren said.
"Are you going to allow the dog to be in the
bedroom when you have sex, much less on the bed?"
when issues arise — cats urinating outside their
litter box, dogs chewing favorite shoes — instead of
blaming or attacking the pet or person, use
"I" statements, Martinez suggested: "‘This
is how I feel about the animal.’ Instead of placing
the blame on the other person, this technique allows
people to really redirect those strong emotions toward
those feelings and toward more rational
care of your own pet. At least in the beginning, the
responsibilities of pet ownership — feeding, walking,
trips to the vet, purchasing food and other supplies —
should be the primary pet owner’s responsibility, said
Charlotte Reed, a self-described "petrendologist"
who offers pet etiquette advice.
expect your new boyfriend to want to walk your
dog," she said.
if your pet briefly turns into a monster, "You
should expect to pay for anything that your pet
destroys," she added. "If your cat pees on
your roommate’s bed, expect to buy your roommate a new
investing in a dog trainer to scope potential problems.
"We never truly understand what our own bad habits
are and what we tolerate versus what somebody coming
into this relationship might tolerate," Warren
force someone to love your pet. If you were coming into
a relationship in which a significant other had a child,
you would need to let that relationship develop
naturally, Martinez said. The same is true where a pet
first meeting can be key. "Kneel down; let the pet
smell your hand," Reed said. "Don’t come
owners need to give their new roommate as much time as
needed to get to know their pet. "Try to remember
back to when that dog came into your life and what you
did to bond with that dog," Warren said.
open to change. "Very often in new relationships,
the person who has the pet is loath to give over any
control," Warren noted. "They have to be
willing to give over some control."
that your routines might change. For starters, let the
new person feed the dog, if he’s willing. Have him set
the food down, then quietly stand behind the animal,
Warren advised. (Unlike standing in front of the dog and
its food, this reassures the pet that the new person won’t
be taking the food away.)
that your pet might love the new addition more than you
expect. Sure, one fear is a dog growling at the new
roommate, boyfriend or girlfriend. But what happens if
the pet actually likes the new person more?
can be very discouraging, and we see that happen with
actual children, too," Martinez said.
"Oftentimes that does require a discussion of those
feelings between the two individuals, so that they don’t
that this doesn’t have to turn into a negative
situation. Warren and Reed both said that when their
significant others embraced their pet equally, it became
another member of the family. On the other hand …
prepared to walk away. Sometimes, living with someone
who has a pet reveals a different side of the pet owner.
What if the person doesn’t take good care of the pet?
What if she thinks having a roommate means she can
abdicate some responsibility?
have a date and don’t want to come home? Either get
home to make sure you can feed your cat or say to your
roommate, ‘Do you mind feeding my cat?’" Reed
said. "Don’t assume anyone is going to take care
of your responsibility."
had a friend who lived in an apartment where her
roommate’s cat cried all the time and was often left
by itself for days.
had to move," Reed said.
lessons: Whatever happens, experts say, cohabitating
with a pet will lend lessons about the strength of a
friendship or relationship.
dogs are great sort of barometers," Warren said.