Blue Cross blog
Do pets really enjoy sharing their space with other animals?Posted on 03 Aug 2012
Blue Cross has made some changes so that new clients at our animal hospitals will only be able to register two pets per household. We hope this will enable more pets to benefit from our services – but it could also help to improve the lives of some pets who struggle in multi-pet homes, as chief vet Caroline Reay discusses…
Blue Cross has decided to limit the number of pets registered for new clients to two per household.
Additionally, where a pet has been given away, clients will need to wait six months before they can register a new pet.
This allows us to access more pet owners who are struggling to afford private vet fees.
Pet ownership brings such benefits and pleasures that society as a whole benefits from increased access – and a broader spread of Blue Cross support can only be a good thing for pets and people alike.
But anyone thinking of getting more pets should also consider whether they truly have their existing pet’s well-being at heart.
Why do people get more pets?
It’s worth taking a look at the reason for these decisions. A survey at one of our hospitals showed that many owners get more pets as company for their “only” animal. But some animals may not actually want to share their space.
Looking at how feral or semi-wild animals live can give us an idea of how our pets would choose to live naturally.
Feral cats may live in large groups but require special circumstances, such as dockyards or parks, where there is plentiful space and abundant food.
They are usually closely related, and this helps them to get along.
But many cats are not truly sociable. They can form strong bonds with people but company, whether human or animal, can be something they could take or leave.
Naturally they are solitary hunters who try to avoid fighting. Injured cats don’t care for each other. They lack strong facial expressions which can lead to misinterpretations by people.
Body language isn't all it seems to be
Cat body language is very subtle. Two cats sitting close together by an important object, like a bed, are not necessarily being friendly.
In fact, one may be blocking the other’s access and that “friendly” look might be better described as an intimidating glare.
Dogs are more sociable, but packs of dogs living wild can choose their companions and the artificial “packs” in a household may be composed very differently to natural ones, and this can cause stress for some dogs.
Two dogs of similar age, breed and size living together can sometimes be a disaster whether they are male or female.
Some dogs are naturally competitive, and serious conflict can erupt over toys or food. This may be controlled when the owner is present but can explode when the dogs are alone at home.
Introducing a puppy to an older dog doesn’t always go smoothly either. A tolerant older dog may tolerate boisterous play from a puppy so they never learn when enough is enough.
On the other hand, many small animals, like rabbits, guinea pigs, mice and rats, are very sociable and should live in groups of at least two.
Introducing new pets to each other
Introducing a new pet can work well if it’s properly done, but people should be aware of the risks and make sure that introductions are handled properly.
And think about the reason why you’re getting a new pet – if it’s to keep your existing one company, they may actually be happier on their own.