Pets and Relationships – So just what is the problem?

So what are some of the possibilities or responsibilities to consider if you plan to bring a pet into your life while you are dating?

COST: I was listening to Calling All Pets on Wisconsin Public Radio. UW veterinarian Patricia McConnel was taking questions. One such question was, “I am considering purchasing a dog, what can I expect for expenses if I do get one?” Ms. McConnel reported that this caller should consider approximately $5,000 over the life of the dog if it were basically healthy. This included vaccinations, food and toys to mention a few. She stated that this did not include damage to things in the house or added expenses for health related issues. It seems reasonable to do some homework about what unintended consequences that a particular pet could cause.

Plan to consider the cost of the following: Licensing, food, fencing, vet bills (normal care or emergency care), toys and accessories, cages, travel kennels, boarding kennels, immunizations (initial and yearly), grooming, dental care, damage to home or clothing or yard are all things that should be taken into account. Some of these can be substantial and could have an impact on your budget. Will any of this impact your ability to pay your way while you are dating someone? Will you eventually expect the other person to help pay for these? If so, they need to know so they too can decide if they want to take on that expense.

TIME: Having a pet could also impact the amount of time you spend with another person. Animals need care and attention. Some need to be taken out for walks or a run. If your date enjoys doing that with you it is a plus. However, there is also bathing, feeding and cleaning up after them. For certain pets such as a dog, cat or a bird, it isn’t fair to expect them to be home alone for long periods of time as they need attention as well. For dogs you can’t expect them to “hold it” for an entire day. Are you ready to divide your time between your pet responsibilities and your partner? How will this new person feel about splitting their time with an animal?

HEALTH: Then there is the issue of allergies. If your “special someone” sneezes or wheezes at the mere site of certain animals, are you prepared to ask them to add drugs to their body or get allergy shots just so they can come and visit with you at your home? And then, how are you going to handle it if you decide to move your relationship beyond just being friends?

PERSONAL BELIEFS: Does “I always sleep with my pet” sound like you? Before you move your relationship to the next step you will need to seriously think about how this is going to affect your pet and your partner. Not everyone one wants to share their bed with a pet, let alone several. You may be OK with the hair, the animal smell, the lack of space or other animal related issues, but it is unreasonable to try and talk someone else into this situation if it is something they are unwilling to tolerate. And how will your pet react when it gets banished to the basket or the another room?

When we live with a pet we often become oblivious to these issues—no longer noticing them. However, a new person coming into your home may quickly pick up on odors, hair, behaviors or messes that your pet has made yet try to overlook it out of politeness. For some there is just something really awkward about having an animal climbing all over them or nosing around their derriere or other intimate areas. And in one house, letting the pets be on the counters, the table or furniture is normal yet a guest might be really turned off seeing this.

And finally, there is the issue of both people having and liking pets but the pets themselves not being compatible. In this situation will you decide that one of them needs to be farmed out or will one just be confined to the outdoors or a cage for the duration?

As I said at the beginning, pets can be a great addition to your life and they can bring a new and positive demension to the life of a couple. The main point of this blog is: If you have a pet or intend to bring one into your dating life you will need to find a partner who shares the same “pet values” as you. It would be as unreasonable to try and lecture or reason someone into changing their feelings about these issues as it would be for them to persuade you to give up your pet. Going into a pet ownership situation well informed will prevent such problems down the road if for no other reason than preventing surprises because you know what the possibilities are.

Maybe you have tried to blend pet ownership and a relationship and could share some of the challenges you encountered. Or maybe you would just like to add a comment about the joy that your pet/s brought to your couple relationship. If so, please refer to the comment box below. (This portion is only open to members of the Dating Dementia community)

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