man and woman arguing with dog lying between them. Breakups are hard on pets

Pets and Breakups: How To Navigate Them

When a relationship goes south, it isn’t just the humans who are affected. It’s hard on the furkids too. The logistics involved with pets and breakups can be difficult to navigate for everyone. Who gets to keep the dogs and cats? Will they move out with one partner? What about their new living space? How will the other parent visit them?

The reason we love our pets so much is because we bond with them closely and vice versa. So in the case of relationships, a split can mean your pet feels abandoned, depressed, anxious, and sad. After all, they’ve basically lost a parent.

Here’s how to support your pet through a breakup and limit the impact splitsville will have on them.

Who gets the pets in a breakup?

The most obvious question around pets and breakups is “who gets to keep the pets?”.

Unfortunately, there’s no clear cut answer here. If the pets came before the relationship, they normally stay with their original owners. But if you get pets together, it becomes much more complicated.

Especially when you consider one of you is likely to move out and find a new place – which may or may not be suitable for your current pet.

That’s why we suggest always having a pet prenup. Though nobody goes into a relationship planning to leave, it often happens. Making sure you have an agreement in place means your pets won’t bear the brunt of any animosity or disagreements.

However, regardless of who gets the pet, they’ll still be losing one of their parents. Luckily, there are ways responsible and loving pet parents can make breakups easier on the pets.

pets and family hands - hands and cat paw piled on top of each other

Helping pets adjust to breakups

A breakup is tough for everyone. Adults, kids, and furkids. In between all of the stress, admin, trauma, and difficulties that come with a breakup, it’s easy to forget about your pets and their needs.

To help make the transition easier on your pets, try to stick to the following rules:

1. Don’t argue in front of them

Shouting, screaming, and being generally negative and tense around your pets during breakups is a recipe for disaster. They can pick up on your feeling and emotions, and are likely to feel anxious and stressed out. After all, they don’t know what you’re fighting about.

2. Keep their routine the same

It can be hard to maintain routine for pets in a breakup. Let alone for humans! But pets rely on their regular routines to stay settled. So wherever possible, remember to continue walking your dog every morning or feeding your cat his dinner at 6pm each day. Consistency will help them to stay calm and feel like there’s some normalcy around them.

3. Put off the move

If your pet is staying with you and you need to move house, try to minimise the impact. This means keeping them at the old place for as long as possible, then moving them when their bed, crate, or familiar area is set up and ready for them. If you need to, you could even put them into holiday pet care for a few days where they’ll get lots of attention as you move.

Even with these steps, pets and breakups isn’t an easy to navigate situation. Your pet might still feel unsettled and suffer some level of separation anxiety. As loving pet parents, support and comfort from both of you will help a great deal as you move through this phase.

Managing pet separation anxiety after a breakup

Separation anxiety in pets can cause all kinds of behavioural problems. This might include barking or chewing, peeing or pooping in the house, or even vomiting.

And separation anxiety is common in pets whose parents have broken up. It’s much the same as if one parent were to pass away. They miss them, and wonder what’s going on.

To alleviate separation anxiety in pets after breakups, you can try the following:

  • Offering them plenty of extra attention and love.
  • Increasing their exercise and play time so they’re tired and less likely to feel anxious (only if your pet is healthy and more exercise is safe for them).
  • Having a friend or petsitter watch your pet while you’re out.
  • Going on short trips only until your pet settles.
  • Anti-anxiety medication, which you can get from your vet.
pets and breakups are difficult - as shown in this photo of an arguing couple with labrador.

Sharing custody of pets after breakups

If you and your (former) partner are still on good terms, sharing custody can actually work really well when it comes to pets and breakups. Just like sharing human kids. Of course, you’d both need to have suitable homes and environments for them.

It means your pet doesn’t have to completely forego a relationship with one person (or even that person’s friends and family) plus it means you can juggle ownership duties more easily, especially if you both work.

If you opt for this, make sure you have clear rules set out as well as plans for what to do in an emergency. The ideal situation is that both owners come into the vet if an animal is sick or injured, but a plan needs to be in place if there’s a true emergency requiring immediate decisions and one person is unreachable.

This is where pet insurance could be a relief – that way, two separate people’s finances aren’t the potential basis for decisions around your pet’s health.

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