Chris Shaughness

author, speaker, animal lover

Pet Relationships,  All Articles

How Many Pets Are Too Many?

Did you read the story about an elderly couple in Arizona who were hoarding 800 dogs in their triple-wide trailer? They claimed that nobody could take care of their pets as well as they could. I’m not so sure about that! That’s what many hoarders claim. Of course, we animal lovers want to save as many as we can. If I could have more pets, I would. But sometimes it’s not in the pets’ interest to take in too many. Even if you have the space and the financial wherewithal, it can be difficult for many pets to live together. How many are too many?

There’s no set answer to that question. First, if you already have one or more pets and you are having problems with one or more of them, the solution is not to get another pet. This only creates more stress for the pets and for you. After all, isn’t the reason you get more pets is for more fun!

Work on resolving the issues first. The introduction of another pet may only cause the problems to get worse. Let’s use a couple of examples to illustrate:

> You have two cats. One of them is urinating in the house and does not interact with the other cat. You feel bad for both cats because you want them to be buddies, so you decide to get another cat. With the introduction of the new cat, the problem cat attacks the new cat and they cannot be left alone together. The urination issue gets worse. Life becomes very stressful for you and all of the cats – nobody is happy. All of the cats now need to be kept separated.

> You have two dogs: an older, sedate dog who wants to be left alone and a younger dog who is very active and likes to play but will bite people who approach her. She’s already bitten your boyfriend. Because she’s so playful, your friends tell you that the solution is to get another dog so she has a friend to play with. So you get a puppy and he is people-friendly but does not play nice with your first dog. He growls and bites her if she tries to play with him. He’s also annoying your older dog. Now you need to watch your one dog so she doesn’t bite people and watch your second dog so he doesn’t bite your other dogs. And your older dog wishes they would both go away!

These examples are real cases I have worked with. Although I was able to offer solutions to these issues, life is now very complicated for these households so that they can keep all of the pets. Had they resolved the initial problems before bringing in a new pet, everything would have worked out better. So even though you feel bad and want to help give another pet a home, sometimes it can backfire and make everyone miserable.

You say that your current pets are having no problems and you want to adopt another? That’s wonderful but make sure you give careful consideration to personalities of your existing pets and the new one. Your older dog may not like having a little yappy dog nipping at her heels, and your dominant male cat will despise another strong male challenging his position.

Having many pets is no different from having many children. Rules, training and consistency are necessary to keep the peace!