A somewhat overlooked topic when it comes to Living Apart Together: How does LAT work with pets? We have 8 pets between us and, from our experience, the “pet” topic was way more complicated than the “us” topic.
Our family of 10:
|Jo Anne||Piglet||Aksai Black Pied||Betty|
|Jonathan||Human||Guy with belly||Jonathan|
If all our pets would live continuously under one roof, a lot of the issues we faced would have been sorted out between them, as animals usually do. But when pets have separate residences, they will protect their turf from newcomers, as animals usually do. Outside of the territorial disputes, we have some actual food chain conflicts, and the glass boxes/aquariums some of our pets need to be transported in. But the most important and critical point is, will our LAT arrangement affect their quality of life? After all, everything we do affects the lives of our pets. This means their well-being, both physical and emotional, is your responsibility. So yes, there’s quite a few things to consider when it comes to LAT and pets.
The dogs were the easiest to sort out. Yes there were a few growls and teeth displayed, specially between Thor (Bullmastiff) and Bunker (Belgian shepherd), but this behavior we were very quick to shush down. Any moment we heard conflict, we would run over and set them straight. This happened a handful of times the first weekend, a few more the weekend after, and that was it. The other obvious concern was Thor snacking on Samson (Chihuahua) at some point. A poor wild rabbit once jumped over the fence, Thor chased it into a corner, and that was all she wrote. I can still see those ears flopping back and forth as Thor ripped that poor bunny to shreds. The thought that my precious Samson would end up in Thor’s gut just made me cringe. So I would sit down with Thor, pick Samson up and place him between us, then I would hug all three of us really tight. I did this a few times, Thor got right away what I meant. Once we set the ground rules, everything went pretty smooth with the canine side of our family. They just get along and really enjoy each other’s company, it’s beautiful to see.
The cats were a completely different story. First of all, cats, or at least our cats, hate sitting in the car. So right off the bat we knew this was going to be a thing. Second, Penny is a mean mean bullycat! She has terrorized Mizaka from day 1 and that has not diminished in any way. The moment she sees Mizaka, she will let her know who’s boss….regardless of the location. I don’t have the heart to put Mizaka through this, poor thing just stares at me the whole time saying “Help.” So we can’t have them in one place. This means when Jonathan comes over, Penny stays at his place. Even though he leaves enough food behind for her, Penny is a very resourceful cat (I’ll give her that). Penny could feed the whole family if necessary, her hunting skills are truly amazing. I’ve lost track of how many field mice she brings back practically every day. When it’s the other way around and I go to his place, I have no choice but to arrange a cat sitter. So what we learned was that our cats were not into the whole Living Apart Together arrangement we had going. Felines for us were a no go.
Jo Anne (the most beautiful little piggie in the whole wide world) is just wonderful. She doesn’t know she’s a pig. She thinks she’s just one of the dogs. And the dogs just love her to bits too! I swear there are evenings where we skip the movie and just watch them play in the living room. You know how sometimes you can just stare into a flame and get lost in it? Something like that, but funny. To have pets is one thing, but to have pets that get along, is just magical. This is what family looks like in our lives.
The snake and the mouse
And then we have the Molly and Stewart situation. They both have their own aquariums, which keeps them safe, but the problem is, they both have their own aquariums. Have you ever transported a fragile glass box filled with sand, rocks, toys, and living creatures in them? Not pretty, not fun, not safe. Molly is easier because she eats about once a week, so Jonathan never has to worry about what to do with her. Stewart on the other hand eats every other minute; which means I can’t leave him alone for longer than a day or two. The solution was, a) I got him a smaller metal cage just for the commute, and b) we now have installed a second aquarium for Stewart at Jonathan’s place. I know Jon is great -even with his belly.
Something you don’t really have to think about when living together, but in a LAT relationship, you will at some point need to discuss transport vehicles, especially if you have multiple pets, or simply one big pet. Thor alone takes a whole minivan row! If you already have a car where you can fit all your pets and transport them comfortably, you are good to go. If not, you will need to add this point to your list of topics to discuss.
When all else fails, you will need to turn to your own species for help. This is where pet sitters save the day. If you are planning to ask your inner circle of neighbors, friends, and family for help, don’t just ask anyone. The fact that someone is open to take care of your pet, doesn’t necessarily mean they will do a good job of it, or be the right person to take care of your loved ones. Try and find the right person for your pet based on their pet friendly qualities and not purely on availability. Keep in mind that your pet might cause havoc at their place, pee on the carpet, poop on the kitchen floor, or chew the pillows. Make sure you clear these potential issues out beforehand to avoid any entanglements later.
If you are going for a sitter service, or a paid sitter, make sure you check their references, have a face to face talk with them, and of course, see how they interact with your pet before making a final decision. It is pretty customary to ask your sitter to send videos of how your pet is doing on a daily basis, so make sure you set a timetable of when the sitter should report back.
If pets are a big part of your life, be sure to include these topics in the LAT conversation:
- Get an idea of how your pets get along amongst themselves
- Come up with a well structured plan that will allow your pets to integrate more comfortably into the each other’s space
- Discuss what the plan B would be if they don’t
- Research pet sitter options and/or reach out to family and friends
- Be prepared to make investments from (cages to cars) if you currently don’t have the means to transport your pets comfortably
- Be prepared to make concessions or adjustments in your living space to accommodate new residents
- If you would like to learn more about LAT
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