The Water Bowl
Breed & Health Resources

Getting Your Pet Through Your Breakup

By Sarah Sypniewski

small dog and couple

Breakups are tough, but when there’s a pet (or several) involved, it can make it much harder. Nobody likes to imagine that their relationship could end, but when you decide to take on a pet with your significant other, it’s a good idea to think through what would happen to that pet should you two break up. And if you’re in the midst of it right now, I’m so sorry. I know it can be difficult to think through everything clearly, but here are some options that might help you figure out your next steps.

Shared Custody

If the split is amicable and both of you would miss your pet too much, this might be the way to go. If you’re going this route, you should come up with a schedule that works for all of you. Many pets (especially cats) don’t do well with sudden changes and shuttling around between locations, so you might want to consider making the time periods a few weeks or more rather than changing the pet’s place of residence every week.

You should also address whether seeing your ex is good for you. It will drag out the healing process and delay closure for quite some time – possibly forever – so you have to be honest about your needs. You also need to plan logistically. Will each of you be able to provide suitable living arrangements for your pet? Will you buy another set of pet supplies for each house or will you tote the supplies back and forth?

One Person Takes Sole Custody

When one of you is more set up to care for your pet than the other, this is the best option. It’s also the best option if your pet is a flight risk or otherwise sensitive to changes. It would be ideal for the pet to stay in the home he’s used to. Keep in mind that you may need to hire some extra help or ask a friend to pitch in if you find that you need a little assistance.

Rehome or Return Your Pet

This is a worst-case scenario. Your pet loves you, loves his home and his routine, and would absolutely miss you if you were to rehome him. But sometimes it has to happen. A dog we fostered at our house was adopted by a couple who looked great on paper and totally adored her. Everything was going well until they broke up and fought over the dog because neither of them wanted her since she “reminded them of each other.” Poor thing. In that case, as with any of our fosters who don’t work out, she came back to us.

The point is this: if neither of you can keep the pet, look for another home. If neither of you want the pet, contact the party from whom you got the pet first. Explain the situation and ask if they would take the pet back. If not, look for another home. If you keep the pet out of obligation, you could grow to resent your buddy. Contact friends, family members, acquaintances, and co-workers to see if they’re interested in adopting. Post on social media and neighborhood sites. Make sure you have interested parties fill out an application, agree to a home check, and pay a small re-homing fee (unless your pet is going to a loved one who you know and trust very well). You may be hurting, but that is not your pet’s fault. If you’re in too much distress to do all of these things to get your pet rehomed, ask someone to help you. Don’t let your pet end up in the wrong hands, and never abandon your pet in an unsafe situation or location.

Whatever you decide, write it down so you both have a copy to refer to, this can be a hard copy or an email. You don’t want any misunderstandings that could lead to more serious situations (the last thing you probably want to do is have the police called on you because your ex says it’s their weekend). Keep in mind that you can take your time or change your mind if you need to. This is an emotionally-trying time, so you have to be gentle and flexible with yourself, don’t rush into a permanent solution. You can always ask someone to foster your pet or board your pet during the most tumultuous time to keep them safe until you and your ex have clearer minds to figure out what is best.

And, of course, no matter what happens, never take it out on your pet. Love your pet, give him attention, affection, and provide for him. He will most likely be attuned that something bad is happening and may need extra reassurance. He may be unusually attached for awhile. Although you are under extreme duress, stay mindful not to act angry or mean towards him. He can be a great support if you let him.

Mind if we pay your vet bills?

Pet health insurance is administered by Embrace Pet Insurance Agency, LLC and underwritten by one of the licensed insurers of American Modern Insurance Group, Inc., including American Modern Home Insurance Company d/b/a in CA as American Modern Insurance Company (Lic. No 2222-8), and American Southern Home Insurance Company. Coverage is subject to policy terms, conditions, limitations, exclusions, underwriting review, and approval, and may not be available for all risks or in all states. Rates and discounts vary, are determined by many factors, and are subject to change. Wellness Rewards is offered as a supplementary, non-insurance benefit administered by Embrace Pet Insurance Agency in the United States. © 2020 American Modern Insurance Group, Inc.  Wellness Rewards not available in Rhode Island.