You’ve figured out how to coexist with your pet, for better or worse, but how will a new roommate adjust? Or how about this scenario--you want to to adopt a pet, but you’re not sure your existing roommate is up for the challenge? Whatever your situation when it comes to pets and roommates, we’ve got some ideas on how to navigate these uncharted waters. As Dr. Burch, animal behaviorist so eloquently says, “Neither pets nor people like to have someone forced on them.” So make sure to approach introductions slowly and thoughtfully.
The most important first step is to assess for allergies. If your existing roommate or potential roommate has a pet allergy, adopting a furry friend may simply not work. Make sure you check with your roommate(s) to learn of any sensitivities to dander before pulling the trigger on a pet.
Next, you need to discuss the responsibilities of taking on a pet. If it is your idea to bring a pet into the equation, you should do most of the caretaking. If there is something you would like your roommate to do, like keep your pet’s water bowl full, or feed him, make that expectation clear from the very beginning. It is also important to discuss how you will tend to shared spaces, like the yard and the living areas. Someone will need to pick up pet waste and take care of the shedding. Dr. Carolyn Lincoln, corresponding secretary with the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, says, “I think it is good manners and a smart owner that takes responsibility for their own pet.” She cautions “You don’t want resentment between you and your roommate because your dog damaged their belongings.”
Then make sure to establish boundaries. Will your pet be allowed on the furniture? Will you feed him table scraps? These should be joint decisions, and ones that are enforced by both parties involved. If one roommate lets a dog on the couch and the other says no, this can be confusing for your pet and frustrating for the humans. Also, consider your roommate’s needs and sleep habits. If there are times your roommate needs it quiet in your shared space, make sure your pet observes the quiet hours.
When it’s time for the introductions, control the environment. Make the setting as normal as possible during the initial meeting. Dr. Lincoln recommends the new person enter the door that friends and family use the most often. The hope is that the dog will hear and smell the new person and recognize him as a friend.
A pet can be a wonderful addition to your home, and to your life, as long as everyone is on the same page. Follow our tips and you’ll be well on your way to enjoying your shared space with your human and your four-legged roomies!