Most families and households with pets share their pet care responsibilities amongst each other. But what happens when a family splits, kids leave for school, roommates go their separate ways, or a couple breaks up? In some cases, sharing a pet between households may be the best answer. This can be a rewarding experience for both you and your animal, but it must be handled with care and attention to detail. There are several ways to arrange things to that everyone gets time with the pet and the animal gets the care and attention he or she needs.
When sharing a pet, you should begin by establishing who is the “rightful” owner. This is the person who registers and renews the license tag—at least, that’s who a court would see as the animal’s rightful owner. You should also begin by divvying up support costs, including everything from basic pet care needs and medical care to grooming, travel arrangements, and food. This will allow everyone involved to understand their responsibilities ahead of time.
Next, use a calendar to track your agreed-upon custody arrangements. Be as consistent as possible; your pet will be more comfortable if he knows what to expect. If somebody is unable to care for the animal at an agreed-upon time, have a pet sitter ready to jump in. If the animal is new to one or both of the households (has not lived there previously), try splitting custody arrangements into longer periods to allow the animal to adjust to the new location. Additionally, be consistent with your training. Ensure that both households are calling the animal by the same name and use the same amount and kind of food. Utilize the same rewards for good behavior and support the same training—keeping him off the couch, for example.
When deciding to split custody of an animal, understand that what is best for you is not always best for the pet. Some pets will grow more attached to a particular person, and sometimes the custody arrangement does more harm than good. In the early days of the custody split, keep an eye out for odd behavior, fear, and stress, then adjust the situation accordingly.