Pet Custody: Would it be the main priority for you in a break up?

Retaining pet custody is high on newly-single Brits’ priority list, new research has revealed. For us at PetJam it's an issue close to our hearts - we couldn't imagine losing custody of our adorable pets if we were to go through a break up with our other halves.

Pet custody in a break up | PetJam

81% of Pet Owners Would Make Keeping Their Pet a Main Priority

The time between Christmas and Valentine’s Day is a break-up hotspot, with people twice as likely to break up in this time compared to the rest of the year. The research, conducted by British equestrian and pet specialist Harry Hall, found that in the event of a relationship break-up, 81% of pet owners would make keeping their pet a main priority.

Most pet owners said getting custody of their fur baby was “very important” after a break-up, and companionship (49%), improving happiness (18%), and exercise (12%) were found to be the top three reasons for getting (and wanting to keep) a pet. The most common method to decide included a frank discussion around each person’s financial situation and living arrangements, followed by negotiating and compromising around other shared assets.

reasons for getting a pet | PetJam

Thinking about the best situation for your pet

One respondent shared her own story about the custody decision of the dog that she owned with an ex-boyfriend:

“To be fair there wasn’t much of a discussion… he kept the dog and I was really sad! Rather than a conversation to decide, it was more of a given that she would stay there (he was staying in the house which had land and he could afford at least £200 per month on doggy day care, and I had to move into a flat with no garden and no pets allowed). Also, we had such a horrible breakup that I never wanted to see him again”.

Some stated that they would even consider shared custody, as a last resort. However, based on vet advice, the animal’s best interest should be at the forefront of the decision:

“If it was in the situation of a break-up, I would advise the pet going with their ‘alpha’. From a practical perspective, it is also important to think about who has the most time to overcome any anxiety that the split may cause the animal, as this can be a very slow process”.

Pets Make Us Happier in Difficult Situations

The research also found that seeing and spending time with animals makes people feel happier, particularly for women. As sadness and loneliness are some of the most common negative feelings during a break-up, having a pet around can provide a level of comfort, and be somewhat of a coping mechanism.

When asked how animals make us feel, 91% of respondents used words that were overwhelmingly positive, including “affection”, “content”, “loved” and “comforted”, showing that animals can make a real difference to how we feel.

Other findings suggested that, aside from difficult life events, our pets make us happier people in general - over half (51%) of pet owners would rank their happiness levels at 8 or above, compared with just 39% of non-pet owners.

What do the experts recommend?

Hypnotherapist & Behaviour Expert Advice:

Dipti Tait, a hypnotherapist and behaviour expert, commented on the effect of relationship break-ups on pets themselves:

“The primitive brain that animals have like routine, familiarity and consistency... This part of the brain is also very associative and responds to triggers easily (like tapping on the food bowl). When there is a disruption to this (such as during a relationship breakdown, where an owner’s familiar face becomes an absent one) it can cause anxiety and stress for our pets”.

Vet advice emphasises that:

“Every animal is different, some may react to change by barking, some destroy the house, urinate, etc. If your dog follows you everywhere in the house, that is a sign of separation anxiety, and they need to learn it’s ok to be on their own.

“To overcome that, I would stand up and see if the pet gets up to follow. If so, I would sit back down and wait for the pet to settle, and repeat, repeat, repeat until you can leave the room. Once you can do that, the next thing will be leaving the house… Just standing outside for a few seconds, not allowing the pet time to get themselves stressed, can help them get used to being alone again in the early stages, and then you can look to prolong this duration incrementally over time.

“If you are still concerned, head to your veterinary practice and ask about other options… sometimes supplements (non-sedative) can help”.

Liz Hopper, Managing Director at Harry Hall, commented on the findings:

“As a team of pet and animal lovers, we wanted to discover how our furry friends can help us through difficult life events and discover the ways that animals can positively impact our mood.

“Our research showed that pets have a special place in our lives, providing love, loyalty, and companionship, especially during tough times such as a relationship breakdown. Therefore, it’s no surprise that many pet owners see keeping custody of their fluffy friends as a main priority when faced in that situation.

“It’s important for people to remember this winter season that pets aren’t just for Christmas… as well as providing companionship, they really do offer us so much more to improve our general well-being, increase our happiness, and can even be a great help through difficult times”.

If you're unsure what is the best approach for your pet, perhaps phoning your vet will help you to see the bigger picture and ensure you make the best decision for your pet. 

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