After I had learnt to live with the shock of my 11 year relationship ending, I started to go through another trauma, the loss of my beloved fluffy tiger (actually a cat, but she thought otherwise). Not only did I miss her terribly but I was also concerned about how she would feel without me. Would she eat properly? Would she get stressed out looking for me? Would she fight with the other cat because of misplaced anger? Unfortunately, for various reasons, I had no choice but to leave her with my ex and the other cat. We were so close, she was a real fusspot and would only ever come to me for cuddles. She was completely my baby.
Sadly if you have a strong bond with an animal then there's a very big chance that they will go through their own heartbreak at the divorce and at losing you. Their routine and home life will be forever changed and that will cause them anxiety and stress. Sadly during the difficult time of separation our pets are often the last thing on our minds. Of course this is understandable as your head will be a mess and your whole life as you knew it has probably just disappeared. Most animals will pick up on the hostility and anger and may be very scared and confused. Then you have the problem of deciding which one of you will take care of the pet.
Below are some helpful tips when thinking about your pet during a break up.
If you have children take into consideration that they probably have formed strong attachments to your pets. It is recommended that the pet isn't separated from a child if at all possible. Stability for them both at this time is so important. They can be a great source of comfort to children when their parents are splitting up. Giving your child some pet responsibilities and encouraging them to develop a closer bond to your animal, will undoubtedly be a comfort and help to both of them. Remember you are the adult and can handle this better, help your child and pet at this time, they'll always be your family.
Ensure that when you are first discussing the terms of your separation that you include any pets. If you leave this till the end it could become difficult. Make it clear who will care for the pet and any visitation rights. Don't let it get confusing, stick to the decision.
Think about your living arrangements when deciding with whom the pet will live. Make sure your pet goes to the owner that can offer the best care and best home, even if this means it isn't you. Outside space and a comfortable home will be important factors to think about. Put your needs second, it's hard to do, but is necessary.
If you end up with the pet then take comfort from them rather than shutting him or her out of your problems. They will feel your energy anyway and their natural instinct will be to nurture you. If you have a cat, buy a new cat stand and some toys to play with them. You can buy cat sprays that will calm them down like Feliway Feline Facial Pheromone Diffuser. Give them attention so your bond is reinforced. If you own a dog take it for long walks this will help to clear your head and the dog will enjoy time just with you.
If you are keeping the family pet then remember that they will need a lot of love and comfort when your ex leaves. Regardless of how you broke up or what your opinion is of your previous partner/spouse, they were a part of your pet's life.
Seek the advice of your vet immediately if your pet shows any signs of depression such as not eating or behavioural problems.
Allow yourself to grieve if you lose your pet in the process of divorce/separation. The love between a pet and their owner is very strong and it will be natural for both of you to be upset at this loss.
Whatever you do don't argue or shout in front of your pet. This could leave them feeling frightened and insecure.
Don't take your anger out on your pet. Just remember how much they love you and how confused they are. This will be a new beginning for them as well.
Never use your pet as a bargaining tool in your divorce. If you want to do that, bargain with the furniture, never with children or animals. Always keep in mind what is in your pet's best interest.
Only approach the court for custody if it is a last resort. Try talking to your spouse or attempt mediation first.
For further advice speak to your vet who should be able to advise on caring for your pet during a divorce or separation, especially if they become stressed.
For legal advice concerning custody or contact with your pet you should consult a solicitor.