It goes without saying that the breakdown of a relationship or a marriage is a time of great trauma and distress for all concerned. There are what we may consider as ‘ripples of effect’ when two people separate. At the center are the two people concerned. From there, the effect is then felt by the closest family members – children and then siblings and parents.

Beyond that, extended family and friends also feel the pain of that relationship breakdown, as they share in the grieving process.


A further ‘ripple of effect’ – the family pet


Perhaps one of the least considered of all those affected by the breakdown of a relationship or a marriage is the beloved family pet. Whilst many people recognize the family pet as a member of the family, fewer people recognize just how attuned to their human companion’s domestic animals have become.

The domestic pet has evolved to cohabit with human beings. As such, pets have developed the ability to intimately sense and understand the moods and feelings of the humans around them. In short, the family pet will intimately sense and experience the same feels of hurt and separation while not sharing a common language to express those feelings of pain.

Referring to a specialist such as can assist with unique advice and support for pet owners to assist all concerned to move through an emotionally difficult time.


Who will get the pets?


Whilst your pet equally needs a sense of nurturing and support through a relationship breakdown, the often difficult question of who will take responsibility for the family pet must then be considered.

For some couples, the decision is easily reached and may be based upon the connection of children and pet. For others, the decision is not quite so clear cut, and certain factors will likely need to be considered, including:

  • Who is best placed to take care of the family pet? For animals like dogs, which require greater attention, company and social interaction, this decision may be based on each partner’s work rosters and general time schedules. The question of how the pet is managed whilst the person is at work may be an issue.
  • Who will have suitable accommodation? For a pet that requires an adequate outdoor area, this may become a consideration. For indoor pets, the question of rental properties and restrictions on the keeping of pets may raise a problem for one partner.
  • Who can best support the pet’s needs? Certain animals or breeds require a high degree of care, attention, and maintenance. This may also entail a fair financial outlay, which may also need to be considered.


Your pet grieves too


Making the best decisions for the family pet adds another layer of difficulty at what is already a highly emotionally charged time.

It is important to be aware that the family pet may also experience that grieving process, often quite intimately. Be sensitive to this, and try to be aware of changes to an animal’s behavior that might indicate this. A pet can become withdrawn and disinterested, experience loss of appetite and lethargy, or even become unusually possessive or aggressive during this period of change.

In most cases, the indicators of grief or stress can be very similar to those experienced by humans.


This too shall pass


Animals, like humans, are endowed with natural resilience. We all bounce back with a little time, love, care, and support. Ensure you are good to yourself and give the family pet the same natural love and support, and look for those better times ahead.














* contributed post