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My Pet World: After a breakup, is sharing custody of a pet a good idea?

By Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

My daughter and her former boyfriend "share" their 4-year-old Havanese named Oliver. He is the sweetest, most loving dog ever. After the breakup, Oliver would spend a week with my daughter and then a week with the former boyfriend. The drop off point for Oliver is a doggie day care center. This has been going on for almost two years. During the last holiday, Oliver stayed with my daughter for two months before he went to the former boyfriend's house. When he returned, he seemed confused and took time to settle down. His toys also didn't seem familiar to him. He has since settled back into his routine. Could this sharing cause issues for Oliver? --Tom, Miller Place, NY

Dear Tom,

Dogs thrive on the day-to-day routine of their lives, but they also like adventures, as long as they can depend on the people who care for them. While I see no problem in sharing households, house sharing may not be for every dog. If there is consistency, then Oliver may be fine with it.

Your daughter and former boyfriend should discuss maintaining the same routine at each household, so he will adjust more quickly. They should also pack his toys, blankets, beds, and other accoutrements, so that everything goes with him. If he is with the people he loves, maintains a similar routine in each household, and has his belongings, Oliver may thrive in this dual-household environment.

If, however, they observe Oliver getting stressed, depressed or confused by all this, then one person should maintain custody of Oliver and the other should have visitation. Just like divorced parents, they need to make decisions that are in the best interest of Oliver.


Dear Cathy,

Nancy of Bridgehampton, N.Y., had a concern over how to travel with, as one re-locates, feral cats. By forcing a feral animal to travel, one is submitting it to life-threatening stresses. Though it makes the humans feel good that they are caring for the animal, they're creating an extremely stressful life for the animal. Forcing feral (anything) to be cooped up in some shed is absolutely not what those cats are used to. Please tell your readers not to force square pegs into round holes. -- Bart, Freeport, NY

Dear Bart,

I don't advocate moving feral cats either. Relocation should be a last resort. It's always better if someone else can take over caring for them.


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