Changing circumstances can be upsetting not only to people, but their pets. Animals sense upheaval, intense emotions, and alterations to the ebbs and flow of daily events. With new jobs, moving into a new house, and relationships up in the air, there can be situations that arise which prove particularly challenging to a household. Life can throw unexpected curveballs, such as losing one parent, having someone become terminally ill, or giving birth to a new baby, or adopting a mentally handicapped child. What happens if your aging mother-in-law moves in, or if you home is being radically remodeled for a few months?
In seasons of major transitions, and when priorities and circumstances in your life shift, there are important adjustments to be made for the wellbeing of both the humans and the animals in your home.

In such cases, many people feel that having a pet around could prove to add unnecessary complications or distractions from the more pressing matters to be dealt with. A first-time mother might not want to keep her cat around the infant, being worried that it is too great a risk for the child’s health. When caring for an invalid, having a dog might too stressful an addition, as he will require more attention than the person can provide. Because of this, some pet owners decide to find alternative living arrangements for their pets when their circumstances become complicated. However, the conclusion to give up your pet and re-home him, while it may be right for some people, is not the only option.

Alternative Ways to Care for Your Pet

Keep the pet, but establish space barriers. There are plenty of ways to install fixtures in your home that will keep the cat away from the nursery, the sick bed, or the remodeled kitchen, as well as ways you can deter a cat from even wanting to stick around. (Note: See our blog about cat repellents!) You may want to feel like you have the freedom to leave your infant laying on a blanket in the living room without worrying that the cat will come pester him, or that you want to leave bedroom doors ajar without fear that the dog will go bounding in and jump up on the bed. If that is the case, consider getting a large enclosed play pen and setting it up in the garage, utility room, study, or the den. Though it might not be an ideal scenario to confine your pet to one room for the majority of time, it is a better option than getting rid of him all together. Then whenever a free moment presents itself, the dog or cat could be allowed to come out for a couple hours and play, or take that important daily walk.

Ask a friend to look after your pet. If this time of your life is just requiring every bit of you, leaving no room to reasonably care for an animal, reach out to your community. See if there is someone in your life (be it friend, family member, co-worker or gym buddy) who would like some company and companionship without really having to commit to a decade of pet parenthood. Maybe someone in your community would be willing to commit to looking after your pet for a few months while you get settled. Consider offering to cover pet insurance and any necessary vet visits, as well as food if they would keep the cat or dog for you during the difficult time. If you had the pet at home, you’d be paying for those things anyway! This way your friend can enjoy having a pet for a season, during this vulnerable stage of your life.

Apply for foster care. Yes you could give away your cat or dog to a shelter and have him re-homed. But in the midst of everything else going on in your life, losing a pet entirely might be more traumatizing and difficult than you are prepared for. Instead, see if your local shelter will partner with you to find a foster home for your pet for a few months. They will have access to people who are actively looking to care for animals in need of a safe home while their families are indisposed. Explain your circumstances and see what options may be available. This way, your dog or cat will be ready to come home again the moment the time is right.