When Pets Get in the Way of Love
For the gals: He’s everything you ever wanted in a man – intelligent, attentive, romantic and charming. He also has an almost pathological aversion to cats – you have three.
For the guys: You and your wife got Rover together, and he’s been quite a handful. You don’t mind the dog’s crazy antics, and your wife tolerated them. That is, until the baby came. Now both are too much of a handful. Guess who has to go?
For either one of you: He/she spends more time catering to the needs of that dog/cat than to yours. Enough already!
The obvious solution is to screen your mate carefully for signs of anti-pet characteristics. This is not always so easy to do, because people are usually on their best behavior at the beginning of a relationship. There are two truisms about new relationships and pets:
- A cat-hating man often hides his dislike for animals of the feline persuasion.
- A woman who can’t stand dogs often makes the effort to pretend to get along with Rover. She may even bring the dog gifts.
They may have an ulterior motive, i.e. they intend to address the issue later in the relationship with an “it’s him or me” ultimatum. Or they may genuinely not realize that a pet is more than just an object that you feed, clean and throw a toy once in awhile.
Either way, it’s better to take the extra time to find someone who shares your critical interests, the ones you feel most strongly about. (The saying that “opposites attract” is just a canard; they often repel with much greater force than they attract.)
Your partner needs to respect and appreciate the things you love. If keeping a pet is important to you, it should be important to him or her. Fortunately, many people discover a latent love for animals. Many guys who profess to not liking cats sometimes do, though they’d never admit it to their friends. (One informal survey showed that 83 percent of men wound up bonding to their girlfriends’ pets.)
There is a third scenario that is much more common: Even if you screen carefully, and the person you choose truly likes animals, there is no guarantee your pet will like him or her. “Not every cat loves all cat lovers,” explains Annie Bruce, author of Cat Be Good. “One of our cats, Abraham Lincoln, likes my husband more than he likes me.”
Bruce suspects that Abraham Lincoln is turned off by her perfume. “He does seem to like the cologne my husband wears,” she says. Bruce advises couples not to force a relationship on a pet, particularly the independent-minded cat.
“If a cat doesn’t like you, you might try feeding him, but otherwise just ignore him,” she says. “Let the cat approach you when he’s comfortable.” Bruce suggests playing with the cat – if the pet is so inclined – at the same time each day. The cat will grow to appreciate the routine.
Breaking Up Is Hard to Do
Okay, let’s say your pet really hates your partner. Hissing, growling – no misunderstood feelings at all. “I’d be wary of that person,” Bruce says. “A cat, for instance, is a real barometer of a person.” She says she would check that person out thoroughly to make sure he or she wasn’t abusive to animals in the past.
If the two can’t be reconciled even to tolerating each other, you’ve got a tough decision. In making it, keep in mind that when someone accepts you, they are accepting all of you, and vice versa. Of course, that doesn’t give carte blanche for you to devote all your time to your pet and precious few to your partner.
A familiar complaint is that a spouse or companion is more concerned with a dog or cat than with them. If this is the case, that person may not realize it. You might try keeping a journal of how often he or she talks about the pet in a given week, day or hour. Afterwards, you’ll have baseline from which the both of you can hash things out.
One last thing about pets and couples: When there are problems in the relationship, people may avoid talking about the real issues by focusing on the pet (or some other activity). Don’t resent the pet; the important thing is to have a frank talk with your mate.