by Tiffany Current
Moving in together can be a big adjustment. Instead of making decisions for one, you have to compromise on everything — the dishes, the dusting, the dinner parties. If your partner has a pet, it complicates things even more. Sure, seeing this cuddly creature on an occasional basis was a breeze, but how will you handle living with it every single day?
Pretend like you’re dealing with your in-laws. After all, it’s practically the same thing. You’re two parties brought together by one common interest — your partner. So if you want to make the best of your new situation (and live in pet harmony), follow these simple guidelines:
Give ‘em a reason to like you
You can win over your partner’s pooch or calico kitty the same way you won over your mother-in-law. By showering it with gifts and attention. Give Whiskers her favorite treats, change Fido’s water, play catch with Rags. Just keep rewarding your pet-in-law, so it will start seeing you in a favorably light — instead of as competition for your partner’s love. In time, this positive reinforcement will help you gain your new pet’s trust and affection.
Don’t Go Overboard
You want your in-laws to like you, but you need to know when to take a step back too. The same logic applies to your partner’s pet. Remember, animals like attention, but they don’t want to be smothered. So give them a little space when they ask for it. If Snuggles is tired of playing with his ball, don’t force him into another round. If Snowball wants to take a catnap, let her sleep without being interrupted. You can’t force your in-laws into liking you. Just let it happen naturally — or it may not happen at all.
Don’t be the bad guy
Inevitably, your in-laws will do or say something that’ll get under your skin (whether it’s intentional or not). Your new pet is no different. One day you’ll discover Frisky scratching your loveseat or using your favorite shoe as a chew toy. When that happens, make sure you have a good disciplinary plan in place. Talk to your partner beforehand about what to do if (or, more accurately, when) your pet acts out. Should you speak to Coju in a stern voice? Or simply spray him with a quick squirt of water? Figure out a punishment that both you and your partner can agree on.
During the first few weeks of your cohabitation, have your significant other dole out the punishment. After all, you’re in a new living situation with your pet-in-law. You don’t want Rover associating any negative behavior with you. Over time, you can ease into the disciplinary role. But for now, stand on the sidelines until your new pet warms up to you.
Pull Your Weight
In-laws can be a lot of work. Sometimes you’ll waste a whole day running errands for your father-in-law or making small talk with your partner’s sister. It’s no fun. In fact, it’s a chore. And chores are a big part of caring for your new pet-in-law too — like cleaning out the litter box, brushing your puppy’s matted fur, or struggling to cut your cat’s nails.
Right off the bat, you and your partner should discuss who does what when it comes to pet chores. Are you doing a 50/50 split, 80/20, or 100/0? By talking it out beforehand, you cut down on any potential disagreements and unrealistic expectations. So figure out what type of split works best for your live-in relationship (and for your pet too).
The Cost of Living
Just like you have to pitch in for your in-laws’ birthdays, anniversaries, and holiday gifts, you’ll have to pitch in for your pet-in-law too. There’s the vet bill, toys, endless supply of kibble. It all adds up. So how much are you willing to contribute to your new pet’s cause? Will you even be able to afford it?
Before you pull out that checkbook, make a list of all your typical monthly pet expenses. Now look at your own monthly budget. What percentage can you allocate to pet costs without breaking the bank? Go with that number (even if it’s a small one). Because giving a little is better than giving nothing at all.
Remember, it took time and effort to win the love and respect of your in-laws. Stick with it, and you can do the same with your pet-in-law too.
Tiffany Current is a relationship expert and author of the book, “How to Move in with Your Boyfriend (and Not Break Up with Him)”. She likes to spend her time writing, watching movies with her husband, and pestering Shelly her own cat-in-law.