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Living In a Multi-Pet Household: Which Pets to Choose & How to Get Along

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on June 4, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

two devon rex cats are sitting on the scratching post

Living In a Multi-Pet Household: Which Pets to Choose & How to Get Along

A multi-pet household is one with multiple pets, but typically refers to pets of different species and not just breeds. Most multi-species households combine cats and dogs because these are the two most common pets, but they can also incorporate animals like birds, reptiles, and small caged animals.

It is possible to keep a peaceful and pleasant multi-pet household, but some steps will help make living conditions better for everybody. And, while you might be able to have certain species sharing the same space, you may also have to accept that you won’t be able to have mice running freely around pet cats or guinea pigs around dog breeds with a high prey drive.

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Pros of a Multi-Pet Household

Having one pet can be a great experience for you and the family, and while there will be challenges to keeping multiple pets, it also offers several benefits to you, the rest of your human family, and the animals themselves.

two tabby cats sleeping together on bed
Image Credit: srisakorn wonglakorn, Shutterstock

More Company for Your Pets

Many types of animals are social animals. Which means they prefer to have company rather than being left alone. While this usually refers to animals of the same species, it can also refer to animals of different species that form a close bond. For example, a cat and dog can form almost as close a bond as two cats or two dogs.

They will keep each other company while you’re at work or while you’re out of the house. This can help prevent anxiety and depression by offering fulfillment to the animals.

More Company for You

Having one pet means some company around the house but having multiple pets can mean you’re never alone. If you’re not an animal lover, this might sound like a detriment, of course. But, if you do like pets, then having a crowd of them can make a house feel like a home.

Better Mental and Physical Health

Pets have been shown to improve the mental health of their owners. This was especially apparent when people around the world were in lockdown and unable to leave their homes. As well as turning to family members, many people turned to their pets for companionship. Pets can also be good for your physical health, as well as your mental health.

Dogs need regular walks and even cats need plenty of playtime to relieve their boredom and ensure they are fulfilled.

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Cons of a Multi-Pet Household

While having multiple pets sounds like a dream to some owners, it might not be for others. And there are some pitfalls that you should consider, regardless of which side of the debate you stand on.

cat sitting on top of several litter boxes looking at another cat leaving toilet through flap
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

More Mess

Cats, dogs, rabbits, bearded dragons, and parrots all have one thing in common: they make some mess. In fact, this is true of all animals. Whether it is cat litter being tracked through the house or bird seed and bird poop that needs clearing off the bottom of the cage, animals need cleaning up after. You might feel like having an extra pet won’t create much more mess, but you might be surprised.

Greater Commitment

Similarly, having multiple pets means a greater commitment of time. You will need to spend some time with every pet, every day, to ensure that no single pet is getting preferential treatment.

A single pet requires quite a time commitment, so having three or four pets means you will be spending a lot of time exercising your animals, clearing up after them, feeding them, and meeting their other requirements. When you go away or you need somebody to look after your animals for a night, it will be more difficult to find temporary caretakers for a menagerie of animals, too.

Higher Costs

Having more animals means more food, high vet bills, and, depending on the types of pets, more cages and other equipment. The cost of these different items and services adds up. If you do get multiple pets, consider ways to save money, such as taking out multi-pet insurance or trying to get a deal on food and essentials for all of your animals.

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Image credit: 135pixels, Shutterstock

They Take Up More Space

Whether you keep small caged animals like mice and rats, animals that need larger confined areas like some snakes, or those that roam free around your house like cats and dogs, they all take up space. Adding another animal will mean handing over more of your living space. You may need an extra seat on the sofa, another wardrobe top for a cat cave, or extra floor space for a Guinea Pig hutch, but it all adds up.

There Will Be Stress

Owning pets is deeply rewarding and can be incredibly gratifying. It can also be quite stressful, and even the most placid animals might struggle to get along with others, at first. Be prepared for some stress and some difficult times, especially in the beginning.

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Pet Suitability

If you do intend on keeping multiple pets, choosing the right species and the right breeds can make your life a lot easier. For example, keeping a free-roaming guinea pig and a Greyhound is never likely to work out because the Greyhound is a sighthound and it will chase any small animal it sees darting around.

Dogs

two labrador dogs outdoors
Image Credit: Tina-Rencelj, Shutterstock

Dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years and while they were once more likely to be kept as working animals, today’s dogs tend to enjoy a life of luxury living in our homes and sharing our everyday lives. There are hundreds of breeds of dogs recognized around the world, as well as mixed breeds.

All breeds have slightly different traits, and every individual dog has its own character, but those with a high prey drive are not generally suitable for living with small animals because they will look like and act like prey. Many dogs will get along with cats, however, and can get along with other dogs. The friendliest breeds that are most likely to do well in a multi-pet household are:

  • Golden Retriever – The Golden Retriever is an understanding, empathetic breed that is widely used as a service dog. It is also considered one of the best breeds for first-time dog owners, families, and pretty much anybody who wants a dog. The friendliness that the Golden shows is not only reserved for humans, either, and this breed will generally do very well with other dogs, cats, and potentially even with small animals like hamsters and birds.
  • Labrador Retriever – The Labrador Retriever is similar in many respects to the Golden Retriever, except it has a shorter coat and is usually a bit more comical and goofier. It is a great companion for playful dogs and cats, but you should always take care when introducing new animals, even if they are as sweet as a Lab.
  • Standard Poodle – The Standard Poodle is businesslike in its attitude but it is also friendly and can be paired with other dogs as well as cats. The breed is known for being hypoallergenic so is less likely to cause allergic reactions in humans. And because it sheds less than breeds like the heavy-shedding Golden Retriever, this breed can help keep mess and cleaning levels down.
  • Cocker Spaniel – The Cocker Spaniel is a playful little pup that will generally get along with all humans, including strangers, as well as other dogs and even cats. The breed is smaller than the likes of the Retrievers and the Standard Poodle, which means the Cocker Spaniel might be better suited to cats that are a little nervous or anxious.

Cats

two ragdolls cats lying on the floor at home
Image Credit: xixicatphotos, Shutterstock

Some people might think of cats as being solitary animals that don’t like the company of others. But, under the right circumstances, they can be incredibly social. They will usually get along well with other cats and can get along with dogs with proper social introductions.

Although there are exceptions, cats should not usually be kept with smaller animals because they will predate animals like mice, and hamsters, and may even attempt to take on birds. The cat breeds most likely to get along with other animals and settle into a multi-pet household are:

  • Maine Coon – The Maine Coon is recognizable for its giant size as well as the beautiful tufts of fur around the ears. The size of the breed means it can get along with dogs and isn’t likely to feel as intimidated as some smaller breeds will. Despite their size, they are gentle cats and they make friends well.
  • Manx – The distinguishable feature of the Manx cat is the lack of a tail. This is a very intelligent breed that can learn to open doors, and the breed’s love of water means yours may even learn to turn on the faucet or find some other way to indulge in its favorite pastime of paddling and splashing around.
  • Ragdoll – The Ragdoll is a beautiful cat that gets its name from the fact that it will collapse into its human’s lap or arms and go completely limp, like a Ragdoll, when it wants love. And its affection won’t usually stop at the humans in the house. You can expect a Ragdoll to get along with other felines and with friendly dogs. In fact, this is one breed that might be able to be introduced to smaller animals.

Birds

sun conure parakeet birds perching
Image By: svand, Shutterstock

Smaller birds like finches should be kept in their cages when in a multi-pet household. They may want to investigate cats because they do not have the same natural instinct to get away from the potential predator. Larger parrot species, on the other hand, might want to square up to the cat which can lead to fighting.

It is generally best to keep other animals out of the room when you let your birds out of the cage for their daily exercise.

Small Animals

two hamsters inside cage
Image By: HelloRF Zcool, Shutterstock

Small animals like mice and hamsters are not a threat to other pets. But, they are prey animals and this means they can trigger the predator in animals like cats, dogs, and even some larger bird breeds. Keep small animals caged and ensure that the room is clear of potential threats from other animals before letting them out.

Reptiles

baby bearded dragons
Image By: bluedog studio, Shutterstock

Some reptiles are predators and may attack small caged animals. This is especially true of species like monitor lizards which are big enough to even try and take kittens and small puppies. This is another type of pet that is best kept apart from other animals when they are all out of their cages.

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How to Introduce New Animals

When introducing new animals to a multi-pet household, always take your time and make gradual introductions. Never throw them together and hope they get along, because this is more likely to cause anxiety and may make future introductions even more challenging.

Also ensure that all animals have their own space to retreat to, especially if you are introducing cats and dogs. And, while it is possible to introduce lots of different types of animals, there may be some cases where introductions fail.

Put together a schedule for cleaning and caring for your animals. This doesn’t just benefit you, but most of your pets will appreciate having a routine. Make plans regarding what you will do when you are on holiday or if you need to go away for the night. Finding somebody to look after one dog is relatively easy compared to having to find a sitter for a dozen different animals.

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Conclusion

Keeping multiple pets can be beneficial for the pets themselves, offering company and entertainment for all animals. It can also benefit you, but it does take more commitment than keeping a single pet.

Think about the characters of your existing animals before introducing new pets. And don’t just assume that pets will get along eventually. There may be some cases where introductions are never possible. Monitor those that you do introduce to make sure they do not show signs of aggression, anxiety, or depression.


Featured Image Credit: Veera, Shutterstock

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