Can a Divorce Negatively Affect Your Pet’s Health?

by on December 6th, 2010 at 7:00 am

We often hear how children are negatively affected by their parent’s splitting up… but what happens when these “children” are our pets? In some cases, the effects can be the same—and can develop into stress-related health problems if not addressed and managed.

Unfortunately, since our pets cannot speak to us and express their feelings, we’re left to decipher their emotions through their actions and behaviors. Often, these physical behaviors are accompanied by intense emotions that animal behaviorist and psychologists compare to depression, nervousness, and anxiety in humans.

This destructive and self-mutilating behavior can be attributed to feeling the emotional tension between the human partners splitting up, as animals are very perceptive and sensitive, similar to young children. It may also be attributed to an external factor, such as not being walked as often as before with two partners, or missing the interaction it received from the more attentive owner.

Unfortunately, few pet “parents” consider including their pet in their prenup agreement, and pets are still not treated like children in a court of law. While attorneys who specialize in pet custody cases do exist, they are difficult to find, and courts are not in favor of accepting pet cases. Animals are often referred to as “property”, with most judges disregarding any involvement of pet disputes – no matter how much they are loved and respected within a household.

Therefore, pet owners are usually left to contend with pet “custody” on their own. However, especially since pets are sensitive to emotional and physical behavior problems initiated or aggravated by the divorce, it is important to come to an amicable agreement to help minimize drastic disturbances in a pet’s routine, and help maintain stability.

While your own emotions may be running rampant, try and keep your pet’s best interest in mind. Consider the typical process for what might happen for a human child during a split-up, including visitation rights, shared custody, etc. Be fair and work with your ex about managing your new shared or full-time schedule.

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