By Robert Lanterman
Roommates can be great and they can also be a challenge. If you’ve ever had a roommate and a pet, you may have experienced the struggle of living with someone who isn’t quite as pet-savvy as you.
Their lack of sophistication with pets doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t like pets, and it may just mean they’re inexperienced in being a caretaker. As a cat or pet owner, there are basic responsibilities that come with sharing a living space with both an animal and another human. It’s important to consider how living with another person will affect your pet.
If you’re dealing with roommates who aren’t respectful of your pet – you’ll need to, at very least, have a talk. And it should go without saying that any mistreatment or mishandling of your pet should not be tolerated. Here we offer some tips on how to talk to a roommate and what to do if none of your efforts seem to be going well. Ultimately, as the pet’s owner, you are responsible for your pet’s health and safety.
Come to An Understanding
When evaluating a new roommate, consider how that person will treat your pet when you’re not at home. For example, if your cat is an indoor cat, will your roommate leave the windows and doors closed while you’re not home to ensure the cat doesn’t get out? Can they feed your cat, provide water, and make sure to clean the litter box if necessary? Do they know what to do in case of an emergency? And of course, do they like your pet? Will they be kind to your pet and interact with them in a loving way?
These are the kinds of questions you need to be asking the potential roommate and yourself. When you’re not home, your roommate is the de-facto pet parent charged with ensuring your pet’s safety. Evaluate for yourself, of course, if they even have the skill set and compassion of a good cat sitter.
Consider the following:
- Ask your roommate about their history with pets. Have they ever had a pet? Do they like your type of pet? Do they dislike your type of pet? If your roommate or potential roommate does not like your pet, you should probably find someone who does.
- Will your roommate help care for your pet if you aren’t there? Recognize that your pet is your responsibility – not your roommates. But is your roommate someone you can count on in the event you can’t be there to feed your cat and clean her litter box?
- If your roommate has no experience with pets, find out what their feelings are about living with your pet. Are they open to the experience? Do they have reservations? Find out now, before you commit to having a roommate, that they are happy to share the living space with your pet.
- Explain your cat’s habits and behavior. Be careful to let your roommate know that they are never to discipline your pet. For example, if the cat jumps on a table or counter – how do you expect the roommate to react? If your pet is begging for food, what should your roommate do? Think through how you’d like your roommate to handle these situations when you’re not around.
While your roommate is getting the hang of living with your cat, be sure that your pet is safe, healthy and has had their annual wellness exam so you’re sure your pet is in tip-top shape. Want to keep a watchful eye when you’re not home? Some people will opt for indoor cameras to keep an eye on things. An indoor pet camera like the PetCube Bites Pet Camera can be an easy and cost-effective way to monitor what’s happening in your home when you’re not there. Don’t hide cameras from your roommate. Keep them out in the open and let your roommate know that you like to watch your cat/pet and keep and eye on them during the day. Keep pet items for your cat organized and consider signing up for services like PetFolio to make things easy for your roommate to manage.
If you have an outdoor cat, getting a cat door is a great way to prevent your feline friend from getting locked outside. If you’re not confident that your roommate will check to let them in, then you may want to look into this, especially if it’s extremely cold or hot outside. Leaving food and water outside may be a good idea at this point as well (should weather permit), so if something happens and the cat can’t get back inside, they don’t miss the essentials they need. These minor preventative measures can sometimes be a good idea even if all people in a home are taking care of a cat. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so think ahead about your pet’s needs before you leave your home.
What if your roommate is a danger to your cat?
If your roommate turns out to be neglectful or a danger to your pet, you’ll need to act quickly to ensure your pet’s safety – it’s your top priority and responsibility. If at all possible, see if a friend or family member can take your pet until you can find a new roommate or a new home. If that’s not possible, consider keeping your cat locked in your room with plenty of food and water when you can’t be home. Include toys, a litter box and any other essentials until you can find a more permanent and stable solution.
Be sure that you report any abusive behavior to the police. If your roommate is unkind to your pet, they may be unkind to other animals as well. Hopefully it will never come to this, but should it, you must find a safe place for your pet immediately. Some rescues have programs to temporarily care for pets in the case of illness or emergency. Humane investigators can also help you – check with your local humane society.
While most roommates are great, adding a pet to the living situation can prove challenging if that person isn’t a “pet person.” As the pet’s owner, it’s your responsibility to ensure their safety and happiness.
Have you ever faced a similar situation with a roommate or even a spouse? How did you deal with it? What advice do you have for readers? Please tell us in the comments below.