How Many Pets Is Too Many?

Posted on
How Many Is Too Many? Where Do I Draw The Line?

This post talks to pet parents and rescuers alike. One of the toughest questions for a pet parent or pet rescuer to answer for herself is “How Many Is Too Many? Where do I draw the line?”  It’s a moral and emotional question that weighs heavy on the hearts of everyone who works hard to save the lives of homeless pets, always acutely aware that these precious little souls have no other hope than us. It’s never easy to answer, and more often than not, the answer is discovered through trial and error. The line usually must be crossed at least once, maybe more, and consequences suffered, before the line even reveals itself.

It becomes evident then how some rescuers end up on the 10:00 news labeled as hoarders and didn’t see it coming. A dedicated, well-meaning heart that couldn’t shut the door on a single life in need. After all, how do you tell one homeless pet to come in and live, and to the next pet in line, there’s no room for you here, knowing it probably will lose its life because you drew the line. This is a typical day in the life of a pet rescuer — tough business, even on a good day.

** Must-Haves For The Multi-Pet Home ** 


So, if you’re a pet rescuer, a foster, or just an individual pet parent wanting to grow your pet family, it’s critical that you achieve balance to avoid getting in over your head and compromising not only your existing pets, but your own wellbeing. The questions below are designed to help you focus on the big picture, and to use your heart and mind together to make the right decision for your home. As you answer each question, be painfully honest, as difficult as it may be. We’ll discuss each bullet point in detail below.

*** Am I experienced and capable enough to handle multiple pet relationships in my home?
*** Do I have enough square footage per pet so that I’m not over-crowding them?
*** Can I afford food, supplies, grooming, petsitting, and veterinary bills for another pet?
*** Will adding another pet compromise the comfort and wellbeing of my existing pets?
*** Will I be able to give equal time to a new pet without cheating my existing pets?
*** Will adding another pet upset the behavioral dynamic of my existing pet family?
*** Have I considered the ages of all the pets involved and the level of care they’ll need,
as well as my own age and how long will I be able to care properly for them?

** Houseful of Pets and Want to Keep It Smelling Ultra Beautiful? **
Here’s Your Answer!


The Number One Question.

I believe the number one question to ask yourself when considering adding another pet to your family is this — will it compromise the pets already in my home? If the answer is yes, then it’s not wise to add a new pet yet. Remember that your first responsibility is to the pets already depending on you.

Example: you really want a puppy, and you have an older dog in the home already. No problem, you figure, because you’ve got plenty of room, and you can afford it. You figure a puppy will brighten things up and be fun. So a new puppy joins the household. But — turns out the older dog can’t keep up with the puppy and gets frustrated or cranky; or maybe the puppy plays too rough and hurts the oldster; or maybe you just find yourself spending more time with the puppy because he’s more fun than the older dog. You become frustrated because you don’t know how to handle the contentious dynamic between the two dogs.

Next thing you know, you’re trying to find a new home for the older dog because he “can’t get along” with the puppy (as if it’s his fault). You just compromised your older dog’s wellbeing and broke a promise to care for him forever. The older dog is not to blame that things aren’t working out — it’s your fault for creating the wrong environment. It’s always on you as the pet parent to make it work well. But it’s the older dog who will suffer in this scenario because of your faulty decision, because now he’s headed to a cold, scary shelter that he may never get out of, and losing the home and family he loves and trusts.

So always look down the road and use as much restraint as possible to see the big picture and make the right decision for the pets already in the house, to whom you’ve already made a commitment. Don’t put them at risk by making the wrong decision, no matter how well-intentioned it may seem at the time. Until you can answer no to the number one question above, the other questions don’t matter yet.

It’s Not Just The Number Of Pets To Consider.

There are numerous variables to consider when determining what type of pet home you will become. Alterations often need to be made to ensure that your home and yard and lifestyle will properly accommodate a specific number of pets. Let’s say you’re a big dog person. Carefully consider the space each large dog needs to be comfortable. But also consider their ages and medical needs, and how active they are. If they’re mostly young and healthy, and you have the indoor and outdoor space available, then drawing your line at, say, five dogs might seem reasonable. If, however, you have big dogs who are older and need a higher level of care, which means higher veterinary costs, more time needed to care for them and comfort them, then you should draw your line at a much smaller number.Also consider the breed you’re interested in — a border collie is infinitely more active than a bulldog and will for most of its life need activities to keep him focused and happy.  Labs tend to become couch potatoes as they mature, while Boxers will always remain childlike and playful. Be sure to match the breed to your other pets’ personalities, and also to your family’s personality. Mismatched pets all too often end up in shelters through no fault of their own.

Another scenario – you want to really get involved in rescue and make a big difference by rescuing as many as possible, but you have a small home. Then consider smaller dogs, or cats. Obviously, most homes can accommodate more small dogs than big dogs. But also consider this: with each pet you rescue, be very mindful of the costs that each pet brings with him. Veterinary, food, grooming, training, petsitting costs — can you afford it?

Okay, I’ve Decided To Get Another Pet. What Else Must I Consider?

Now that you’ve got a picture in mind of what type of pet you want, you need to start looking at personalities. That is a huge deciding factor in how successful you will be at pet parenting. If your home is filled with pets who can’t get along, who bully others, who pick fights, or are afraid and never come out of hiding, and you’re not experienced to managed those relationships, then you’re not doing those pets any favors by taking them in. Rescue isn’t just about saving animals’ lives, it’s about giving them quality of life.

Pet parenting is very similar to child parenting. It’s on you to create and maintain a stable, harmonious environment in the home. If it’s not working in harmony, that’s on you to fix. There are many many resources to help you through tough moments that may (will) come. Your first response to conflict among your pets should never be to send a pet away, like sadly so many people do.

For every pet you bring into your home, you must consider how it will change all of the existing pet relationships. Consider it a trickle-down effect. If the presence of a new pet upsets an existing pet, the existing pet may take out his frustration on another existing pet, who may run and hide, and ultimately get picked on by the rest of the pets as well. Remember, dogs are pack animals. If one acts out, they all very well may do the same. If you are confident in your capabilities to handle such changes in stride, then adopt away!  🙂

If you’re new to pet parenting, then limit yourself for awhile to maybe just two so that you can grow into a competent pet handler. You could be a dog walker or petsitter for other folks in the meantime, to gain invaluable experience and still be contributing to pet welfare while you learn. Then, when you feel more ready, take on more pets as your level of experience increases.

Rescue Away!

The world needs all the pet lovers, rescuers, and pet parents it can get, Lord knows it does. And God Bless You for stepping up to get involved and help. Just be sure to prepare yourself properly ahead of time to be as successful as possible. Ask yourself the tough questions, be honest about your experience and capabilities, and how many pets you can honestly accommodate at one time.  And always feel welcome to “Contact Me” with any questions you have. If I don’t have a ready answer for you, I can find it.

** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **

God Bless and Happy Pet Parenting!

With love and good wishes,
jeannie.   ?

About jeannie:  I’ve been pro-actively involved in pet rescue all of my life. I founded Milagro Senior Pet Refuge© (Phoenix) in 1998, and BareFootPets (TM) in 2008.  Animal welfare has always been and will always be my heart’s work. If my only legacy is that I save a handful of precious souls that would not survive otherwise, I’m good with that.