Everyone talks about the consequences of divorce on children, positive or negative. What we never talk about is how prone our beloved pets are to changes in our emotional state — which makes them far more likely to respond to a divorce than even our children, who aren’t paying attention to what we do unless we throw a ceramic dish across the room during a heated argument with our soon-to-be ex-spouse. So how does divorce affect your pets?
Animal behaviorist Kate Mournement acknowledged that dogs, in particular, can suffer from anxiety and depression when parting from loved ones, even when they still retain companionship during the split. She said, “I do see quite a few cases of pets with behavior problems following separation or divorce….most commonly separation anxiety in dogs. Any big disruption to their normal routine or breaking of attachment bonds affects them a lot.”
But she also acknowledged that divorce can also have a positive impact on pets when the underlying human behavior those pets were witnessing is terrible. For example, the aforementioned arguments and plate throwing might make divorce a good thing for your pets over the long-term (or your kids).
Mornement said, “When couples do separate, it’s often a positive if there’s been any sort of verbal or physical abuse pets witness, like kids, that can cause some stress and anxiety.”
Changes in routine can be devastating for pets who grow accustomed to the daily grind. This is especially true for cats, whereas dogs will have more emotional problems during the divorce process. These changes in routine might include different living arrangements or constant moving around if the animal’s owners determine that shared custody is fairest. Keep in mind that pets treat their owners like family, too.
Couples with more than one pet will sometimes split them apart during a divorce, meaning they lose two of these family members — the “brother” or “sister” and the spouse who left. More pets can result in an even more problematic equation. Generally, it’s better for all pets to end up in one place (unless they didn’t get along).
Pet owners sometimes decide to part ways with their fur babies because of behavioral problems that manifest during the divorce proceedings. Animals know that something’s going on, and they act out much in the way that a child might — except with different methods. Dogs and cats might urinate in the house or become more anxious and cause damage when owners are away for too long. Owners who have this problem might try collars that release pheromones over time.
Have you noticed changes in your pet’s behavior during divorce proceedings? They might be depressed. Symptoms might include sleeping too much, overeating or undereating, excessive licking, hiding, and sadness. Less common is overt aggression, but pet owners should note that some animals become hostile when they perceive hostility in the home. Remember: they don’t always know why you’re angry — or with whom you’re angry.