The end of a relationship can be a difficult time. There are a lot of intense emotions and some significant logistical elements to arrange. While it’s only natural that you both want to move on as cleanly as possible, you may find unexpected hurdles to this.
An increasingly common complication is making arrangements for a shared pet. Your cat is as much a part of your family as any other human member. As such, the thought of not being able to take them with you can be heartbreaking. Your former partner is likely experiencing the same feelings.
So, how can you move forward in this scenario? Let’s take a closer look at some options.
At its core, what happens to your cat after a breakup is essentially a custody issue. However, it’s not quite as complex from a legal standpoint. In the eyes of the law in the U.K., a pet is treated as personal property. As such, were the matter to go to court, custody of your cat would likely go to whoever purchased them.
Hopefully, you both want to avoid this type of issue. In this case, a shared custody arrangement may be the most sensible way forward. Nevertheless, you should make the arrangements for this as clear as possible for everyone concerned. Agree on a division of time, arrangements for veterinary or pet insurance costs, and emergency protocols. Collaborate on creating a positive situation that importantly doesn’t put your cat under any undue stress.
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Unfortunately, co-parenting isn’t always a practical way forward. Not only might it create a disruption to your cat’s living arrangements, but it also keeps you and your former partner closely connected. You may not be comfortable with either prospect.
Another approach to deciding who gets your cat is to consider it from a largely financial perspective. Part of handling the stress of moving out after a breakup can involve treating the custody of your pet in a logical manner. Don’t just look at who paid for your shared cat; consider who has the best financial resources to continue caring for them. Which of you already pays the most for food and other costs? Who can keep living in a property where they can be safe and comfortable?
You and your former partner may have strong personal feelings about who your cat should live with, but this shouldn’t be the driving force behind your decisions. You both need to come to an accord that you’ll put your cat’s needs first, no matter what outcome this produces. After all, you have a certain responsibility to put their interests above your own.
Approach this by getting together to take account of your cat’s needs. This could include their physical need for space and whether both or one of you can provide this. If they’re living with a disability, this should include considerations for the health impact moving to a new home or between owners could have. Even establishing which of you the cat has the closest bond with should come into play. Utilize this information to drive your final choice.
Stay mindful of your cat’s current needs throughout this process, though. The tension between you and your partner may be palpable. As such, your cat may start to adopt stress or anxiety-induced behaviour like chewing on power cords. This doesn’t just damage property — it can also be dangerous for your pet. If you find it difficult to reduce the tension, make sure you provide plenty of chew toys to soothe their anxiety.
A breakup is rarely easy and it can be more complex when you share a cat. If co-parenting isn’t a practical option, you may need to base your custody decision-making on which of you has the most appropriate financial resources. However, it’s important to ensure your choices are led by your cat’s physical, medical, and emotional needs. As stressful as this is for you, you should approach the matter in a way that keeps your cat’s disruption and anxiety to a minimum.