The Daily Pip

Promoting rescue, adoption and second chances for dogs, cats, bunnies, and their peeps

Friday, November 17, 2017

Keeping The Peace In A Multi-Pet, Multi-Species Home

We are a multi-pet, multi-species home - rabbit, cat, dog, mice, humans - a mostly furry melting pot of pets, sharing space, trying to peacefully co-exist.

Over the last twenty years, we have had LOTS of animals pass through our home (or yard in the case of feral cats). Most were fosters and went on to find homes of their own. There is clearly a sign in our yard that reads "food and shelter" with an arrow pointing to our back door.

My base crew has always been remarkably accepting of newcomers. Yes, we still have misunderstandings (because cats and dogs are different and rabbits are even MORE different), but we usually find a way to make things work. Plus, living with multiple pets makes life more interesting and lots more fun.

4 tips for a peaceful multiple pet home

4 Tips For Keeping The Peace In A Multi-Pet, Multi-Species Home

1. Perspective Is Everything

Cats and dogs are natural predators while rabbits and mice are prey animals. While everyone gets along pretty well in our house, we always keep in mind that Lulu (bunny) sees and experiences the world very differently than Rosie and Ruby. Whereas Ruby and Rosie enjoy being picked up, Lulu does not. Rabbits often feel threatened when lifted off the ground - kind of like a hawk swooping down and grabbing them. 

Likewise, when dogs and cats are sick, they usually let us know. Maybe they cry or vomit in a high traffic area (where we will eventually notice or step in it). Being sick is not a sign of weakness and doesn’t make them vulnerable. Rabbits are opposite. Prey animals naturally hide their vulnerabilities. By the time their symptoms are apparent, they are often in crisis. I am vigilant (borderline OCD) about monitoring Lulu’s eating, activity level, litter-box, etc. 

Ruby is amazingly sensitive to the needs of those around her, but Rosie sometimes needs gentle reminding not to jump down off the top of the bookshelf directly into Lulu’s space. Neither Ruby nor Rosie have a strong prey drive, which makes all this togetherness possible. Clearly there are many dogs who will never be a good match for rabbits (or cats).

Cats like high places where they can look down on the rest of the world
Rosie likes to be up high
2. Seeing Is Believing 

Cats, dogs, and rabbits not only experience the world differently, they literally see it differently. The rabbit’s visual system is designed to help them detect predators from almost any direction. The placement of their eyes allows them to see both sides as well as above them – but also leaves them with a blind spot directly in front of their face. Yet another reason Lulu doesn’t like when Rosie jumps down right in front of her.

Another difference between the species (and key to a peaceful multiple pet home) is preferred location. Rosie, like many cats, prefers to be up high where she can survey her kingdom while Lulu likes to stay at ground level where she feels safe. Ruby doesn’t really care as long as she’s with people (or other animals). Her need for companionship and to be part of the pack outweighs almost anything else.

Life in a multiple pet home, rabbits don't like to be picked up and prefer to keep their paws on the ground
Lulu likes to keep her paws on the ground
3. Beauty (And Food) Are In The Eye Of The Beholder

Lulu and I are vegetarians while everyone else in the house (including the mice) are omnivores or carnivores. The key difference between the carnivore and the herbivore diet is not what they are eating, but when and how often they are eating. Lulu gets a morning and evening salad and hay to graze on all day. Her health depends on keeping her digestive system moving (similar to a horse’s system). 

Ruby and Rosie are on mealtime feeding. Both are incapable of grazing and self-moderation. If there is food, it must be eaten NOW. When we are out, we do leave a little food out for Rosie (off the ground where Ruby can’t get to it), but I am pretty sure she eats it all at once. The mice are omnivores and like Lulu, enjoy grazing.

In terms of how it works with one vegetarian and two non-vegetarian humans, when we are at home and I am cooking, we eat vegetarian. When we are out, my non-vegetarian husband and daughter eat what they want. Compromise works wonders especially in a multiple pet (and multiple food choice ) home. 

Dogs don't care where they are at as long as they are with their family or pack
Ruby just wants to be with family
4. Don't Sweat The Small Stuff

With so many different pets and perspectives living under one roof, we have lots of “OMG, What Are They Doing” moments. Most of these misunderstandings occur between Rosie and Lulu who are at the opposite ends of the spectrum. To bridge these gaps, we have our own internal command that almost everyone (except the newcomer mice) understands - 'move along', which translates to 'mind your own business and walk away'.

Ruby was made for living with multiple pets. She’s kind of like a hybrid of dog, cat, and rabbit. She respects Rosie’s need to be boss (and look down on her) and always approaches Lulu from the sides, avoiding her bunny blind spot. Although Ruby is all about the beef, she’s happy to share some veggies with me – and has on occasion helped herself to some of Lulu’s hay.

I'm new here, stay tuned
Final Thoughts - Yes, We Can Learn To Get Along 

Ruby, Lulu, and Rosie may never see the world in the same way, but they have learned to peacefully co-exist and could most definitely teach humans a thing or two about tolerance and acceptance. 

Disclaimer: Of course, some dogs are never going to be OK living with bunnies (or cats). This post is based on our personal experience. Please use common sense and caution when introducing any new animal to your household. 



Bouncing Bertie said...

Thanks for a fascinating and informative post. The perspective on the different needs of predators and prey species is particularly interesting. And perhaps you have explained why one of my childhood pets, the appropriately names 'Nibbles' always bit whoever made the mistake of trying to pick him up!
Cheers, Gail.

The Swiss Cats said...

Great post ! That's a lot of very interesting information ! It's always good to keep in mind how to think like cat/rabbit/... before adding a new pet to the family, and for helping them to get along together. Purrs

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
The J's were a guinea pig, a cat and a dog and they got along famously! It did take a little bit of early training, as Jet GP was the first in the pack - and a surprisingly natural leader, being a giant of his species and quite the pawsonalitee! - and Jasper Cat was next. Therefore the dog was actually the lower member of the pack and this worked fine until long after Jet had departed, and we moved home. In the new place, new territory, there were a few days of argy-bargy as she made a coup attempt. She lost. Jasper remained the leader and all settled into peace and love again! The two were inseparable after that and I shall always treasure Jade's last month, when Jasper made sure I was looking after her properly. The morning he left her side, I knew it was time. YAM xx

Emma said...

We live with the cats. Cat bro Bert hangs out with us dogs a lot and sometimes we do get a bit rough with him, but Mom puts a stop to that. Because we are serious hunters and so is cat bro Bert, Mom says it would be too dangerous to have other species like wabbits in the house. She doesn't really want any more pets anyway, but the subject has come up a few times.

Sheltie Times said...

I think temperament plays a big part too even with multi animal homes of same species. If you have tolerant animals who can be more laid back with others it's easier to manage having more.

The one rescue fail we had was a result of failure to disclose aggressive behavior. It immediately unbalanced our multi-dog household as the two that were here got along great and the new one was attacking everyone and needed to be in any only dog home. He couldn't abide living with others.

I loved your discussion of the different feeding needs.

Casey said...

I've never lived with a bunny. Some have tried living in our yard, but Jessie doesn't believe in coexistence! But we do get along grreat with our kitty sister!

Sandra said...

wow, I read every word because I have often wondered how all your animals live together. so much info I had no idea. our jake doesn't like anyone but us, no dogs no anything. but I think we made him that way. 2 late now since he is 13. but I will use your info and knowledge when Jake is no longer with us. I really love your new baby..

Momma Kat and Her Bear Cat said...

Truly exceptional post! I hadn't considered the difference in perspective in predator vs. prey - and how each is adapted physically and emotionally to which side they fall. Thank you for sharing this post - I learned a lot, it gave me some things to think about, and it was well-thought out :)

Madi and Mom said...

Bravo Kristin!!! what a great post and so informative!!
Yep don't sweat the small stuff and live and love each day to the fullest
Hugs to you and all the species in your home
Madi and Cecilia

Sarabbits said...

Great post, and timely for me! We just recently took in two stray bunnies, and are slowly introducing them to our dog and cat. Thanks for this perspective on creating a peaceful coexistence for all of us! I especially appreciate that your bunny is an equally valued family member, as ours are. They are just as deserving of love and proper care as our beloved dog and cat (and it annoys me when people suggest otherwise)!

Molly the AireGirl said...

What an awesome post! We learned so much today! Thank you☺

Murphy said...

We cannot imagine having a kitty or bunny to play with at our house! Actually, we can imagine but mom says it would likely be more of a nightmare. Good for you all being peaceful!

Your Pals,

Murphy & Stanley

♥♥ The OP Pack ♥♥ said...

Such a great post. We learned a lot about nondog pets. Now we could never live with a cat or a bunny unless there was only one of us and we grew from puppyhood with the other species. But we are in awe of how well you manage so many.

Woos - Lightning, Misty, and Timber

Brian said...

We lve this post and your entire special family!!!

Idaho PugRanch said...

A very interesting and informative post!! love how you have learned what each pet needs and figure out how to make it all work
Hazel & Mabel

M. K. Clinton said...

I love that all of your pets can co-habitat. Bentley and Pierre would not do well with another species except maybe fish. LOL!

Foley Monster, Pocket and River Song said...

Thank you for taking in all these pets. You taught me a great deal about rabbits. My dogs tip their tails to you.

Ruby said...

Oh, that is so cool! All kinds of anipals in one house! Of course you make it work! Ruby, it's Ruby ☺, You are a cooler pupper than me! I always have to be the boss! BOL! I've been tryin' to boss Ma around lately, butts she seems to be resisting. sigh. Anyhu, your house is sooo cool! I'll be overs for beef night!
Ruby ♥

Denise Gruzensky said...

I think it is so amazing how they all get along together. That is such a special thing, hopefully, I'll get to see it someday in person! It makes PAWfect sense, but I had no idea that rabbits had a blind spot.

The Adventures of The Bell Fur Zoo said...

Pawesome post!!! Mama says we also has dat sign on our house.. All da strays and neighbor cats love our yard and nose Mama has sucker written across her forehead.

I also get da "move along" command but it's more like da "Tilda doesn't want your toy." command. BOL BOL I are always finking her are trying to steal my stuffs.

Matt & Matilda

Marv Marvelous said...

Great Post! When my children were young we had cats, dogs, birds and fish. Yes, the 2 budgies got along well with the cat. He did not look at them the same way as the birds outside (which were prey) and Joey used to sit on his head, or snuggle up to him when it was cold. I remember watching him "give Joey a bath" one day, wondering if I should intervene.
Thanks! I shall pass this post along to a friend who does not blog.
Marv's Mom

meowmeowmans said...

Such a great and informative post. You did such a wonderful job of explaining so many things that must be taken into account in a multi-species household!

KB Bear said...

I actually cannot imagine keeping such diverse animals safe around each other. I'm afraid that our Labs' prey drive is so high that I'd never trust them with a rabbit. I'm so glad that it all works out for you! Thanks for a fun post!

Three Chatty Cats said...

Hi Rosie! Love seeing you on the blog. We only have two species indoors, so it's not too bad. I'm glad that everyone can co-exist nicely in your household!

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