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Multiple owners for pets and the issues

Written By: Jane Davidson RVN

We often talk about the impact of multi pet households with our clients for many good reasons. Integrating new pets takes time and patience and particularly for cats there needs to be some spent on increasing the available resources (water bowls, feeding stations, litter trays etc). We know that cats aren’t the best at sharing so extra attention is needed. While dogs are more traditional ‘pack’ animals, we’d always advise pet owners to consider exercise and feeding needs; and rabbits…  another world entirely so let me get onto the point of this blog.


The number of pets is not the only important factor in a household - the number of owners or carers for a pet has an impact on the care given. This might seem obvious but who feeds, walks and pays for treatment is an important aspect of getting good home care for your pets. It’s not always clear to us at the vets who the main carer is in a household so it’s worth telling us who you’ll need to share information with and if we can help you in any way with that.

Multi-owner pets can occur in many situations:

  • Several adults in one home
  • Children taking responsibility for their own pets
  • Cats that visit multiple houses
  • Dogs with dog walkers
  • Regular kennel visits/pet sitters utilised
  • Wildlife issues



Who feeds our pets is a HUGE deal! Many pets bond more with those that feed them and it’s often clear in a household who gives the secret treats at the dinner table! Many of us have family members who do this (but deny it all the time) and wonder how you’ve worked it out… but the dogs gathering round one person every meal time usually gives it away!

With pet obesity a growing (insert suitable pun here) problem, I’ve often found that where multiple people feed a pet it can be hard to keep track of how much they’ve been fed. Cats and dogs can be very convincing that they’re hungry and, as we often show love through giving food, it’s easy to fall into the trap of over feeding.

A simple feeding chart on the wall might help but there are also pet medication apps that could be used by several people to record who has given food and when.



Who ‘owns’ a pet is actually more complex than you’d think and multiple adults providing care might make it harder. If you have any worries about who could claim to ‘own’ a dog you feel is yours it’s worth checking what the courts would look at to see who owns a dog. Cats are similar, as all pets are seen as ‘property’ but they are a little more complex so I’ll focus on dogs.

  • Who pays the vet bills
  • Who is registered at the vets
  • Who is registered at the chip company
  • Who bought the dog initially
  • Whose name is on the health insurance
  • Who does the majority of the care

More can be found if you click here

In a multi-owner household you may split these roles between you and you each provide what you can. However it’s worth considering who is ultimately responsible for the pet’s health if things go wrong. If people move out of the household, who takes on the roles of caring. If the pet is sick, who decides what treatment to go for and who will pay.



This might seem to take the shine off having a household pet. I know of many shared houses lived in by friends where the resident pet, often a cat, provides a lot of comfort and affection and makes a house share a home. The cat has lived there through successive sharers and all has been fine.

Yet once there is a health problem it can cause issues. There needs to be one person, or at most two, who take overall responsibility for the pet. Speaking from experience, dealing with pets that are unwell and have multiple owners can really complicate and slow down the treatment process. Waiting for several parties to decide on what they wish to do to treat a patient takes time and then having more than one person contact to consent to treatment is really confusing.

If there are several of you providing care, it can make things much better for you and the pet if you can decide BEFORE any ill health happens who is taking overall responsibility. Even if the pet is insured there are often still excess payments or upfront payments to make so someone needs to be able to do this. In many situations, the pet may then require further treatment once at home, so there needs to someone, preferably one person, who will take the responsibility for future medication and check ups.


Sharing a pet

Sharing a pet is often the only way many of us can provide care especially if we work full time away from home. Pets can really benefit from multiple carers but it’s worth defining who will take financial and medical responsibility for the pet and make sure you communicate that with your vets. It makes successful treatment much easier and less stressful for all.

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