The more the merrier? Adding a pet to your pet family

I always wanted my pets to play together, but until recently my pets’ personalities just didn’t jive. My dogs were always rude to my cats, and my cats were usually unappreciative of my dogs. My top dog was parental with my young dog, but they didn’t really play. My late middle-aged, sensible Shepherd, Max, was too sensitive to roughhouse with a nut case of an adolescent that played way too rough.


heal betsy and Jake

Many years later, we adopted Jake. My parents helped us adopt Jake by providing transport for him from Joplin, MO, to our farm in Chapel Hill, NC. They tell of an exasperating trip halfway across the country with young Jake goading and attempting to wrestle with their older dog fending him off with snarls and countermoves in the back of their van. After about six hours of driving, the dogs’ growling, chuffing, and body slamming was so annoying that my parents stopped at PetSmart and bought a dog crate to separate them, although even that didn’t entirely stop the commotion.


At our farm, Jake quickly got the nickname “Naughty-Jake” because of his insatiable desire to play (with anything and everyone (chickens, horses) and his extreme self-sufficiency. If Jake gets bored, he’ll set about finding an escape route out of our home and yard and go find fun on his own. Finally, exhausted by Jake’s intellect and high-energy demands we, against the advice of our favorite dog trainer, got a pet for Jake.


Sweet Pinto is Jake’s dog. And they play, wrestle and chase constantly. Jake decides when Pinto can eat, when there will be play, when Pinto isn’t allowed around the little kids, and when Pinto is allowed to counter-surf. Now when Jake escapes, he takes Pinto, who would be lost without his front-man. We have to lock them in the backyard when we want to watch TV because they wrestle so loudly in front of the screen we can’t hear it. This means no TV during thunderstorms, when Pinto is afraid to be outside. But mostly it is awesome. They play all day and I’m not worried that Jake is bored, and Jake’s desire to leave the farm in search of fun is certainly less.


I would love a companion for my Charlie-cat, who seems sort of bored. But on several occasions with foster cats that made temporary visits he has made it quite clear that this is not his desire. (I tell him dopted cats actually do better when they are adopted in pairs, that cats are truly social creatures and derive many benefits from having a companion. He stares blankly out the window during these lectures and pretends not to hear me.)


Prey animals, like rabbits, goats, horses, sheep, and cows, must have companions. The term “get your goat” came about because race horses used to travel with their best friends, goats (goats are smaller and cheaper to feed). If you want to really screw up your competitor, you steal his horse’s goat the night before a race.


Getting a pet for your pet is a big decision. It’s best to do a try-out to see how he or she will get along with your current pet or pets. One way to do that is by working through your local rescue group or shelter. Chances are they will let you foster a pet for a trial period to see how things go. It’s a win-win for them and for you. To find a pet and shelter near you, visit

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