Say you’re both animal lovers who’ve just started dating. Things are progressing well. On the second or third date, that’s when the person you’ve been seeing proudly introduces you to their beloved pet for the first time. But instead of tail-wagging or purring sociably, you get a completely different reaction from their pet: a growl or a snarl, or, worse, a bite.
To any devoted animal lover, all pets are alike in the way they’re seen as family members. And if you’re an animal lover too, you’ll know this to be true! But as much as pets can bring people together, they can also come between them. Still, there’s no reason to panic or head for the exit in your budding relationship. The next time Oscar the cat glares at you when you sit on your date’s couch, here’s how everyone involved – including the pet – can learn to warm up to each other.
1. Woo the affronted pet with playtime.
It might seem counterintuitive to dedicate one-on-one playtime with your date’s pet when, thus far, it has only snapped at you. But as animal lovers, you’re probably familiar with how any pet can be easily won over with their favourite toy or activity. Coaxing your date’s pet into enjoying positive interactions with you is surely the first step towards an amicable relationship.
Try scheduling a date where you’ll get to be the pet’s playmate for a day, with their owner present. Pick out a new treat or toy and present it to the pet personally, so that they will come to associate you with good things. Or take over feeding duties. Hand-feeding in particular is a great way to bond with small animals.
Think of it this way: Dating an animal lover is also about winning over their pet’s trust. But that’s what makes it extra special – when you have a furry plus-one as a bonus.
2. Become more knowledgeable about pet behaviour.
Did your heart break when your date’s pet glared at you? Oh, the woes of animal lovers dating other animal lovers. Don’t take it personally, though. The simple fact is that animals like routine. Anything that disrupts their sense of routine, like a new regular guest in their owner’s presence, might give them stress and cause them to act out. If you’re also feeling stressed about whether the pet likes you, their keen perception of human emotions can pick this up too.
Instead of wondering why the pet is behaving in such a way, find out more about their specific pet behaviour on the Internet or through books. Understand that even if you’ve had pets before, it does not mean that you’re an expert in animal psychology or training. Different types of pets can also behave differently. Not only will your newfound knowledge seriously impress the person you’re seeing, it will also enable you to befriend the pet more successfully.
3. Have a conversation before getting serious.
Is everything going well, except for the pet? Then it’s best to have a conversation about the problems you might face with the pet, before you start getting serious. Every animal lover considers their pet a significant part of their life, and having such a conversation is also crucial to evaluate if your values and how you conduct your relationship with your pet are compatible.
Make sure the person you’re seeing understands their pet is likely to behave differently or to show initial resistance to you. Focus instead on how you will both work to overcome this issue – as a team. Be clear about what you need to feel better or to work towards gaining the pet’s trust. After all, it’s important to practise good communication as early as possible in any relationship. This will prevent “pet peeves” from blowing up into major disagreements in future.
4. Call in the expert, if needed.
If this isn’t the first time the pet has exhibited aggressive behaviour to strangers, it might be time to consider calling in an expert. The first port of call is always a veterinarian to check if there is an underlying medical condition behind why your pet behaves the way it does. A trainer can also work with your pet to help keep their stress at bay so they can socialise more effectively with new people. It may cost more, but it can be worth it to keep the pet happy or healthy in the long run.
If you’re broaching this subject with the person you’re seeing, have this conversation in the absence of the pet. The person who owns the pet will generally tend to be more sympathetic – or even defensive – about their pet. But let them know that your concern for the pet is genuine and that you want the pet to be a part of your lives in an amicable or loving way.
5. Show empathy and compassion to the pet as much as you can.
Yes, it might be hard to find it in your heart to warm up to, or even to love, a pet who doesn’t really like you at first growl. But don’t forget that an animal that gives you a hard time is often coping with their own anxiety and stress as well. Neither should you pretend to have effusive reactions to the pet if they are not genuine.
Give yourself and the pet the leeway to warm up to each other on your own time. That way, when you do have positive interactions with each other, you’ll be forming a genuine, lasting connection with each other. And while you’re at it, you’ll be bonding intimately with the person you’re seeing in a way that only animal lovers dating other animal lovers will get.
Meeting someone who likes you as much as their pet does is completely paw-sible in our books. Keen to connect with other animal-loving singles? Sign up now!