9 ways to manage a multi-pet household

Living with multiple pets can be a lot of work, but it's also a lot of fun. If you're one of the lucky Kiwis who have more than one pet, you know that life can be a little crazy. Between the barking, meowing, and scratching, it's sometimes hard to know how to keep the peace between species.

But don't worry – we've got you covered. Check out these 9 tips for managing a multi-pet household. Your sanity (and your pets) will thank you!

What is a multi-pet home?

A multi-pet home is a household with more than one pet under the same roof. This can include multiple dogs, cats, birds, reptiles, rabbits, guinea pigs or fish.

Multi-pet households are becoming increasingly popular as people recognise the benefits of pet ownership for both their physical and mental health.

There are a few things to consider before adding another pet to your home, such as whether you have the time and energy to care for another animal, if you have enough space, and whether your current pets will get along with a new addition.

The challenges of multi-pet homes

The biggest challenge of living in a multi-pet home is keeping everyone happy and healthy. This can be a lot of work, but it's also gratifying. Some animals also benefit from four-legged companionship, but it is important to consider your individual animal’s personality.

It's essential to be prepared for the potential challenges that can come with multi-pet households, such as:

  • Increased responsibility and possible damages
  • Household conflicts between pets
  • Competition for attention
  • Food costs can vary between animals and their requirements
  • Increased vet bills

If you've decided that a multi-pet household is right for you, here are 9 tips to help keep all furry household members happy:

Prioritise pet-proofing

This is especially important if you're adding a puppy or kitten to your home, but all pets benefit from pet-proofing.

Some things to consider are:

  • Hiding or removing potential hazards, such as toxic plants, cleaning products, and medications
  • Making sure electrical cords are out of reach
  • Keeping garbage cans and recycling bins securely closed
  • Putting away food and snacks that could be tempting for pets

Adopt like-minded pets

Opposites don't always attract, and this true for pets. When adding a new mate to your home, it's important to consider their personality and whether they would be a good match for your current pets.

For example, if you have a sociable, high-energy dog, add another social dog to the mix. This way, they can play and exercise together and won't get bored or destructive.

Adding a rambunctious kitten to the household is not the best idea if you have a laid-back cat. Instead, try to look for an adult cat with a similar personality, or adopt two kittens, so they can keep each other entertained and out of trouble.

Create a consistent routine

The reward of routine can be a calm and happy home for you and your pets.

Try to keep mealtimes, walks, and playtime as consistent as possible. This will help your pets know what to expect and when to expect it, which can reduce stress levels for everyone involved.

Introduce pets slowly

Taking things slow is important when bringing a new pet into your home. Pets need time to adjust to their new surroundings and get to know each other. A good way to introduce dogs to each other for the first time, can be for them to meet in a neutral area, such as in the backyard or at a nearby park. For cats, initially keep them separate and gradually introduce them by swapping scents and feeding on opposite sides of a closed door to build a positive association while keeping them both safe.

Let them sniff and explore each other at their own pace. If they seem to be getting along, you can gradually start increasing their time together until they're comfortable living in the same space.

Understand your pet’s signs

Pets can get overwhelmed just like people, so it's important to be in tune with their stress signals. This way, you can take a step back and give them space before things escalate.

Signs in dogs:

  • Pacing or shaking
  • Increased heart rate and panting
  • Yawning
  • Drooling
  • Hiding or acting depressed
  • Hypervigilance
  • Aggression

Signs in cats:

  • Increased hiding
  • Feigned sleeping or resting
  • Defensive aggression towards cats or people
  • Lack of play activity
  • Over-grooming
  • Litter box problems or spraying
  • Increased facial rubbing or scratching on surfaces

Give everyone their own space

One of the best ways to reduce conflict between pets can be to create separate spaces for them to eat, sleep, and play. This way, each pet has their own space that they can claim as their own.

It's also important to have separate food and water bowls for each and other resources like toys, beds, and scratching posts. This way, there's no competition over who gets to eat or drink first, or who can use which toys.

Cat trees, cat shelves or window perches are easy and effective ways to help cats feel as if they have more physical space. Provide at least one litter tray per cat plus one extra tray in separate locations.

And don't forget the most important resource, your attention!

Create an emergency plan

Just like most aspects of managing a multi-pet household, additional planning is required when it comes to organising an emergency plan that caters to the interests and safety of each of your pets. SPCA has all your bases covered with this in-depth guide about animals in emergencies.

Make sure you know the contact information for your local animal hospital or an emergency vet. You should also have a list of pet-friendly hotels or shelters if you need to evacuate your home.

Ensure all your pets are microchipped and registered on the Companion Animals NZ Register, so you can reunite quickly if you are separated.

Set a pet budget

Money matters can be one of the biggest sources of stress in a multi-pet household. That's why it can be important to create a budget and stick to it.

Some things you'll need to consider are:

  • Pet food
  • Vet care
  • Pet insurance
  • Grooming supplies
  • Toys and treats
  • Boarding or pet sitting

To help protect your budget from the unexpected, you could include SPCA Pet Insurance in your expenses. This way, you can have peace of mind knowing that you can be covered for up to 90% of eligible vet bills1 in case your cat or dog stumbles into the wrong adventure. 


  1. Pre-existing conditions are excluded. Limits, sub-limits, and annual condition limits may apply. A $2,000 annual condition limit applies to Everyday Cover.