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 Keeping The Peace In A 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.