Valentine’s Day is around the corner. Love is in the air. You and your beau are about to share some much-needed alone time. Your pet, however, has other plans. If your dog or cat seem to insert themselves right when things are about to get hot and heavy, you’re not alone. Millions of pet parents who are on the dating scene or coupled up know the struggle.
Are pet parents doomed to have a subpar intimate life? Does dog or cat ownership negatively impact intimacy? We answer all these questions and provide tips to keep the fire alive, even with pets, below:
A controversial topic to say the least, but we're not here to tell you to ban your beloved pet from bed. In fact, when surveyed, 86% of Figo's Instagram audience admitted that they happily snooze away with their dog or cat by their side. While that's not necessarily an issue per se - research has shown that sleeping next to a pet can alleviate feelings of anxiety - it can have an impact on your romantic relationships.
You may need to designate a specific spot, like a crate, dog bed, or cat tree if your significant other is also regularly sharing the bed. Not only will that free up more space for the two of you, but it also ensures your dog won't be jumping up and around at inopportune moments. The rest of the time, if everyone in the situation is comfortable with it, go ahead and let them up when it's time to sleep.
It’s no secret: our pets are obsessed with us. It’s not uncommon for them to attach to one person and follow them around all day. Some pet parents report they are unable to even use the bathroom without their dog or cat tagging along. While this can be an endearing sign that your pet admires you, it can also be detrimental to your romantic life.
Your dog may be more agitated or protective than normal the first time you bring a new date home. Or the cat could turn territorial over their favorite person’s spot, hissing at any partner who tries to invade that space. These instances are frustrating and can be a mood killer.
"This can certainly become an obstacle for an owner that has a new love interest. But studies also have also shown that even pets with two consistent 'parents' typically favor one owner in a partnership. It can lead to possessive behavior." says Figo team member and former vet tech Liz Bastidas. "Dogs that are possessive have the sense that they are in control in the household. This behavioral trait of being possessive or protective can be genetic but it can also be unintentionally taught."
How do you prevent these unfortunate incidents? Bastidas has a few recommendations:
"First, ensure you've taken your pet to the vet and ruled out any medical issues that may be agitating them. If you've determined that their possessiveness is behavioral only, introduce a system of rewards to encourage good behavior around your partner. If your pet becomes unruly, either ignore the behavior, or redirect to a more desirable behavior like sitting on a mat with a toy, and reward for that. With enough consistency, you can theoretically teach them to behave around your date or partner."
Feeling the FOMO
Maybe your dog or cat isn’t necessarily possessive, but curiosity can often get the better of our fur-covered companions. Pet parents who leave their door ajar in a moment of passion may find that their inquisitive friend has dropped in on the fun. If you find yourself in this position, go ahead and laugh it off. Pets are naturally investigative creatures, and if your partner becomes enraged by this innocent disturbance, you may have bigger issues to worry about. Take precautions in the future by ensuring you have at minimum a bedroom door that closes and locks.
Still, some curious kitties won’t take no for an answer. In that case, we recommend background music to drown out the sounds of any cat scratches or paw pounding that may ensue. And don’t forget to leave a few toys, treats, or puzzles outside the room for your pup or cat, too. It can help take their focus off what’s going down in the bedroom – at least for the time being.
Center of attention
What about those pets who have become accustomed to being the only object of your affection? If you typically ride solo and your pup is your right-hand man, they may need time to adjust to another presence around town. Typically, this manifests in what we interpret as misbehavior. Barking, jumping, clawing, and hissing; you’re left embarrassed and surprised by your normally polite pet child. Before you get angry, realize that this is your pet’s attempt to reclaim your attention.
"Our pets want to show their love for us, and inserting themselves is the only way they know how to do that," says Bastidas. "It can definitely also be signs of a jealous dog."
Spend some quality 1:1 time with your dog or cat prior to entertaining any guests. Ensure they’re fed, walked, and have had any cuddles they need well in advance. It can also be useful to have a command like “place” in your repertoire, so your pet knows to give your new friends a bit of space when they arrive. Finally, designating a special bone or treat-filled toy for pets will keep them entertained and out of the way when things get a little heated.
It’s me or the cat
It’s not unheard of for coupled pet parents to report jealousy between partners and the pets they adore. In truth, many pet owners spend more time gushing over their animal companions than their human ones. Can you really blame them? Our pets live a fraction of the time we do. It’s important to make them feel loved and special while they're with us.
If this is a dealbreaker for either person in the relationship, clear communication is key. You may even find it important enough to broach on a first date if you anticipate it being an issue. Some people aren’t crazy about dogs or cats, and if your pet is your life, that’s likely to lead to incompatibilities. So don’t be afraid to discuss it maturely and make sure you’re on the same page before proceeding.
Caring for a pet is a big responsibility, and it can certainly cause stress on individuals in any relationship. Even if you've established that your partner is a pet lover, resentment can build if one pet parent is left with unequal responsibility. If you feel your partnership is consistently unequal and begins to negatively impact the relationship, give this idea a try:
"Last year for Christmas, my husband Eric and I gave each other a one-time dog duty 'get out of jail free' card," Bastidas recalls. "Essentially, if one of us was really tired or having a bad day we would use our 'get out of jail free' card so the duty fell on the other person for that specific day."
When in doubt, open communication is key! If you're feeling burdened, let your partner know. You can work out a schedule or compromise and ask them to pick up the slack on other responsibilities instead.
Tips for a pet-free evening
Our pets are everything to us, but sometimes we just need alone time with our partners. If you’re looking for a bit of space, here are our top tips to make it happen:
Tire them out:walk and mentally stimulate your pet before your evening activities commence. They’ll be less likely to bother and more content to just chill.
Save the good stuff:give out special bones and treats only when your date or partner arrives. The goodies will ensure your pet associates their company with good things
Close the door: close and lock your bedroom door when the fun starts. You can start in small increments and build up if your dog or cat suffers from separation anxiety.
Set the mood:music can help mask the sound of a whining dog or scratching cat. Of course, you should never ignore your pet if they’re in genuine distress, but sometimes they just need to let out their frustration before they end up settling down on the couch.
Train, train, train: it’s important to regularly train your dog – and even your cat – so date night goes as smoothly as possible. Teaching your dog to settle in “place” is an important one. You don’t want them jumping all over your guest. If you're struggling on your own, a certified trainer can certainly help refine your pet's manners.
Pet sleepover:if you really need some time with your boo for a special occasion, why not arrange a sleepover for your pup or cat? Have a friend take them for the night and offer to watch their pet another time in exchange. Or if your dog has a boarding place that they love and are comfortable with, why not give them their own little vacation?
Lizz Caputo is a Content Strategist at Figo, animal enthusiast, and owner of a rescued senior American Bully. Her hobbies include checking out new restaurants in her area, boxing, and petting dogs of all shapes and sizes.