Can different species of pets live together?

Being a big city vet is not just about caring for cats and dogs. In fact many of my clients are surprised at the diversity of animals that I treat in an urban environment.

Some of you might remember my Facebook post from last year, when I was called out to examine a sore leg on Porko, the cranky 150kg “not so mini pig”?

And just last month I shared a photo of Kasper the goat, who happily lives in the farmyard of Vaucluse House with Pan, the other resident goat, and a well-loved menagerie of chickens and ducks. I regularly visit Vaucluse House to trim the hooves of Kasper and Pan and here’s a picture of the last time I visited when he had 5 chickens riding on his back!

So yes, animals from many species can happily cohabit, but there are some basic steps you need to follow to ensure all your pets are safe and happily.

animal species-1What species of animals can I keep as a pet?

Always check with your local council, State government or the Australian Government first before buying a pet, remembering that rules vary according to where you live. However, as a basic rule, most breeds of the following species are legal to keep as pets: dogs, cats, pigs, cattle, goats, horses, mules, ass, sheep, rabbits, hares, mice, rats, deer and even camels ….but you’d need a pretty large backyard if you’re considering a camel!

With birds and fish it depends on the breed as to whether you can keep them as a pet or not. More exotic species such as reptiles, hybrid cats, many native animals, primates, llamas and alpacas, ferrets, golden hamsters are either illegal or they require a special licence.

But remember to always check first as heavy fines can apply!!

Which species don’t get on?

While there are always exceptions to the rule, there are usually problems with keeping these different species of pets together in the same household.

Cats with fish/birds and/or rodents. Unless you know your bird/rat/mouse is safely caged at all times and your fish tank is totally enclosed on inaccessible don’t even think about this combination. In the wild they are naturally predator and prey.

Various sizes and breeds of birds Cohabiting in a small cage can be very stressful for smaller birds and they may self harm themselves.

Rabbits and guinea pigs. Rabbits carry bacteria that could cause a serious respiratory disease in guinea pigs and they also sometimes bully guinea pigs.

Ferrets and small mammals and/or birds. Ferrets are carnivores and they’re fast. Quick movement by small mammals can trigger a predator-prey instinct and they may find a way to wiggle into your bird cage when you’re not there.

Reptiles and other pets. Reptiles, especially snakes, might attempt to prey upon your pet birds or rodents, and they also carry salmonella, which can infect other animals (and humans).

animal species-2What about cats and dogs?

Although cats and dogs are the most common species of pets that happily cohabit, this usually only works well if they have grown up together or if both the cat and the dog have had early socialisation with kittens or puppies.

In nature, most dogs (especially hunting breeds) are hard-wired to chase small, furry, rapidly moving animals..which is exactly what most cats are. And because cats are very territorial they can often terrorise and harm exuberant young puppies!

Basically, if dogs and cats are not used to the other species they will need to be carefully introduced to each other and supervised for quite some time before you can trust them alone together. But if properly introduced they do often form lifelong friendships.

How do I introduce a new pet?

Even if you’re introducing the same species to each other you need to do it slowly and carefully….and always under supervision. Older animals, in particular, may find puppies or kittens threatening and annoying. And every pet has their own unique personality and every situation is different.

It would be absolutely devastating if you had to rehome one of your pets, or if one of them was traumatised, injured, or even the unthinkable worse case scenario… killed by your other pet.

If you’re thinking about introducing another species to your home but you’re in anyway unsure, a mobile vet can help. Before you decide on a new pet we can come and assess temperament of your existing pet and your home environment to help you decide whether the combination of species you’re considering will ensure all of your pets will be safe and secure.

And even if you already have a new addition but you’re at all worried about how your pets are interacting with each other or you’d just like some practical advice on how to introduce them to each other, we can also come and help out with that too.

Sadly, just like humans, some pets are just never going to get along. Sometimes getting to a point of tolerance may be your best case scenario, rather than becoming best buddies.

But with a little guidance and the right forward planning, you never do know… and your pets may end up becoming as close as Kasper and Pan the goats and their little menagerie of chickens and ducks.

How Can I Help Your Pet?