When Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt were divorced in 2005, Jennifer’s dog, Norman, was so distraught that he required counseling. Adjusting to divorce is never easy.  While most people agree that a divorce is hard on children, they rarely think of the effect of a divorce on the family pet.

Pets can tell when their owners are fighting or stressed and may act out in order to express their confusion, anger, or sadness. Signs that your dog or cat is upset about a divorce include: 

  • Chewing furniture and personal possessions
  • Barking or meowing
  • Growling or hissing
  • Howling
  • Digging
  • Lethargy
  • Regressing to pre-housebreaking behavior

How can you help your pet handle the divorce? Here are five tips from a San Francisco divorce lawyer Paul Nathan:

  • Try to avoid fighting in front of your pet: Pets are very receptive to their owner’s feelings. When you and your ex fight, your pet will pick up on the negative feelings and become upset.
  • Try to keep changes to a minimum: Although your living situation is changing, try to keep to the routine your pet expects. This will help your pet gradually adjust to his new life. 
  • Understand that your pet has valid feelings: Pets feel the same emotions that humans do: joy, love, grief, anxiety, fear, stress, sadness… Your pet’s life has changed, and he can’t understand why.  Understand that your pet is expressing his feelings in the best way he can.
  • Understand when your pet misbehaves:  Your pet is acting out because of stress. If you physically punish your pet for his behavior problems or force the pet to obey, you will make the problem worse.  Be patient, stick to a routine, and call a professional if there is no improvement.
  • Contact a professional:  Talk to your vet about your pet’s behavior. He may have some suggestions on how to best reassure your pet. If your pet is very anxious, he may refer you to a pet behavior specialist.

Concerned about pet custody? Read our article,When You’re Fighting like Cats and Dogs—Over the Family Pet” to learn more about pet custody in California.

San Francisco divorce attorney Paul Nathan wrote a book to help women through the divorce process. Request your free copy of What Every Woman in California Should Know About Divorce. If you have questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact the Law Offices of Paul H. Nathan at 866-414-4091.

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