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Dr. Karen Becker

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Would You Choose Your Pet Over Your Partner?

Posted: 11/29/11 10:54 AM ET

Results of a survey found that for animal lovers who would choose a pet over a partner, their pets are part of who they are. They can't imagine life without at least one furry or feathered critter in residence.

For animal lovers who are active in organizations that rescue, care for and rehome abandoned pets, it's a way of life they aren't willing to sacrifice.

"Pet people" are passionate in their commitment to the care of animals. This passion is not a passing fancy. For many of us it is a fundamental part of who we are.

We wouldn't be us without our pets and our connection to animals, and in my experience, trying to be someone you're not any relationship -- and especially in an intimate relationship -- is a recipe for disaster.

Pressuring a partner to give up a dearly-loved pet can also result in irreparable damage to a relationship.

Are You as Loyal to Your Pet as He Is to You?

One thing pet owners always point out as very important about their companion animals is their unwavering devotion.

Your spouse or lover, friends, relatives, co-workers and other human types are bound at some point to get mad, frustrated or just plain fed up with you. It's the nature of human relationships.

In contrast, can you think of even one time when your pet seemed disappointed in you?

No matter how you're feeling... no matter if you wake up looking like 10 miles of bad road... no matter if you've just said or done something incredibly stupid... your pet, if you let him, wants nothing more than to hang out with you.

Your dog or cat accepts you "warts and all," expects nothing of you and is happy just to have the opportunity to be in your company. That is the very definition of unconditional love, and it is rarely replicated in human relationships, in my opinion.

Unfailing loyalty is one of the reasons given by those surveyed for choosing a pet over a partner. I would just caution pet owners to strive to always give more than you receive. Devotion should be a two-way street.

Return the loyalty your pet shows you by being the best pet guardian and caretaker you can be.

Gauging "Pet Compatibility" in Relationships

If you're in an established relationship and suddenly find yourself forced to make a choice between a partner and a pet, I can only urge you to search exhaustively for an alternative to giving up your companion animal. Most problems can be fixed if both parties are willing to work toward resolution.

For example, if the problem is a pet that isn't friendly with a new mate or family member, this is a behavior issue that can usually be solved to everyone's satisfaction.

If in the end you feel you have no choice but relinquishment, I hope you'll work with a local rescue organization to find a new forever home for your pet. Do not abandon your pet unless your own personal safety is at risk.

For people who aren't currently partnered, the best advice I can offer is to honestly evaluate how much having a pet means to you, then move forward with self-knowledge.

If a pet isn't that important to you, don't acquire one, and talk with prospective partners about their level of interest in pets to gauge your "pet compatibility" score.

If on the other hand you can't imagine life without pets, don't assume you'll "get over it" if you find yourself attracted to someone who isn't an animal lover.

A Personal Story

When I was a year out of veterinary school, I had a first date planned. We went to a movie at a theater that was next door to the vet clinic where I worked.

One of my patients at the hospital was a female baby cockatoo (a tiny ball of fluff). I was having trouble relaxing during the movie because I was worried the baby bird might get tangled up in her IV line. So I asked my date if he'd mind if we stopped in after the movie so I could make sure the cockatoo was okay. He grudgingly agreed.

As soon as I saw my patient I knew my concern was warranted -- she was tangled in the IV line. I asked my date if he would hold the shoebox nest I'd made for her while I untangled her from the line. His response was, "I'm not touching that bird."

And that was the end of the date. Why waste time with someone who was completely incompatible? The level at which you are both committed to animals is important for your long-term happiness as individuals and as a potential couple.

Dr. Karen Becker is a proactive and integrative wellness veterinarian. You can visit her site at: MercolaHealthyPets.com.

Her goal is to help you create wellness in order to prevent illness in the lives of your pets. This proactive approach seeks to save you and your pet from unnecessary stress and suffering by identifying and removing health obstacles even before disease occurs. Unfortunately, most veterinarians in the United States are trained to be reactive. They wait for symptoms to occur, and often treat those symptoms without addressing the root cause.

By reading Dr. Becker's information, you'll learn how to make impactful, consistent lifestyle choices to improve your pet's quality of life.