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Mixing It Up with Multiple Species

For thirty years I’ve had multiple species in my home, and yes, there have been a few disagreements. I like to refer to my pet-style as ‘The Brady Bunch’: full and diverse.

In the late ’90s, I had a mature Lhasa and adopted two kittens. There was much hissing and spitting at first as the kittens weren’t sure about the dog. Within a week or two, they all learned the universal standard that cats rule and dogs drool. Actually, Tasha never drooled, but she learned cats required space.

I’ve always had parakeets. As the kittens grew, I had to modify the birds’ cage location. It started out sitting on a table and soon ended up hanging from the ceiling, free of nearby feline launch pads. With a little forethought, everyone lived harmoniously—and safely. I had goldfish, hamsters and a turtle during that time, and never had a problem keeping the peace once safe cage locations were established. It also required having safe places for the small animals while cleaning their little homes: the hamsters rolled about in a plastic ball and the fish swam in a temporary bowl.

Then I married and the family grew by another mature dog and cat. The dogs never became BFFs but they did tolerate each other. The felines took a few weeks to establish their new hierarchy. The goldfish were eventually replaced with tropical fish with huge aquariums. Truthfully, I had a harder time keeping the kids out of the water than the cats.

After my last parakeet, I moved up to a macaw. The cage went from hanging from the ceiling to standing six feet tall off the floor. Instead of finding ways to protect the bird from the cats, I now had to protect the cats—and everyone else in the household—from the bird. “Taz” even chased a hundred pound Labrador from a room when he was trying to bathe in the water dish.

Somewhere in there I adopted a rabbit who became good buddies to one of my collies. Another bunny liked to hop about and tease the cats, who instinctively knew not to mess with those powerful back feet. One day I caught my fifteen-pound Maine Coon Cat yowling and reared back in a corner, trying desperately to escape my four-pound dwarf rabbit who fancied himself a ninja. It all worked out without anyone losing fur.

Instinct has been my best partner for maintaining peace over multiple species. Combined with some forethought and planning, I’ve never had a serious situation, though I’ve survived plenty of funny ones. Like when the macaw went to unlock the rabbit’s cage and got bitten—and then got stuck on its cage.

Ryan Jo Summers is a local animal advocate and author. Visit her website at, visit her blog at or her Facebook page at

Editor’s note: Look for Part II in the November-December issue of PetGazette.


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