Should Pets Be Allowed to Share Toys, Bowls, and Other Belongings?
Veterinary experts advise that it is mostly safe—except in one behavioral case.
When it comes to our furry friends, it's often much easier—and more cost effective—to let them share everything from food and water bowls to toys. Luckily, veterinarians says that's totally fine—in most cases, that is. "Sharing of bowls and toys is generally safe as long as both pets are healthy and have no problems with possessive aggression," says Jennifer Coates, DVM, advisory board member for Pet Life Today. Assuming those aren't concerns, she says, let your pets share away. But if your pets have possession aggression—a broad term used to describe threatening behavior a pet might display around their toys or possessions, such as growling, hissing, or biting—then it is best to provide them with their own food and water bowls and toys.
What's more, "pets with potentially transmissible diseases should be isolated—and this includes objects with which they have contact," says Coates. If your pet is in isolation, their toys should be thoroughly disinfected before they're shared with other pets in your home; it's even safer to discard them once your pet is healthy, she says.
One thing that should never be shared between pets is medication. (There may be circumstances in which a veterinarian advises you to do so, and this would be the only exception, Coates says.) Here's why, Coates says: "Some medications that are safe for one species—dogs, for example—may be extremely toxic to another—cats, for example," she explains. "Even if you're dealing with pets of the same species, differences in size, age, health status, and other medications or supplements that are being given can make the practice [of sharing them] very dangerous."
If you allow your pets to share food and water bowls and toys, be prepared to clean them more often. "If an object is shared between two pets, it's likely to get twice as dirty and wear out twice as fast," says Coates. "Monitor shared pet bowls and toys, and clean or replace them as needed."