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Your pet is talking to you, do you understand what he is telling you?

3 June 2021

Have you ever tried to ask your pet for commands or scolded him and you didn’t think he understood? It is the very foundation of communication. If the two interlocutors do not speak the same language, they must find a way to understand each other. Communication, in whatever form, is the only way to develop a healthy relationship and understand each other’s behavior.

Ti-Loup and Fluffy cannot use speech to communicate with us. This is not about education but about understanding the basis of their behavior. However, education is essential because it allows us to relate to them more effectively so that we can make ourselves better understood and make ourselves heard.

Their body language is the key to communication.

The body language of a dog or cat is often instinctive and occurs naturally. This form of communication can be used between dogs or cats, in interactions between them and humans, or between other animals.

Knowing what your pet is trying to tell you can help you better understand their needs and keep them comfortable in any situation. In addition, certain behaviors like jealousy, deception, revenge, are all wrongly associated with animals. It’s about anthropomorphism. Animals, for the most part, have a mental development like that of a 2 year old child. For those with children, remember that time:

  • Short term memory;
  • Little or no anticipation of the future;
  • Have repeated instructions all the time;
  • They live in the present moment;
  • Do not understand the words we use when giving instructions;
  • Misunderstanding between a past action and its consequence if it is not immediate. Ex: If I eat a rock, I will go to the hospital.

Starting from this principle, we can better understand the behavior of our animals and be more indulgent towards them. So you are the person who should fit into this relationship, not the other way around. We don’t ask our young children to understand concepts like an adult would and it’s the same with Ti-Loup and Fluffy. If he tries to communicate with you and you don’t understand his language, you increase his anxiety and communication will be even more difficult.

Stress interferes with development and learning.

Anxiety is one of the most common problems encountered in animals and the number 1 cause of abandonment.

Exercise this with a family member. Use a foreign language, invented if necessary, and ask it for something specific. You will see, the stress will increase if the person does not understand. The goal is not to create conflict, stay calm, you are fortunate that this is just an exercise.

A good understanding of body language can sometimes prevent health problems. Like, for example, Ti-Loup is now old and has gotten messy. Yet he knows he has to defecate outside. This situation often creates frustration and anger in the pet parents and anxiety in Ti-Loup because he does not understand why he is being bullied. Ti-Loup just spoke to you … what is he telling you? He just told you that his legs hurt, his joints are aching, and he has difficulty walking down the stairs to get outside. Getting into position hurts him too.

Ti-Loup needs help, not being scolded.

Imagine that you are old and have a hard time holding back or sitting on the toilet. As humans, we have the chance to adapt our surroundings to suit our needs, such as placing a bench in the shower or putting a grab bar next to the toilet. Ti-Loup isn’t so lucky, but he has you.

A second example is panting. “Doctor! Ti-Loup seems to have a respiratory problem ”. He gasps very often. After the vet has assess his health status and discussed with the animal parent,  he notices that there is no anomaly in the auscultation, that the ambient temperature where Ti-Loup lives is around 20-22 degrees celsius and that Ti-Loup plays, eats, drinks and defecates normally. Panting can be seen in many situations: it is hot and he needs to lower his body temperature, he is thirsty, he is not breathing well, and in so many situations he is stressed or scared. So, if Ti-Loup goes to your vet and he only gasps during his exam, he probably isn’t thirsty but doesn’t feel comfortable. The goal of the medical team and yours is to understand what they are telling us and to act on it.

A third example, you went on vacation for a few days (as you can see I’m talking about the future) and a neighbor came to feed Fluffy and empty the litter box while you were away. A few days after your return, you find urine on your bed. Fluffy gets scolded for telling yourself that she didn’t appreciate that you left and so she takes revenge for your absence. You still find this weird because it happens on several occasions. So you decide to consult. After an exam and tests, you find that Fluffy has interstitial cystitis (this is an inflammatory bladder disease without infection). Your medical team tells you that several criteria lead to this disease, including stress. It is often the triggering event for a predisposed cat. Fluffy was therefore probably predisposed to this very common urinary disease in cats and your departure only increased her stress to a too high level. You are treating Fluffy for his bladder but also to reduce her anxiety. She is happier now and thanks you for taking care of her.

Another very last example, grooming … what about pedicures, baths, blow dryers and ear cleaning? Most dogs and cats don’t really appreciate this type of care. Ti-Loup is going to the grooming salon for his very first time, he is very small and he is only 10 weeks old. You want a nice cut for him and a good bath for the weekend. When you return, the groomer tells you that Ti-Loup cried during the bath and is afraid of the noisy blow dryer. He tried to nibble her hands or run away when cutting the claws and he didn’t get the cut you wanted. You are really disappointed. Here again, Ti-Loup is talking to us and we have to listen and understand what he has to say. These manipulations make him anxious and we must give him time to learn this type of manipulation. Getting started with grooming is an important step for most puppies. It is an adaptation for future care which leads to the perfect cut without compromising the experience for him.

You see, our animals speak to us. Our duty as parents of animals is to try to understand them and take the time. This will allow you to have a more harmonious relationship with less confrontation. Be more empathetic with them and have realistic expectations.

Remember, your Ti-Loup and Fluffy don’t understand things the same way we do and it’s up to us to adapt to better meet their stress reduction needs and ours.

Yes, it is possible to have a harmonious and happy relationship with them. After all, we love them so much! If you need help to better understand your pet’s behavior, talk to your vet team.

Picture credits:
Anna Shve on Pexels
Steshka Willems on Pexels
Torsten Dettlaff on Pexels
Vendenberg on Pexels
Tranmautritam on Pexels