Various events in your pet’s life can cause distressed emotions, yet new pet owners often have a hard time determining when their pet is anxious, sad or frightened. For instance, pets often suffer from separation anxiety but their owners may not recognize any mischief that their pet gets into while they are gone is a sign of loneliness. Luckily, you don’t have to have a online biology degree to decode your pets emotions, just simply taking a few extra minutes to observe your animal’s behavior will usually be enough to clue you in on how your pet is feeling.
Dogs will bark incessantly and cats will climb up the curtains or claw the furniture to get attention and to show their displeasure, anxiety or unhappiness. They may also do this when not upset, but if you notice a sudden onset of such behaviors, or an increase in frequency, consider what might have changed in your pet’s environment. Has your schedule changed? Is there someone new in the household? Or has someone left the household? Dogs are pack animals, and it’s disconcerting to them when the pack changes its members until your best friend understands the new pecking order of your pack.
Another sign of an anxious or frustrated pet is chewing. If your dog, or even cat, has been nibbling on your furniture while you are away the odds are that they are upset about you being gone. Thus in order to avoid having your furniture ruined, provide your pet with some appropriate chew toys and reinforce their use of them with praise, petting and affection. Familiar toys will also help them take their attention off the anxiety of being alone.
Yet probably the number one question asked by new pet owners is, “Why is my pet using the whole house (or some part of the house such as the bed, my favorite shoes, etc.) as the bathroom?” Well, what clearer message can a cat or a dog give than to use a shoe or the bedspread to say, “I’m feeling pretty poopy about things?” It is also important to remember that pets have an internal clock that is more precise than any timepiece. Thus if you fail to come home at your usual time, don’t be surprised if your pet has acted out in one of the aforementioned ways, or in some even more original manner.
Of course, if your pet doesn’t feel well, he or she will let you know by changed behavior. Therefore if you notice your pet acting strangely, discuss it with your pet’s vet right away. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has an excellent list of contact information for locations throughout the U.S., Canada and Australia.
Ultimately if your pet continues to act out, it is important to spend time establishing good behavior with the animal. If you have dog, consider taking your dog to a canine school to help put a stop to their bad habits and reinforce good ones. When dogs know what is expected of them because they’ve been trained well, they’ll do everything in their power to get your approval with fun, companionable and appropriate behaviors. However while you can’t exactly take a cat to obedience school, you can take them to socialization classes so they become used to other cats, people and new experiences. You can also try teaching your cat good behavior on your own, the booklet, CATegorical Care has some excellent tips.
Author: Ashley Warner is a graduate student working toward her Masters in Conservation Biology. She currently resides in Washington state.