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Pets' Peeves

by Patty Gibbons, AC

“Why is he peeing outside of his litter box?” “Why does she keep biting us?” “How come he started bucking?” These are samples of frequently asked questions from my clients regarding their furry and feathered friends.

I love my job as an Animal Communicator, and am always happy to help resolve differences and issues between the human and non-human family members. However, there are some issues that could be alleviated with just a little awareness and understanding by we humans. I’m not trying to put myself or other Animal Communicators out of a job here; I’m just looking to make life more agreeable for two/ four-legged, finned, feathered, furry and scaled beings! When problems or behavioral issues suddenly arise that hadn’t existed before, it is time to look for recent changes around the home and in our lives, and most importantly, rule out any health issues.

The first question: “Why is he peeing outside of his litter box?” The majority of the time the answer is rather simple. For the most part I have found that, no, your cat is not looking to annoy you or is ‘just being a brat’. Rather, often a change in the product you are putting in the box can trigger this. “It stinks!” is a cry I have heard often enough from cats. Does the product you use have a strong smell? Imagine stepping into a closet where someone has dumped an entire bottle of perfume! This is pretty much the same situation a cat is dealing with when the litter is powerful smelling!

As most cat people can attest to, cats are generally neat-freaks, and another issue is a box that is not kept clean enough for that particular cat’s likings. We have one feline family member that is so fastidious she will go in the box to cover up after one of the other cats if she feels they have not done a good enough job themselves! Also consider what you are asking your cat to step into – literally! Though a bit unpleasant, picture yourself having to live with the same ‘bathroom’ arrangement. Not a pretty thought, eh? So, be certain to clean out the box at least once daily, especially if you have more than one cat living with you – I sometimes clean the box three times a day!

Another request I have had from cats who seem to have an aversion to using their box is to have something soft to step out onto after relieving themselves: rugs and towels are the favored items. This helps eliminate litter that gets stuck between the pads of their feet and the discomfort caused by this.

And, as always, one must be certain that there are no health issues involved with behavioral changes. For this particular problem, one should be concerned with urinary tract infections or blockages. A trip to your vet can rule out these or any other health problems.

“Why does she keep biting us?” is always an emotionally loaded question. This one can have many bases, however, the major factor one should focus on first is the telltale signs that fangs might be flying your way. Animals are usually quite good about sending us signals beforehand that they are not pleased and would like you to cease-and-desist or at least back off a little.

Has your dog glared at you each time before she chomps? Does the cat start growling and whipping her tail before she lashes out at you? Does your equine buddy pin his ears and snap at the air before striking out like a snake? Pay attention to these signals and respect the fact that they are signals. I do not at all condone biting! I am just looking to have you pay attention and watch for the warnings the animals give so you both avoid the upset that biting situations present to all involved.

Yes, there are those rare animals that seem to just snap at you out of the blue. However, even with these, there are things to consider. Did you startle him out of a deep sleep? Does he have a problem with his hearing or vision? Do you know that he is uncomfortable with sudden movements and approach him too quickly? All things to focus on and bear in mind.

If the animal comes from a previously abusive situation, you must be extra vigilant and attuned to what triggers any aggressive/defensive behaviors.

Also, biting may be a sign of an injury or other health problems. Even when there are no visible lacerations or bruises, internal injuries or illnesses may be present and causing enough discomfort for your friend to act out with his teeth. Often enough a bite is a pain response and the only way an animal knows how to make you aware of there being a problem.

I have found most biting situations involving horses to be in response to pain. There are many gadgets that horses contend with that cause them to act out in their own best interest. The biggest culprits are saddles and girths/cinches. Some horses are even labeled ‘girthy’ or ‘cinchy’. Sometimes the girths or cinches are what are causing the discomfort, however, if the saddle doesn’t fit correctly, the horse may react when the saddle is seated on his back or may wait until the girth is tightened. This tightening only exacerbates the discomfort from an ill-fitting saddle.

As for the ‘peeve’ part: smothering, or shall we say overly affectionate behavior, is one that often gets our critter friends to chomping. I understand how difficult it can be to put down that irresistibly cute little Bichon Frise. However, when she sends the signals that she’s had enough of the hugs and kisses, that should be respected. We don’t want her to get to the point of having had more than enough and end up leaving teeth tattoos on your arm! Cats can also be ‘smothering-haters’, and they have the added arsenal of claws as well!

Horses have their peeves, too. “Why does she just slam that saddle down on my back?” “Can’t he tighten the girth slower? He squeezes the air right out of my lungs, never mind crushing my ribs!” Horses generally appreciate it when you take a bit more time tacking them up. Time spent grooming and tacking not only allows you to check on your equine friend’s health and frame of mind, it also is a great way to strengthen the bond between you.

I have had more than one dog tell me that she is biting because her person won’t! These have been situations where the person the animal is concerned about is not defending or standing up for himself either at home or work, and the animal takes the initiative to show this person what he needs to do! The animals are excellent at mirroring the things that are occurring in our lives. If you have ruled out every other potential that may be causing your friend to bite, you may wish to consider reflecting on this possibility.

Again, I can’t stress enough the importance of consulting your vet for possible health issues. If none are revealed, of course I would recommend working with an Animal Communicator to see if the reasons for this behavior can be uncovered and resolved. Also, a skilled, compassionate trainer may be of valuable assistance once the cause of the biting is discovered.

And finally, “How come he started bucking?” Again, most often pain is the culprit here. From ill-fitting tack to injury-related aches and pains, there are only so many ways an animal can bring a problem to your attention. And with horses, bucking is a major and potentially dangerous one!

Reviewing your tack and equipment with a skilled trainer and a Master Saddler may unveil the cause as to why your equine friend has taken to bucking. Bits that pinch, saddles with poorly padded panels, and even a piece of tack that a horse is unfamiliar with may send them kicking their heels as high as they can. If not, again, an evaluation by your vet to insure that there are no physical issues resulting in this behavior is recommended.

Imagine, if you will, having an aching back and knee, then hoisting upon your already protesting back a pack with framework that pokes into your ribs, and on top of it all, placing in the pack about 15-20 lbs of potatoes which may shift about without any notice. Already in this most uncomfortable predicament, add to it that you are expected to walk, jog, run and maybe even jump on someone else’s command. Now, if you are a Marine, you’re probably thinking, “Yeah! So what?!!! This dude’s getting off easy!” On the other hand, the majority of us would complain, think it most unfair, unload the pack, park our butts and refuse to move! You certainly wouldn’t willingly agree to allow this to happen again! And most everyone would pat you on the back and say, “Rightly so!” And I would agree. However, this is basically what we are expecting of our dear horse friends when we ask them to do the things we do when they are sore and dealing with inadequate equipment. Buck? I would do a lot more than buck if I were in that situation! So, once again, don’t jump to, “He’s just a rogue and that’s all there is to it!” Look to see what physical things might be causing this, especially if this is a new behavior for this particular horse.

Other causes for bucking or any form of acting out in horses can often times be from boredom or a discipline they are not interested in or cut out for. “WHY must we keep going in circles over and over and over again?!” is an often-asked question from the horses I’ve spoken with. I understand that repetition can be a strong learning tool, however, it can also make the best of us bored to tears, and horse are no exception! Also, if they do not understand exactly what it is you are asking of them, endlessly repeating the same thing in the same manner most likely is not going to enlighten them! Sometimes one has to step back and figure out a new approach. In addition, changing the training routine for a brief while may be enough of a break for them to go back to their usual routine with renewed energy – same as with humans who cross-train.

One of the more difficult things I have had to discuss with clients is when their agenda and the horses’ are not even close to the same! “I want to cut cattle!” is a difficult thing to tell her person when he just spent tens of thousands of dollars for her to be his dream hunt horse! He may love this horse, but if he does not consider finding the horse a good home with someone who also likes cutting, or compromise by either changing disciplines or allowing some time to work with cattle, this rider is going to be frustrated and disappointed by a performance that will never be as brilliant as one by a horse that loves what she is doing. Never mind the fact that this poor horse will spend a major part of her life in a job she is unhappy with, and may act out accordingly. So, if you catch yourself thinking, “Why won’t she just jump the fence/go out on trail/piaffe? She’s perfectly capable of it!” consider the possibility of her not enjoying the activity of your choice.

And one of the saddest situations is one in which the horse is not physically up to what is asked of him. He may want to do what his rider wishes with all his heart and soul, but his body can’t deliver. How frustrating is that?!! Not being a ‘bad boy’ or ‘lazy’, as he will all too often be accused, he is just as upset as his rider and bucks to say, “This is all I can do! Doesn’t she understand? I’m Trying!” I strongly dislike categorizing any living being by body type, but sometimes there are limits on what one can do according to what we were physically given. You may be able to attain some improvement with exercises to strengthen weaknesses, but not every horse is meant to be a Grand Prix jumper or dressage horse, or cut out to be a reining horse or steeplechaser. We must work with what we are given, and keep realistic, compassionate views and goals.

Any situation in which you find the non-human animals in your life behaving in a manner in which they hadn’t before should be cause for you to stop and review all possible reasons as to why. Again, these may be changes in your household, relationships, their daily care, or even their health. Working closely with skilled, caring, compassionate professionals such as veterinarians, trainers and animal communicators can assist you with helping your critter friend. Also, being more aware, seeing things with new eyes, and acting and reflecting from your heart and not your anger or upset will most likely reveal many helpful and wonderful things to you about your furry, feathered and finned loved ones.

Patty Gibbons is an Animal Communicator, Equine Sports Massage Therapist II, and Licensed Veterinary Technician. Patty works with all species of animals, and has communicated with animals across the US, Canada, Europe, Asia, and Africa, as well as those who have passed on. You may contact her via her website www.pattygibbons.com, e-mail info@pattygibbons.com, phone (631) 768-9172.


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