Many behavioral problems can occur with our animals. This includes a wide array of issues, from “accidents” on the floor, digging holes in the yard, and growling or snapping at other people or animals. Their behavior may be aggressive, destructive or suddenly unusual. Since many of us are unable to talk to our animals, they have to do something to get our attention.
It is always important to begin by determining if the root of the problem is physical, emotional or mental. Having an exam by the vet is a recommended place to start. For example, a housebroken animal that is suddenly having accidents on the floor may have a physical problem, such as a bladder infection. It could also be a mental or emotional issue. This may also be true for an animal who suddenly snaps or bites. They could be in pain, and are crying out for help, or even experiencing great emotional stress.
Our animals can be our mirrors, healers, and teachers who are often here to help us learn lessons. When there are sudden changes in behavior it can take some time and willingness to determine the cause. It may seem surprising that even acting out behavior can sometimes be done out of love for us, for in their unconditional love they are wanting to help us change, learn a lesson, and teach us something about ourselves which would help us in our growth, and perhaps our happiness.
Remember that animals are like energy sponges. They pick up on all that is going on in the home, whether home is with one person or more, and one animal or more. If we allow it, we can learn much about ourselves from them.
ANIMALS AS MIRRORS, TEACHERS AND HEALERS
Let us begin by looking at this concept that animals are our mirrors, or it could also be stated that they are a reflection of an aspect of us. If we have several animals in the home, then each one reflects an aspect of us. I see this so clearly with the animals who are with me. One of my animals, a male cockatiel who has now crossed over, became very demanding and loud. I could see that there was a part of me that was that way with myself, including my internal dialogue, which could be relentless. Bojo, who is very gentle and loving, reflects that aspect of me. Sunshine, who can insist on getting what he wants, and yet has a very loving side, also mirrors that in me. Hallie, my female cockatiel, reflects my inner strength, for I have seen her go through several painful and stressful challenges and move through these issues with great resiliency.
One of my cats, Bojo, is a gentle loving soul. A dear friend refers to him as the Buddha. Bojo grounds energy in the home, and being grounded has been a challenge for me. As a child my coping mechanism in my home, with its own unique family dynamics, was to check out. Some would call it dissociate. Bojo often sits and stares at me with his soulful eyes. He is reminding me to drop into stillness and get grounded. My natural tendency, although this is changing, is to be on the go. Imagine the love that he has in his desire to do this.
Bojo does have one behavior that has been a challenge for me. He is right there when I step into the kitchen, often coming in from another room. He is also behind my foot. So this gentle soul has had his tail stepped on a few times, and yelped in pain. Of course I feel very bad about this. One day I asked him, “Bojo, why do you come up behind me, knowing that I may not see you, and again you get stepped on.” I told him I thought he was teaching me patience. Happily I can report considerable improvement in this area of my life. He said, “No, I’m trying to teach you persistence.” I laughed, because both are indeed true.
Bojo also acts as a mentor and a gentle playmate for Sunshine, a beautiful orange tabby who has the ability to make me laugh at his antics. If Sunshine were a human he might be described as a bit of a rogue. I found him out on the streets, a big Tom cat who could definitely hold his own. He was quite scruffy, with beautiful eyes that pulled at my heart strings. I know now that he adopted me.
Sunshine did not receive the love he needed as a kitten, and was abandoned and kicked around by a male person sometime before we met. When he finally “moved in”and spent time in my home I noticed that he eventually became jealous of the attention my 2 birds received, in particular my male bird, who had become more demanding over the years. My dear Murphy has now crossed over. One day, as I was spending time with Murphy’s mate, Hallie Ariel, Sunshine came up and bit my leg. My initial reaction was that this is totally unacceptable, yet I knew I did not want to go into anger. However, I also knew that Sunshine was needing more attention from me, and I am making a great effort to do that. After listening to the wise words of a friend I began making this an even greater focus. Sunshine is no different from many of us. It is wonderful and uplifting to feel loved and appreciated. The other gift that he has brought into my life is that of taking time to play, and move out of busywork. He is teaching me to me more flexible, and to learn to play when he wants to play.
When behavioral issues arise, after ruling out any physical problems we need to determine what the issue is. Animals are generally pleased to be asked, for in reality it lets them know that we care. The problem can sometimes be solved by simply asking the animal what they need.
Our animals often have a great deal of wisdom, often concerning what would be best for us. An animal that I connected with recently told me that his person’s partner was not a good relationship for her. In this case the person was aware of it, had set some boundaries, and would end the relationship if changes did not occur. An animal may express anger, and other upsetting emotions, by having “accidents” on the floor.
WHY ANIMALS ACT OUT
If we have ruled out that there is no physical problem, then we know that there is most likely an emotional issue involved when an animal is acting out with their behavior.
If there is stress and tension between the people living with the animals, that stress can cause animals to act out in their own way. Remember that they sense the energy and emotions around them, so they are fully aware that all is not harmonious. They are no different from children, who have a tendency to act out when there is not love and harmony in the home.
Any emotion or situation that we ourselves would consider stressful can create similar emotions for our animals, thus leading to a behavioral problem. Remember, unless we learn to communicate with them they have no other way to tell us. This can include feeling abandoned, neglected, insecure, fearful or jealous. Certainly it would include abuse. The list can go on and on. In multi-animal homes there can be conflicts with competition and territory. There are animals who will tell you, if given an opportunity, that they want to be the only animal in the home. There are others who do quite well with a family of other animals.
It can be easy to misinterpret their behavior. If an animal makes messes on the floor when we go out of town it could be easy to assume that they are angry with us. If given a chance to tell us we may hear an entirely different reason. For example, there could be extreme fear that we are not coming back, and they are marking their territory as a way of claiming it.
There are times when an animal communication session by itself will resolve an issue. This would include asking the animal why it is behaving a certain way, including whether something is bothering them. Again this can be physical, mental or emotional. Sometimes asking what they need and what we can do to help is all that is required. In other situations the solution may be more complex.
We may be required to determine what they are attempting to teach us, and have the willingness to do what is needed for our growth and change. As we begin this process we will begin to see changes in them. We will also have a deepened appreciation and awareness of their unconditional love for us.