I was perusing the HotAir website last night and came upon this teaser: “I loathe my cat.”
Of course, that topic caught my attention and in a short time I was able to read the entire passage. I was so astounded, I thought at first that perhaps it was a spoof. But, no, it was the real thing. And that is what’s scary and infuriating. So I did a little more digging…
The title of the article is “People with problem pets must make their own peace,” by AP stringer Leanne Italie. It is an interview with 5 pet owners who don’t enjoy their pets, and gives a few snippets of facts from the AVMA on pet ownership & adoption numbers, and also interviews ASPCA staffer/phycologist and purported expert on the human/animal bond Dr. Stephanie LaFarge.
The first person interviewed is New Palestine, IN free-lance writer Amy Best-Boss. It seems that her cat is having inappropriate urination issues, causing this woman to state that she not only ‘loathes’ the cat, but also ‘hates’ it. Boss calls it a “stupid, stupid cat” and despite all her efforts (changing litter boxes, changing litter, changing types of litter, using sprays & giving medicines), the cat “just really, really likes to pee.”
Obviously the cat has an issue. It could be physical, perhaps low-grade cystitis that isn’t getting addressed. Or arthritis that keeps the cat out of the litter box. Maybe it is mental. Maybe there have been some changes at home and the kitty is a little neurotic. Who knows? These issues can be tough to pin down, but that is why pet owners, especially those with problem pets, should have a good relationship with a veterinarian who wants to help work through these problems.
What disturbs me however is that Amy Best-Boss has Bachelor degrees in Journalism and Socialism, and a Master of Divinity Degree with emphasis on counseling. For someone who has chosen a path of caring for the emotional needs of people, it seems as though she is carrying around a lot of hate for her kitty. And that isn’t healthy, for anyone in that family.
Next the article tries to make martyrs of people who hate their pets:
Still, many cannot bring themselves to dump their wayward animals in shelters. Instead, they pay sky-high vet bills for intervention that does not work. They endure in-your-face barking rants in the middle of the night or are startled awake by the routine hacking of hairballs.
I happen to be one of those vets, and no, I don’t offer interventions. I offer quality medical care. Can it be expensive? Sure it can. Unless an owner has pet insurance to offset the costs, what you pay in a veterinary hospital is more akin to the prices that you would pay without human health insurance. Actually, considering the service that you and your pet receive, you’re getting a much better deal from your vet.
On difficult cases, providing good medical care is just as much an art as a science. That is especially true when your patient cannot tell you what is wrong, and unless you can prompt the client to give good information with thoughtful questions, the vet may have to make assumptions based on past experience. That’s the art.
The science comes in with the myriad of tools that we have to give us information on the pet’s health, tools like complete physical exams, blood work, urinalysis, fecal exams, and diagnostic imaging to name a few. Since the body is a complex organ, and since there can be multiple health problems occuring at the same time, it can take some time and money trying to find the correct answers for a particular pet.
We’re then told about a 16-year old cat that constantly wants in and out, whines constantly, and likes to have his food stirred around in his self feeder. My first thought is, “Congratulations! You have a 16 year old cat!” And perhaps because he is elderly, he may be having some signs of dementia and not quite knowing what he wants to make him happy and comfortable. But I bet he would like fresh food given to him daily rather than to eat stale food out of a self-feeder.
We’re told that the owner of Kitty, the elderly cat, is looking for “creative ways to ditch this cat.” Stating she is “a pet lover, but come on,” she has started a blog for people with “pesky pets.” If you visit the blog, you find that they don’t just want to have the warm, fuzzy stories about pets, but the REAL stories about how pets can ruin your life. A pet lover? Come on…
Next we hear from Dr. Stephanie LaFarge, a psychologist working for the ASPCA, about how venting your anger about your pets can be healthy. Additionally, she says,
Some people like to think they love their animals so much they are willing to be victimized by them.
So now an “expert” is telling America it is OK to vent at your pet (which in my mind isn’t but a few steps from being verbally abusive) because pets are out to victimize people. Where do you even start with statements like this? And from an “expert,” no less.
First, if you have that much anger and resentment towards your pet, you both need to have different living situations. It is NOT NORMAL and it is NOT OK. Find help. Talk to your veterinarian, your doctor, your pastor, a friend, a co-worker or anyone. Secondly, venting at your pet doesn’t do any good. Remember when Charlie Brown was at school and all he heard his teacher say was, “Whaah, whaah, whaah, whaah?” (I don’t know if I spelled that correctly!) Pets aren’t going to understand a single thing you say, but they will pick up on the stress and the emotions, which will create even more stress in the environment and possibly more unwanted behavior. Please don’t go there, despite what this “expert” says.
Secondly, too many people try to assign human emotions and behaviors to pets (anthropomorphizing if you want the big 50 cent word). Animals just don’t think that way. They aren’t out to punish people or get even or show their anger. If pets have undesirable behaviors, it is because: 1) they don’t know it is undesirable because they were never properly trained, 2) it’s normal for them and humans haven’t taken that into account when they decided to adopt a pet, or 3) something in the environment or within the pet has changed and they are simply responding the only way they know how. Again, talking with your veterinarian is a great place to start pinning down the causes of the unwanted behaviors.
(I’m sorry if my prejudice against so-called “experts” is showing. In my mind, having training in the human psychology field, a love for animals and a paycheck from the ASPCA don’t make you qualified to be an human-animal bond expert anymore than my DVM training, 20+ years in the field, and knowing how to put on lipstick make me qualified to do plastic surgery. I wouldn’t even be so irritated by Dr. LaFarge’s lack of eligibility, if it weren’t for her obvious lack of eligibility shown by her statements in this article and in her posts over at the ASPCA site. Go check them out for yourself and see if you agree. BTW – my constant advice to people – donate to your local rescue organizations and not the national ones if you really want your money to go to good use. Just remember, TV commercials and slick-page ads cost big dollars.)
OK, back to the article. Next we hear about Jellybean, a female cockatiel who doesn’t like to be held. In my mind, no big deal. (Until recently, I had a female cockatiel named Roxie who hated to be held, although you could tempt her out of her cage sometimes. She was a rescued pet, not a performing one…) That’s the nature of cockatiels. We find out Jellybean likes to bite if you get her out of her cage. Well, OK, don’t get her out of her cage. That’s obviously her safe-zone. But then we learn that the owner isn’t upset just about the biting, it is also because they have shut the bird in a back bedroom with no company, and Jellybean screeches on Saturday mornings when they are trying to sleep in.
(Warning: SNARKY alert! I just can’t seem to help myself at this point.)
Well, DUH! Of course the bird is going to scream. Cockatiels, like other pet birds, are highly social creatures who need interaction. Jellybean’s Saturday morning wake-up call is probably something like, “Hello, is anybody there?” (OK, now I’m the one anthropomorphizing. And the cost per word has gone up to 75 cents.) It sounds like the owners have made half-hearted attempts to find the bird a home, but that doesn’t fly with me. There are so many rescue organizations, and Craig’s List, employees at vet clinics/shelters, and students around; there’s bound to be a home for Jellybean. IF, the owner is willing to do a little work, and IF, they’re more concerned about the bird’s welfare than themselves.
Next we learn about Phil, a cat that lives near Chicago that has hairball problems. And apparently “hates” the owner’s toddler, running from her and hissing. The owner tried to covertly swap Phil for his brother Morty who is “smarter” and doesn’t have a hairball issue, but the in-laws gave him back.
You know, it isn’t just cats who run from toddlers, some people I know do it, too. Ha ha. But the point is, it doesn’t sound like Phil has been socialized around the little girl, nor she trained to interact properly with the cat. It does take work on both sides, and for the safety of the girl, this should have been something that was addressed before she became mobile with out-stretched arms and grabbing hands.
Poor Phil. I’m not sure what makes him the “dumber” brother – not liking the little girl or yaking up hairballs. You know, for all of the humor that is based around this subject (and I laughed at the scene in Shrek just as hard as anyone), it really isn’t something that cats do for their enjoyment or our entertainment. Vomiting hairballs may be something as simple as a cat that ingests too much hair and needs grooming attention from the owner. Or it can be a more serious condition that needs medical intervention. Note to owners: there IS something that can be done, but you need to visit with your veterinarian.
Dr. LaFarge jumps in here again with this quote:
It’s very hard, when the animal does something we don’t like, to say why is he doing this to me, when in fact that animal may be just being an animal and fulfilling his own needs.
I have a problem with this whole idea of “fulfilling his own needs.” You know, pets put up with an awful lot of miscommunications and misunderstanding from their people. When animals do something that we as humans don’t like, it probably isn’t because the pet has gone decided to join the “me” generation or is looking for ways to fulfill its needs. Most of the time, any behavior issues I encounter with a client have more to do with the pet’s response to what is going on in the home; my note-to-self – always look for the contributing factors.
Finally, the article ends with the story of Bennie the border collie. These kind people found the dog after it had been hit by a car. Unfortunately, Bennie’s response to being rescued was biting, clawing and aggression in the car. The rescuer’s even admit to wanting to throw Bennie “off a bridge.” But now the owners realize that they shouldn’t fault Bennie for being hyperactive because, in their words, “he’s just a border collie.”
Saving animals is a good thing, but people need to realize that there is some knowledge and training that you should have before rescuing an injured animal. Pain and stress can make even the most docile animal respond aggressively and injure themselves and people. And think of the terror of being picked up by unknown people and placed in an unknown car; it’s no surprise the way Bennie behaved. That is why people should be cautious about picking up strange and injured animals. Animal control officers and other people who are trained in animal rescue know the dangers of the situation, not just for people but for the animals, too.
As for Bennie’s behavior, it sounds to me like he is a normal border collie, very intelligent and very high energy. Can that be a problem for some people? Sure, if you are trying to put a square peg in a round hole. Again, though, it isn’t the dog’s problem, it’s the people’s problem. There are many ways to solve this issue, and talking to a veterinarian or trainer is a good place to start. Finding a new home for a rescued animal can be challenging, but it is do-able.
I think you can guess by this point that I really wasn’t entertained or amused at this article. Trying to create entertainment by focusing on problems between pets and owners is not helpful to the pets or the people. Behavior issues are real problems and one of the most challenging areas that veterinarians and clients face. What really irritates me though is the efforts to justify violence and neglect against these animals by their upset owners. There is no justification and it is not funny.
For those people who want an easy pet that doesn’t require much attention or care and doesn’t interact with people, may I suggest a Chia pet. True, you may have to water it occasionally, but other than that and a window seat, you won’t have the problems of hyperactivity, hairballs or screeching. (I’ve never personally owned a Chia pet, so perhaps I am being a bit naive on their care.)
For those people who have a problem with their pet, get some help! There is plenty out there, and if you don’t have a relationship with a veterinarian, talk to your friends, neighbors and co-workers – someone is sure to recommend their vet. Don’t let your issues or your pet’s behaviors get to the point where it is causing strife.
Let me repeat for those who are hard of reading – there is no just justification for violence against and neglect of animals. For those people who think that this is a topic to be taken lightly, look at the statistics between violence against animals and violence against people. That should sober you up.
Until next time…