The Importance of Tending to the Emotional Wellness of Our Pet Family Members
Pets come bounding into our lives, wagging their tails, purring, or chirping with delight. They bring us joy, companionship, and unconditional love. However, have you ever stopped to consider the emotional well-being and emotional needs of our beloved pet family members?
Just like humans, animals experience a wide range of emotions, and it is our duty as responsible pet owners to tend to their emotional wellness. When we think about pets and emotions, we often associate happiness and contentment. We imagine cuddling with our dogs or watching our cats lazily sunbathe by the window. Undoubtedly, these moments bring us immense joy. Yet, it is crucial to remember that our pets may also experience negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, and loneliness.
Understanding the emotional spectrum of our furry companions is the first step towards tending to their emotional wellbeing – which goes far beyond physical needs like food, water, and shelter.
Pets become living barometers, their health and demeanor often reflecting the emotional ecosystem within which they dwell. Many pet owners are surprised that pets have an innate ability to absorb the emotions of their owners, and this unique connection often manifests in profound ways within their own bodies. Like emotional sponges, they absorb the various turbulent currents of joy, sadness, stress, or anxiety that ripple through their human companions. As a result, their bodies may undergo transformations, both subtle and profound.
Understanding this symbiotic relationship between animals and their owners is crucial, as it emphasizes the profound responsibility we have as humans to create a positive and harmonious emotional environment for our beloved companions.
How Do Animals Differ in Their Emotional Needs?
Dogs, for example, are pack animals. They thrive in social settings and long for the presence of their human and animal friends. It is not uncommon to find dogs mirroring the excitement and boundless energy of their exuberant owners, bounding with infectious enthusiasm. When left alone for too long, however, they may experience separation anxiety. This can lead to destructive behaviors or excessive barking.
Cats, on the other hand, are often seen as independent creatures, but they too can experience emotional distress. Changes in their environment, such as moving homes or adding a new pet to the family, can trigger stress and anxiety. This can manifest in behavioral changes like hiding, aggression, or even urinating outside the litter box. Cats may absorb the worries and anxieties of their guardians, their once-sleek fur becoming matted and rough as externalizing their owners’ stress becomes a physical manifestation. Recognizing these signs and taking action to alleviate their stress is essential. Tending to the emotional wellness of our pets involves creating a nurturing and enriching environment for them to thrive in.
Horses possess an uncanny ability to perceive and respond to the emotions of people. These majestic creatures have an extraordinary sensitivity to subtle changes in human mood, often mirroring the emotions they encounter. When humans exude calmness, horses demonstrate relaxation and trust, embodying an air of tranquility. Conversely, when humans approach with anxiety or fear, horses can become apprehensive, their alertness heightened. Through their empathetic nature, horses seem to offer solace and therapeutic support, responding with care and understanding to even the most complex of human emotions. It is this profound emotional connection that renders them not just animals, but confidants and healers in our intertwined journey of existence.
Birds can empathetically respond to the various ranges of feelings they encounter in their human counterparts. When humans exude tranquility and joy, birds often join in the chorus of happiness, their chirps becoming more melodious and vibrant. Conversely, in moments of sadness or distress, birds mimic the somberness with their chirping becoming subdued and reflective. It is as if they comprehend our emotions on an intuitive level, offering solace or jubilation through their melodious companionship.
Here are a few ways we can help take care of their emotional needs:
1. Get Frequent Exercise and Stimulation: Just like humans, pets benefit from physical activity and mental stimulation. Ensuring that our pets receive regular exercise helps release excess energy, reduces anxiety, and promotes well-being. Providing toys, puzzles, and interactive games can keep their minds engaged.
2. Establish a Healthy Routine: Animals thrive on predictability, and establishing a daily routine can provide a sense of security and stability. Feeding, walking, and playtime should be consistent, providing structure to their day and reducing any anxiety caused by uncertainty.
3. Enjoy Regular Socialization: Many animals are social creatures. They need quality time with companions, whether they be human or animal.
4. Thrive Through Touch: Pets thrive with positive touch, just like people do. Cuddling, petting, and massaging are all ways to contribute to your pet’s wellness. Science has shown that petting our furry friends is actually good for our hearts and can reduce stress.
5. Try Alternative Therapies: Along with regular visits to the veterinarian, some pets may benefit from alternative therapies to manage stress and improve wellness. Practices such as Body Code and Emotion Code, Reiki, acupuncture, aromatherapy, and nutritional therapy are some examples of holistic approaches to animal well-being.
When Should a Pet Owner Consider Alternative Therapies?
This depends on various factors.
Alternative therapy options are always an option. They do not have to be reserved for difficult times, but pet owners often seek new ways to support a pet if they are not responding to conventional treatments or are experiencing adverse reactions.
Additionally, in cases where the pet’s condition is chronic, longstanding, or does not exhibit substantial improvement, seeking alternative therapies could provide new avenues for healing and relief.
Alternative therapies can offer unique healing perspectives, but it is important to consult with a qualified veterinarian who supports alternative therapies to ensure that the chosen treatment aligns with the pet’s needs and health conditions.
Ultimately, a responsible pet owner should feel optimistic that there are many therapies available in their pet’s journey to optimal health.
How Can You Limit Your Negative Impact on Your Pet?
To limit any negative emotional impact on our pets, we must strive to cultivate a calming and positive environment.
1. We can be aware of our own emotional state and avoid projecting our stress or anxiety onto our pets. This can be achieved through regular self-care practices, such as meditation or exercise, which can help us maintain a balanced mindset.
2. Moreover, keeping a stable personal routine and ensuring a comfortable living environment can greatly contribute to reducing any negative emotional impact on our pets.
3. Observe times when a pet exhibits symptoms of stress, and notice any correlations to the people in the home and their behavior. Most animals respond negatively to loud noises, yelling, and tension. Our animal companions are far more sensitive with their ability to detect energy – especially emotional.
4. Limit or refrain from expressing negative emotions around pets. For example, if anger arises, step outside of the room to protect your pet from emotions that don’t belong to him or her.
By prioritizing our pet’s comfort and happiness, we can create a harmonious environment where their emotional needs are met, enhancing their overall quality of life and ours.
By Shannon Cutts, Animal Love Languages
From Europe to Asia to North America, all over the world pet parents share one universal problem in common. NOISE. Fireworks. Thunderstorms. Cars backfiring. Ambulances. Alarm systems. Loud music. Dogs, cats, parrots, horses, and even reptiles go into fight–or–flight mode with all the bells and whistles – barking, hissing, cowering, lunging, eliminating anywhere and everywhere. Unfortunately, with many pets, even repeated noise exposure often doesn’t eradicate these core fear symptoms. If you are left desperately wondering if there is anything else you could try, the answer is yes! Animal communicator Shannon Cutts tackles the true elephant in the room and gives you immediate practical tips you can use to keep your animals safe and calm when the volume spikes.
Guess what instigates more missing pet cases every year than anything else?
If you guessed “fireworks” give yourself a gold star and give your pet whatever treat you always give them to try to keep them safe and calm during the inevitable noise event yet to come.
The pet remedies for noise are well–known: CBD, valerian, melatonin, prescription anti–anxiety meds to calm their nerves. Physical counteractions such as daytime vigorous play to zonk them out or playing competing loud noises to drown out the snap, crackle, zap and pop. You can find everything from equine stress vests to noise–canceling pup–phones (headphones for dogs, yup!) out there in the great anti–noise pet parent marketplace.
There is just one tiny problem. At their very best, these options still function only at the level of band–aids – masking or reducing the most obvious surface symptoms of a deeper core problem no drug or distraction can touch.
1. What’s Better than Just a Band-Aid?
As an animal intuitive and sensitive – an animal communicator – , my perspective on the best approach to keeping noise–averse pets calm comes straight from the animals themselves. Here is what my pet clients are telling me they need when noise levels rise.
They need YOU to calm down.
Here, I should probably back up and explain a little more about how your pet spends all day, every day of their life, with you.
While you are busy checking items off your to–do list, working, studying, cleaning, Zooming, napping, or doing whatever you do, your dog, cat, bird, horse or other pet species is watching what I call YouTV. By this, I mean they are watching the mental pictures in your head, the emotions attached to those mental pictures, and the thoughts that are generated by each image–emotion combination.
This is not unlike how we check in with our favorite weather or traffic app to help us plan and prepare for our day. Only your pet is watching YouTV 24/7. They are always monitoring your broadcasts and will react very quickly when your channel indicates there may be cause for alarm or action.
You may even already have some proof of this. Has your dog ever started barking when you’ve been in the middle of a stressful phone conversation? Does your cat hide when the neighbor you don’t really like rings your doorbell? Is your parrot prone to screaming when you are unconsciously ruminating about a snarky comment you overheard your boss make about you to a co–worker? Our animals know. They are frequently more tuned into our mental pictures, emotions and thoughts than we are, AND they are quicker to react to them.
2. Why is YouTV Important?
With this information now in hand, let’s pretend it is the morning of July 4th. You are looking forward to the evening’s festivities, which includes the usual colorful fireworks show. You are also hyper–aware that you need to make some plans for your noise–averse pets so they don’t completely lose it when the show begins.
As you consider what to do first and next, your mind starts forming mental pictures. If you are like most pet parents, these mental pictures revolve around past moments that proved your pets hate noise. Maybe you start mentally replaying that night your dog chewed up the crown molding and your cat peed on the carpet. Perhaps you suddenly have several such memories all queued up in a line to mentally review and replay. The emotions you feel as each mental “movie clip” flashes across your mind–screen aren’t soothing either. Fear. Frustration. Irritation. Anger. Impatience. Terror. Then your thoughts start spouting out warning messages even as your left brain cranks out one idea and then another for how to keep Marlin from tearing up the couch cushions and prevent Sophie from vomiting on your sheets.
Meanwhile, your pets are watching YouTV. They are glued to it – YouTV is their favorite channel and the drama is really ramping up this morning. They are watching your mental movies of them in distress, reacting in fearful and anxious ways with behaviors that indicate they are terrorized by something that is about to happen in the very near future. They are feeling and absorbing your own heightened emotions of fear, stress, anxiety.
With all of this buildup, is it any wonder even the strongest anti–anxiety pet meds or supplements or the most vigorous round of pre–fireworks “fetch” are rarely completely effective for calming your pet?
What is truly needed here is a shift in your own mind and heart. When you consciously choose to change your YouTV channel to a station that is playing a calm, peaceful film, this will result in your animals being relaxed – no matter what the weather is like or what festivities may be going on. By changing the channel, your pets will benefit right to their core.
3. How to Change the Channels…
What I am saying is that ultimately, your pets are looking to you for direction about how to respond to any noise event. If you are unwittingly broadcasting gloom and doom, threat and stress, fear and terror, you can absolutely expect your pets to exist in a perpetual state of fight or flight with all the expected symptoms of distress. Especially until your own mental pictures, emotions and thoughts shift in a more peaceful direction.
So here is what I would like to propose for this year’s noisy holidays as well as for any upcoming noise events in your family’s life. Still do all the usual things you do that you have seen some positive results from. Definitely ask your pet’s veterinarian for help if your pet has any kind of extreme noise phobia or reaction. Be sure your animal is microchipped and your contact information is updated in the database.
However, also play with changing your YouTV programming on the night of fireworks. Broadcasting quiet, calm mental pictures of happy pets playing or snuggling or snoozing, paired with happy and loving emotions and proud thoughts of how well they are doing, is going to shift the energy of the whole day in such a beneficial direction for your animals.
If you are not used to working with your own mind and emotions in this way, it can help to start practicing right away. Let’s say your mind keeps replaying a particularly traumatic memory of when your noise–averse pup injured himself trying to get out of his kennel during last year’s fireworks. So take that YouTV clip and shift it. Instead, envision your dog napping calmly and cozily in his kennel all through the fireworks show.
Or maybe you keep visualizing your bird screaming and repetitively feather–plucking during a recent wild thunderstorm. Shift that YouTV clip into a scene where your parrot tucks into a tasty dinner and doesn’t seem to even notice the thunder and lightning going on while she eats.
You get the general idea. You can do the same thing with repetitive thoughts that are keeping you anxious and worried about how your pet is going to react to some near–future noise event. Let’s say your mind keeps saying to you, “Tucker is just so sensitive to noise and I sure hope he doesn’t develop new hot spots again from all the stress”. Take that repetitive thought and shift it to “Tucker is so brave and mature and he has everything he needs to stay calm and healthy even when it gets noisy outside.” Make sense?
VIDEO: Is Your Pet Scared of Fireworks? https://youtu.be/FAMSFh_5fsg
About the Author
practitioner with Animal Love Languages. Shannon works through the universal love language of all species to connect with her pet clients – deep listening. Deep listening activates empathy, allowing Shannon to literally feel what an animal is feeling, listen in to their thoughts, experience what they are experiencing and then relay all of that information to the pet parent.
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