Advice on understanding your pet's behaviour
Emotions are not just reserved for humans. Our pets feel them too. By tuning into these emotions, observing our pet’s behaviour, noticing any changes and approaching vet and pet professionals for advice, we can ensure our animal companion lives a full, happy and healthy life.
Pets feel emotions, just like we do.
We need to work out what they are feeling so we can make sure they are happy and healthy – and to seek advice or make plans if things change. They can be finely tuned to what we are feeling: with COVID-19 and the lockdowns having had a huge impact on our world and theirs, right now they will be recognising that, once again, things are changing. Younger pets may never have known any different and the transition to a more open lifestyle will be completely new.
Their body language gives us signals about how they are feeling. Because every animal is unique, they will all have differences in their behaviour, so it is important to observe them carefully and familiarise yourself with what is normal for them. What is normal for one may not be normal for another – how much they sleep and in what positions, how sociable they are, how much they want to play.
Just like us, some are extrovert while others have a more reflective view of the world. Some want to throw themselves into every activity in the home while others may need time to feel secure first, get their bearings – or just need a quiet space to take themselves off to – maybe in a miniscule spot of sunshine, maybe tucked behind or under the furniture, to sleep away the hours.
One advantage of lockdown is we may well have spent a lot more time with our pets and have got used to their quirks. That way, if suddenly they behave differently, it’s easier to spot the change and start to work out why.
Sometimes this is straightforward. They may start behaving oddly – perhaps they become quiet, or want to hide, or become uninterested in food, walks, fuss or play. They may even behave in a way that we, as humans, might think of as funny or amusing, such as dogs chasing their tails, or do things we might think of as being ‘naughty’ – barking, being destructive or going to the toilet indoors which they have not done before.
Sometimes spotting a change is less obvious. They won’t always make it clear if they are feeling under the weather or stressed – for example, a cat worried or in pain might spend a lot of time hiding away – cats are notoriously stoic. For some animals, clues may be more subtle. For example, dogs with really short tails may not be able to lower them, a usual signal that they’re feeling worried.
Change is difficult for our pets just like us – and preparation for change is key. If you’re worried, your vet can help. They’ll make sure there is no underlying health cause for a change in behaviour – it’s a good idea if you make an appointment, either at the practice or online, to come equipped with a video to support your description if there’s a behaviour of concern. But by knowing our pet well, and spotting any signs, there’s a lot we can do to help nip any stresses in the bud and think about how we can introduce change without negative impact on the physical, or indeed, mental health of our pets.
Experts at the Canine and Feline Sector Group, including the veterinary profession and leading animal welfare charities, have collaborated on some good advice on what kind of things can impact our pets, what we can do and how to find professional help if it’s needed.
Check out the graphic and visit cfsg.org.uk for more info.