Hi, my fabulous listeners. I love hearing your feedback on my podcasts.
The last podcast resonated with many of you who recently lost a furry family member.
If you have some classic cat & dog challenges happening in your household, this podcast is for you.
While writing this, I have a cat in my lap and a dog by my feet. These days our family gets along great. Mostly. But it took us a while to get here.
Every relationship needs attention, nourishment, and tender maintenance. And the relationships between your animals are no different.
In a recent phone consultation, the human client was surprised that her cat would sometimes attack the elder dog.
Unexpected or undesired behaviors are always a sign of an imbalance in the nervous system.
That said, at times, several layers of stress can create a behavior.
Let’s take this case apart for a moment.
Often, when an animal is old and, to a degree, incapacitated, other pack members react not kindly. If the dog is blind, if the dog is unable to walk on his own, if the dog has age-related dementia and stands in the middle of the room lost … those are signs that the family member wouldn’t make it long in the wild.
Hence, a young cat pack leader might attack the dog to shoo him out of the family fold because a weak link threatens the larger pack's wellness.
Secondly, this cat has taken on a big job. Wizard, the cat, is a heartthrob. Curiously similar to my cat Flitzer, Wiz is a charmer who loves his person and reminds her often that she needs to take a breath and come back into her body. Wiz is also the guardian of the backyard, out there playing chase with squirrels, keeping an eye on the birds, and surveying the property.
A college-age child in the family comes when on break and goes when school. So naturally, that change affects the cat and all other family members.
The family had a few furry losses, concerning the humans as significantly as the animals.
Tuning into Wiz, I noticed that his chakras were off the chart. Overcharged, as I call it.
Reading the quality of that overcharged energy is always fun for me. It can feel hyped up. It can feel like runaway energy, or, in this case, it felt like misdirected power energy. I could feel the cat was trying to direct everyone in the family. I saw Wiz dressed in a uniform, wanting to be in charge of everyone and everything. As I felt deeper into the energy, it felt like too much caffeine. Wiz came across as the young boss who walks around with a red face attacking the dog to show him that he is not doing enough for the family anymore—and getting snappy with his person because she is too much in her head.
There was a juvenile aspect to it that felt like someone was in over their head.
I sensed Wiz needed guidance. He was running around in his own head, bossing everyone around without supervision.
At that point, his person explained that she interrupted the behavior, especially when Wiz went after the elderly dog. I explained that that is a great thing to do. I further shared that I sometimes have to do that at my house.
Once in a blue moon, our dog Scout is too curious about the cats. So he will stand right in front of the sofa where Mimi, our other cat, lies, sticking his nose toward her to say hello, and WHACK, she slings a clay paw at him. One time she got his eyelid, and Scout needed to go to the emergency room because his eye swelled up like it was stung by a bee.
When Scout is too nosy, I say, “Leave it. Give her your space.” I acknowledge that he wants to be friendly, but I continue to teach him that he needs to give Mimi more space.
Other times, Flitzer, the boss cat, will restrict Scout from walking past him in the hall. Scout knows if he tries to get past Flitzer the cat will snap at him. So I will ask Flitzer to move on, and when he doesn’t, I will walk in between the two animals to make room for Scout to move freely.
Now, if I witness Flitzer acting fresh to Scout, it usually starts with a growly meow, even a hiss, followed by a paw reaching toward Scout, I step in. I allow conversations between them, but I do not accept torture.
If Flitzer acts beyond the necessary measures of bringing a point across, I turn into a mama cat. You don’t want to mess with mama cat. I will spit and stomp my feet to move the Flitzer out of the situation. He turns into a scramble and disappears around the corner into the next room.
And he is only allowed to return if he is soft and at peace.
As I was sharing this particular piece with my human client, she said. Well, I do that, I do send Wiz off, but shortly after that, I pick him up and snuggle him.
I get it. We don’t want animals to be mad at us, especially those animals who hold our hearts in magical ways. What if Wiz were angry at his person? What if he snubs her for the rest of the day?
That’s where the mama-cat analogy comes in. Mama cat doesn’t give a darn if her fresh kitty loves her or not. But, Mama cat says, you need to have some manners to become a solid citizen of our family, and I will not let anyone get away with bossing the whole family around, mama cat included.
When I sent Flitzer out of our orbit, my energy said this behavior was unacceptable because it was over the top. Like kids (and adults, too), our animals need to learn emotional agility. Just because something or someone ticks a strong cat like Wiz or Flitzer off doesn’t mean they can act on that emotion and hurt someone, dog, or human.
There needs to be a consequence to the behavior.
I explained to my client that it is essential for Wiz to experience the extent of the message, “NO! Do not touch the dog.”
I explained when we interrupt the behavior so the cat moves off, we need to give him a chance to think about it. If we pick him up because we feel bad, he becomes unsure why we interrupted his actions with the dog in the first place. The message is mixed.
Hey, don't do that.
Hey, I am sorry. I didn’t mean to push you off.
But, if we allow our cat to go away so he can process the interactions, we give him a chance to learn. He will realize that you interrupted the behavior because you want him to mind his business. That's all you're doing. Like mama-cat would say, “Hey, enough with the shenanigans, I want peace in the house. Mind your own business." while shooing or carrying the overcharged kitten to a quiet place.
We need to let the animal sit with it. We need to give the animal a chance to learn about consequences and the rules that make for a harmonious household. We want the animal to come to his senses rather than act on instinct alone.
Our animals can feel overwhelmed. Like toddlers close to a meltdown. Or teenagers, who are too big for their britches.