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.
And animals also need to explore their strength and establish their role in the family.
However, the way they do it can be shaped. By us.
I appreciate Flitzer's work, surveying the land, calling me into my body, and looking out for Scout and Mimi. But when Flitzer gets too big for his britches, signs might be saucer-like pupils stiffened body. So I try to catch what happens before what happens happens and redirect him. I might call out to him, reminding him to manage his temper. I might interrupt by stepping in between, reminding both parties that we are a harmonious household where everyone is seen and heard and needs to take responsibility for their energy and subsequent behaviors.
And most days, that is the perfect level of attention, nourishment and tender maintenance required for a peaceful living space. But if one of the animals becomes too bossy, we must teach them to curb their enthusiasm.
After I straighten out his cute kitty butt, just like mama-cat would do, I forget about Flitzer. I did my thing and moved on. I don’t feel bad for him. If anything, I feel bad for Scout. And by me moving Flitzer away from the scene, I prove to Scout that I have his back when unfair treatment is dished out.
I forget about the scene so quickly that I am sometimes surprised when Flitzer comes around the corner a few hours later, rubs on my leg, looking at me with his charming eyes, lids halfway down, softly purring.
He comes back to charm me. And that feels right and fair. He shows me that he had time to think about it and that he is back with a softer body and mind. He adjusted. He acted on high emotion and is now back, grounded with all four paws on the ground.
And that tells me he needed me to help him. Like the toddler or teen, he needed my guidance to show him that emotions are good and that there is a way to express them constructively.
And profound enough, often I see Flitzer walk up to Scout afterward. He will walk right under Scout's neck and rub his head under Scout's chin. It feels like a makeup moment, and I allow it unless Scout’s eyes tell me he has had enough of the kitty love. At that point, I will pet both and gently untangle the love fest before one of them gets overwhelmed.
Do you see how this is an ongoing process? We can’t assume when in a relationship. We must be present and aware of what is going on. Day by day, moment by moment. Because our life changes daily, and that affects us all.
This podcast provides insights on wrangling your furry family into a harmonious bunch. If you need more help, hop over to my website to book a session. It’s the perfect way to get everyone’s opinion and come up with a plan to bring peace to your home.
Thank you for being my inspiration! I can't wait to be in your ear next time.
Ciao, ciao, good bye for today.