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#97 Let's all get along



Hello, hello dear friends of furry and feathery faces.

I also want to mention a few other animals that always pop into my mind when I say furry and feathery, such as reptiles. Some of you live with turtles, geckos, and bearded dragons.

I recently went down the rabbit hole and researched Chameleons, which I find fascinating, and learned that they are mostly happy in their habitat and not ideal as snuggle pets.

I met one at a local Butterfly sanctuary years ago. I had an incredible connection with this particular being. I was fascinated by the monocular vision. Each eye roams independently to take in the environment. I stood for a long time in front of his cage. Ughhh, I know, that's the part I don't like about any of these species, that they are housed with limited range to roam. This guy was so responsive to my speaking with him that it blew me away since I wish to learn more about reptiles.

As I explored more, I learned that Bearded Dragons are more open to human companionship.

After a few hours of cruising the internet, I returned to the same question: how would a caged animal feel in our home? Never mind how I would feel about having a caged animal in my home, but how would this animal feel being surrounded by predators? I know that Scout, our dog, would sniff the cage and would be beyond curious if I took the Chameleon or bearded dragon out to hang out. And how about our cats? Mimi would probably be less interested, but Flitzer, our hunter, would potentially see watching the cage and the being within it as his TV show and follow the dragon's every move—presumably no fun for the reptile.

And that led me to today's topic: How do we ensure our animals live together in harmony? 

How do we ensure that one animal's pleasure in watching life TV is not another one's pain in being watched all day?  

With that, we are right back to ease and unease and how we are responsible for that when we bring more than one animal into our household.

About 25% of my work is about helping families to get along.  

Often, we bring a new pet into our lives with the best intentions, only to realize that our other pets are less excited about the new kid on the block than we are. I learned that when we adopted Jesse, the 32 -year-old Percheron. Though most of my horses were content with his arrival, my mare Shana was unhappy. As the energy balancer of the herd, she picked up on a lot of trauma and despair from Jesse. Initially, she was charging him, her teeth bare. I could hear her say, "Snap out of it." A despondent horse is a liability in the herd and Shana was trying to shift Jesse's energy.

Sometimes, a new pet enters our lives due to new circumstances. When David and I moved in together, he brought his cat, Mimi. Mimi had been caring for David for years and was used to running the roost of cats and dogs in her old home. In her past, she scared more than one cat away, never to be seen again. 

I already had two cats: Sicily, a barn cat, and Flitzer, who lived inside the house and occasionally outdoors.    

The two girl cats rarely ran into each other. But Flitzer and Mimi had to share our living space, and initially, their interactions were not always peaceful. Mimi hissed and growled a lot when Flitzer came anywhere near her. She was defensive, wanted to stay in her bubble, and had no interest in hanging out with anyone but David. 

Then we got Scout, who got along with the cats until he had a freak-out moment and chased Flitzer. Whaaaat? And then he did it again a few months later. And again a few months after that. 

You see, we can't expect our animals to like each other. We don't like every person we encounter. Just because we work for the same company, go to the same school, or are born into the same family doesn't mean we want to get to know a person closely. 

Let's think about horses who are often brought together at random. And, of course, we want them to get along ... often in small spaces. Each horse brings its history, experiences, and needs that need to be met somehow, and sometimes, those needs are complex and not easily met in domestic settings. 

And is it any different for our pets? Not really.

Mimi didn't ask to move in with Flitzer and Sicily.

When we got Scout, none of the cats had said they wanted a dog.

Nor did Scout ask for cats or horses in his life.

As a matter of fact, Scout came to us a week before we moved to Vermont.

He drove up to the property with us a few times to drop off fence panels and other horse-related items, and he loved the property.

But the day we moved the horses there when he saw them step off the trailer, he turned around and headed down the driveway away from all of us, heading out of Dodge. 

I could hear him say," I didn't know THEY were coming too."

 

So, let's look through the animals' eyes and see how we can create a world where the chances of everyone getting along increase.

Often, our desire for all to get along creates pressure. 

  • It is okay if your two cats don't play.

  • It is okay if your cat and dog don't snuggle up.

  • It is okay if one of your horses rather eats by herself. 

Most animals are delighted to be self-contained.

You might feel your pet is lonely after losing a companion.

Well, some dogs or cats are lonely after their companion passes on.

Some animals, especially if they are the ones that came in second into the household, realize that it is now their opportunity to expand and fill the space. They realize they have the run of the house or yard, giving them a chance to individuate. It is always best to check in with your animals through a communicator to get everyone on the same page.  

Now, with horses, it is often highly challenging because if they are at a boarding facility, they see horses coming and going. Also, the barn owner often assigns a paddock or stall only to change it due to new additions or horses leaving. So, horses can only rely on their space or companions if they live in your backyard. 

How can we prepare any animal for the change?

  1. If you are adding a new dog, ideally, you should let your current dog meet the potential candidate to see how they get along. Breeders and rescue organizations often allow this.

  2. If the new dog is out of town, contact an animal communicator to check in with both dogs to see if their personalities match.

  3. If everything is a go, tell your pup what will happen and what you expect.

  4. "Fluffy, our new friend arrives today. I would love for you to be a great host and welcome him. You will play and go on adventures together. And if you want to stay back and watch first, that is cool too."

If you add a new cat to the mix, consider the following.

  1. Allow your current animals to check the new cat out from a distance. Please remember what I said at the beginning: being stuck in a cage while others watch you is no fun.

Hence, leaving the kitty in a carrier and allowing everyone else to approach the cage can be very scary. It is much better to have the new animal explore the new house independently while the other animals are outside or in a contained area. That way, the new cat can put her nose to everything and leave behind her footprints and scent so they can sniff her tracks when the other pets come back into the space. 

One of my clients put up a screen door whenever she brought a new cat into her home.

It allowed everyone to meet nose to nose without the danger of teeth or claws coming out.

  1. As the animals meet, tell them, "I am excited for our new kitty to join our family. I am looking for all of you to get along." 

  2. Sometimes, little squabbles can ensue after introductions are made and the animals start living together. As I said, Scout occasionally chased the cats, and each time, I made it very clear to him that it was unacceptable. Does that mean I occasionally grabbed his scruff to stop him? Absolutely. But I always followed up by explaining that our household is about peace and love. There is always enough love, and everyone has a right to be here. 

When it comes to backyard horses, I go about it the same way.

If you read the story about Jesse in my book Pet Logic, you will remember that he didn't like me adding a goat and a sheep to the herd. Once I told him that there would always be enough love and food for everyone, he shifted his attitude, and at the end of his life, one of the goats slept in his run-in shed. 

If your horse is at a boarding facility, try to stay on top of changes so you can report what is going on with your horse.

I think of a client who works at a barn where new horses show up regularly. She has gotten into the habit of telling those horses affected by the change, the direct stall neighbors, about the new arrival. She also checks in with the horses daily to see if they are comfortable with the new neighbor and if the new horse is settling in comfortably. Nothing is worse than having a neighbor who doesn't jive with you. You remember how Pedro the pacing donkey stressed out his neighbor Tango, episode …

Another horse comes to mind. A schoolhorse who suddenly refused to leave his stall and be ridden.

The reason? His new neighbor across the aisle chewed on the stall door every night, irritating him enough to lose his zest for work. 

 

So once again, for everyone to get along, you got to talk to the animals.

Or to say it like Sammy David Jr. 

If we could talk to the animals and learn their languages

Maybe take an animal degree

I'd study elephant and eagle, buffalo and beagle

Alligator, guinea pig and flea.

Have a great day!

Until next time.

Good bye and Auf Wiedersehen!


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