Louisa Beal, DVM
I like to consider myself a fairly non-judgmental person. People may do things to their pets that I think are horrible, but I cannot judge them, since, in the past, I have done most of those things myself. We all grow and learn and change.
However, there are two things that get under my skin and make me want to slap folks upside the head. Or at least sting them with my sarcasm. All of my caring, nurturing and willingness to help simply fly out the window. I end up jamming my fist down my throat so that I don’t say anything that I will regret.
Number one pet peeve. “I’ve tried everything.” Really. Everything? Well, I guess there’s nothing I can do now, is there? No place to go from here. Thanks for calling and have a nice life. I suppose what they really mean to say is “I am desperate and need you to help me.” Okay. But do they think I wouldn’t help them unless they were desperate? This is my profession. I want to help. Desperation merely gets in the way.
Maybe the underlying message is: “I’ve tried everything I can think of.” Better. At least they give me a chance to think of something. But it still does not give me much information. What was tried? How did the pet respond? Even if medication was tried with no success, there are many reasons why that might be the case. What was the dosage? Too much or too little medication can have unsatisfactory results. How long was the medication given? Some medications require a month before full effects are seen. How was the medication given? Ear gels may not deliver the needed quantity of the medication to reach therapeutic blood levels. There is the possibility that a different approach to medication may help.
So, my request is to please give me some information that I can process. Let me know what has been tried. Let me know the results.
Number two pet peeve. “I think he is jealous.” My first snarky impulse is to say, “Well then, I think you should stop catting around.” But, I hold my tongue. I take a deep breath and ask, “What is he doing?”
Jealousy is an emotion that we may or may not be able to ascribe to animals. We may be able to tell if a pet is feeling good or feeling bad, but to assign a nuanced emotion like jealousy is not really helpful. Are we talking about bitterness or suspicion? Possessiveness or demanding attention? Even if I could get the cat or dog to lie down on the couch, I still can’t discuss with them any feelings of abandonment or inadequacy. I can’t get them to understand that they don’t need to feel that way. And even if I could somehow communicate that to them, it wouldn’t help.
You see, jealousy isn’t the problem. It is the behavior that is the problem. What is the pet doing that you don’t want them to do? Urinating inappropriately? Chewing things up? Tearing things down? Now those are behaviors that I can address. Ultimately, it is the behavior we want to change. And unless I know which behaviors are the problem, there isn’t much I can do. I often deal with changing a pet’s emotions, but even then, I rely on body language to let me know how the pet is feeling. Ear position, eye position, body posture and vocalizations are all reflections of emotions. These are the things we can change. Jealousy is not one of them.
Well, I gotta go. I have to feed my cats, walk my dog and water my peeves.