Veterinary Blog

An Act of Revenge? Not So!

By Dr. Leslie Ross BSc. D.V.M.

Most scientists of our time agree that animals and birds are capable of feelings rather than just functioning as programmed creatures that react in a pre-determined way to their surroundings. As MRI and CAT scan technology continues to advance even staunch skeptics do in general agree that brain structures responsible for higher brain functions in animal brains are often quite similar to that of human brain structures.

With this exciting concept in one’s mind, it is easy for a pet-owner to incorrectly assume that their pet’s actions parallel their own behavior and reactions.

Taking dogs as an easy example of this incorrect assumption, they are not little people; rather, they act and think quite differently from humans. People can dress them up like humans and carry them around in backpacks or push them in baby buggies, but dogs do not think or act like humans because a dog thinks and acts like what he is… a dog.

As a case in point, take, for example, the situation where an owner comes home after attending to some errands to find his sofa cushion torn to shreds and his front door baseboard in jagged splinters. To assume that this behavior is from retaliation to “get back at me for leaving” is a mistake. More likely, the destructive act has been a result of a pressure-cooker effect on the pet from to pent-up emotions such as frustration, anxiety or simply boredom. Or even, as could easily be the case in a young dog it could have been due to a compulsive need to help relieve pain from his teething process.

Although many pet owners are convinced that when they arrive at the “crime scene”, be it damaged property or “doggy do” on the floor and see their pet assuming a seme-crouched, defensive pose with his gaze averted, that he is feeling guilty about his act. Actually, this is not the case. This situation is a good example of how a dog’s thought processes differ from a human’s. When a dog appears to be looking “guilty” after a destructive act he is actually showing a fear response from his prediction of events that are likely to immediately folow his owner’s angry look. Since dogs, like young kids, live their lives very much in the present, he or she is not capable of making a mental connection beween his act that may have happened some time ago and your current angry look. Rather, he has learned to be fearful when seeing his owner looking this way, perhaps from some kind of punishment closely matched to this look that has occurred in his past.

Similarly, a cat that urinates or defecates on a bed or on a carpet is not expressing his disdain about you being absent from his presence (despite all appearances that he chooses the most opportune time to match with when you are bringing home guests), but rather, this action is most likely due to one or more quite common reasons such as a health problem, anxiety issue, or physical disability Some examples of causes of inappropriate elimination behavior in cats include a urinary tract disorder, a strained relationship with other pets or people in the household, an unappealing litter box or litter fill, or as is often the case with older cats, physical difficulty accessing his litter box in time. In any case, this action would not be one motivated by intentional revenge.

So, to conclude, in contrast to humans who unfortunately do tend to hold grudges and feelings of resentment, pets are much better off in this regard, escaping health problems such as high blood pressure and heart disease caused by brooding over past unchangeable events.

Google search – Live in the Moment

Living in the moment may be one of the most important lessons we can learn from our pets. In a study called “A Wandering Mind Is an Unhappy Mind,” Harvard psychologists conclude that people are happiest when doing activities that keep the mind focused, such as sex or exercise. Planning, reminiscing, or thinking about anything other than the current activity can undermine happiness.

( Live in the Moment is from Google Search)

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