While we would all love a glimpse into the minds of our pets, science has yet to advance far enough to let us do it. So is that it – we can never know what our pets are thinking?
Nothing is ever that simple!
Your Pet Doesn’t Talk – But They Do Communicate
The more time you spend with your chosen pet, the more you will learn to read them. You will know when they are having a good day; when their mood is buoyant; when it’s time to play and when it’s time to sleep.
Cats, for example, use their tails to communicate – sometimes with more nuance than humans are capable of understanding. Dogs also use their tails, though not quite to the same degree as their feline friends. Smaller pets all have ways of expressing emotion; a particularly lovely version of which is when guinea pigs “popcorn“. Even more unusual options like a fennec fox pet or a hedgehog will have ways of communicating – they will use their body language, the way they look at you, the noises they can make. It’s not words, but it is a language.
Training Doesn’t Just Happen
One of the most infuriating things you see online is people bemoaning bad habits of their pet. They will whine about how their dog jumps up on the table, or the cat walks on their work surfaces. It’s frustrating, sure – maybe you’ve even done it yourself! It’s natural.
It’s also important, however, to recognize that you’re in command here. Pets aren’t just here to change your life for the better and enrich you with company and adoration. You have to sometimes take on the role of the trainer, the disciplinarian – they have no other way of knowing. The hygiene issues at stake if a cat walks on the counter are totally alien to them, and they can never understand. What they can understand is that it’s better for them if they don’t go on the counter.
All animals (including humans!) respond better to positive training rather than negative. Emphasize and praise the good behavior; ignore the bad.
You Can Train Yourself, Too
If you hear a hissing noise from your cat, then you know that they’re unhappy about something. Miaows, on the other hand, can be a little more difficult to interpret – especially if you have never owned a cat before. The same applies to a dog barking and whining; do you know the difference?
If not, talk to people. Get online to a relevant forum, especially if you have pets that are less common in the general populace. Ask people to describe the sounds their animals make and learn to recognize them. Search for videos and then try to identify the behavior you think the animal is doing at the time of making the sound.
Forget The Eyes
Finally, a more specific point: eye contact. For humans, we place a high price on eye contact. Most of us know the old wives tale about liars being reluctant to look you in the eye. We see eye contact as a sign of trust.
Animals don’t. Do not stare at any animal; they will most likely interpret it as a threat! In this case, the eyes are not the window to the soul – they’re an alarm signal, so don’t ring it!