Friday, May 29, 2009
By Julia Williams
People who wouldn’t dream of giving parents advice on how to raise their children often think nothing of doling out plentiful bits of their (apparent) pet-rearing wisdom to cat and dog owners. I’m not sure how this double standard came to be, but it does exist because I’ve seen it play out more times than I can count.
From my own experience, I believe that most of the time the advice is given with good intentions. The advice givers truly think they know how to solve a pet owner’s problem or help them with raising their cat or dog. In reality, sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t.
The challenge pet owners face is knowing when to listen to the advice and act upon it, and when to just tune it out. It can be hard for pet owners to know which advice is the “right” advice. Often, the advice comes from family members, which further complicates the matter. We may want to please or placate the advice giver, so we take their advice to heart even though our own intuition is telling us it’s not the right course of action.
I firmly believe that if every person listened to their intuition every time they were faced with a decision –not just with how to raise our pets but every life choice – we would never make a wrong decision, because our intuition is always right.
Human beings are always second guessing their intuition, which is something that animals never do. Animals trust their instincts because their survival depends upon it. Humans could really learn a lot by living as an animal for just one day. I imagine that we’d come back from the experience knowing a lot more about how to trust that gut feeling, and we’d know a lot more about when (and when not) to take advice on raising our pets.
One thing I know for certain is that you should never take someone’s advice just to humor them. This will never turn out good, and I offer my own recent experience as proof.
I moved myself and my three cats back to my home town so I could help out my elderly parents. They are not “pet people,” and although they don’t dislike animals, they’ve never shared their home with one. Consequently, they know next to nothing about how to raise pets or what to do in various circumstances.
Yet for some inexplicable reason, my mother thought she knew how to help my cats recover from the shock of being driven 1,000 miles to a strange new home. She told me they would hide in the closet less if I locked them in the garage and let them explore it. (I’m still laughing about that one). Next, she said they would be less fearful of the cars driving by if I forced them to spend time outdoors. But the “pièce de résistance” was when she said that if I made them walk around the yard on a leash and harness, they would enjoy it.
One day I decided to humor her, knowing full well this advice was pure hogwash (sorry Mom!). I had a made-for-cats leash and harness that I’d bought (and used) for my trip out, so I put it on Annabelle and carried my quivering cat outside. Almost as soon as I set Belle down on the ground in the garden, she bolted. I didn't have a good grip on the leash, and as Belle scurried across the yard to the door, I zigged and zagged along behind her, desperately trying not to fall on my face. When we reached the patio Belle darted under a lawn chair and I had to let go of the leash to keep from crashing into the chair. My foot kicked over the plastic tub of Felidae cat food I’d brought out to the patio to use as a treat for Belle. Naturally the lid was off, and kibble spilled everywhere. Meanwhile, my mother was laughing hysterically.
I told her, "Stop laughing and pick up all this kibble!" I went in to remove the harness and leash from Belle so she wouldn't hurt herself. When I came back, my mother hadn't picked up a single piece of cat food because she was still too busy laughing. Apparently the sight of Belle dragging me across the yard and the subsequent "kibble mishap" was a lot funnier from her end, because every time she tells the story to someone (which is often) she goes into fits of laughter! Suffice it to say, that was the first and last time I tried to take Belle outside on a leash. It was also the last time I let my well-meaning mother give me advice on how to raise my cats.
Read more articles by Julia Williams