Would you get upset if your spouse brought home a new baby without asking? Or if you suddenly got dropped off at daycare for two weeks, instead of just one day like normal? I think you probably would be upset, and this is how many of your animals feel when important events and situations are not explained to them ahead of time.
Some animals think they manage you and your house, and they may especially get very upset if you don’t consult with them first. Consulting with your pet doesn’t mean you have to have their agreement, it just means you have talked with them about it, and then you made a final decision and let them know about it. It’s just polite. While not all animals are as concerned as others about the daily details, I truly think it’s a good idea to fill all of them in on everything that will affect them in any way, especially something important like moving, new pets or babies, extended vacation, even rearranging or getting new furniture.
You can fool yourself and think they aren’t listening, they don’t understand or they don’t care. But I’m here to say they do listen, they do understand, and they frequently do care.
A woman asked me to explain to her dog about the dental appointment he was to have the next day. She explained to me in detail what to tell him, everything from the car ride to the vet, to him being knocked out and waking up in the exam room, and her waiting in the waiting room. So I did exactly as requested, and when I was done I heard a big “I know” from the dog! I told her that he said he was aware of it already, and she explained to me she’d been telling him about it every day for a week. He knew! (Good Mom!) He was already aware of what was coming up; the only additional help I added was that he could express any concerns to me and get answers, and just be heard.
People will often tell me their animals are mad at them for one reason or another, and it’s typically because of a past event that blindsided the animal. Yes, sometimes it’s true, the animals are very upset that they weren’t consulted first, and the misbehavior all could have been avoided by a discussion or explanation ahead of time. So often a cat or dog truly believes they are partners with their person, so when they aren’t consulted on a major decision that affects them, they do get upset.
A change in routine can send an anxious animal nearly over the edge, so please let them know about any changes ahead of time. Let all your animals know how long you’ll be gone when you leave, when you’ll be home, who is coming to dinner, where you two are taking a ride to, etc. Everything. I mean everything. “I’ll be home in 2 hours,” “Grandma is stopping by later tonight,” “I’m going to get rid of this chair. I know it’s your favorite so we’ll find another comfortable spot to sleep.”
Doing little things like this can help make your animal companions more relaxed and happier. They will start to know your behaviors for everyday tasks you take for granted, like getting dinner ready, or getting ready for bed, or going out. They will learn what is coming up in the near future by both your behavior and your words, just like they already know it’s time for a walk when you grab the leash!
I promise you there are some behaviors that can be corrected, or better yet avoided, by keeping your animal in the know. Talk to them as you would your child. It’s common courtesy to share information with those you share a house with. The more you talk to them, the more they understand. Also refer to this post about “The Words We Use” for more information.