Thumbs Up

3425-cuddly-cute-kittenIt is a more common belief, and maybe less a common certainty, that we humans are superior to animals, because of something to do with opposable thumbs. That being said, it is still thumbthing of a misconception that this must mean that animals do not feel.

It should be noted that, despite any suggested superiority, our internal thumb drives do sometimes send us down Presumption Street to somewhere out in left field, but not necessarily anywhere near the truth. Still, as sentient beings, we humans often feel, and thereby sometimes know, that our Best Furry Friends experience life just as we do, from joy to fear to grief, empathy and even anxiety.  Simply put, we know  Buster is happy because he acts as if he is happy. It just seems safe to assume that if he walks like a duck and talks like a duck, he is probably happy like a duck as well. That there is actual science out there that supports this feeling is comforting, but not necessary.

Taking feelings as a given, it should come as no surprise that along with the panoply emotions that we two-legged, and they four-legged, may experience comes a corresponding spectrum of expected reflective behaviors (I.E. a wag of the tail most likely means Fido is happy; hissing most likely means Mittens is not so happy). Thus, when you notice an atypical temperament in your BFF, it is not such a stretch for you to conclude what s/he, might be feeling. Sure, in general animals are better wired to cope with an emotion like stress, they being cast in the hunter/hunted mold and programmed to respond pretty well to threatening situations. They even have a repertoire of behaviors that serve them well when having to cope with some uninvited force that invades the sanctity of their home turf; such as: bristling tails, baring teeth, growling and running away really fast.  Just the same, they, like us, are creatures of routine and they, just like us, can find that disruptions to those routines quite stressful.  Consider how much stress we humans experience when we give the thumbs up to moves, renovations, diet changes, invited guests and new additions to the family. Now consider how much stress we experience from the thumbs down events that we don’t plan.

Science tells us that stress causes the body to release adrenaline and cortisol hormones — in other words, the stuff that causes heart rate and respiration to speed up and the immune system to shut down. Science also tells us that this occurs in both humans and animals.  Some animals have better coping mechanisms to deal with stress, but may still exhibit less adaptive behaviors.  Rex may increase barking, become aggressive, excessively lick, pant, pace, whine, become shy and suffer bowl-movement accidents.  Whiskers might start hiding, panting or become extremely finicky, and of course, suffer bowl-movement accidents. Trying to manage these behaviors can present a fair challenge to the whole human superiority argument, but we need not throw in the towel, collar or leash! 

In the event life gets in the way of peaceful living, there are a few techniques available to us thumb-empowered to manage the stress levels of Buster and Fluffy. Firstly, create a safe harbor for them to retreat. Cats usually have an instinct for this.  Just make sure they have easy ingress and egress when a quick retreat to one of their safe zones is needed.  For a dog, you will need to create a safe place. It should be a cozy, comfy quiet place with a favorite blanket or toy.  In addition to providing a home-sweet-home spot, there are various other tools available to soothe the savage breast and at the same time calm your stressed-out beast. There is a company called Pet Acoustics that provides relaxing music for your agitated pooch.  And for your iPet, Janet Marlow has composed and recorded tunes for a variety of animals on their own frequencies that is designed to calm them. If your pup shudders at storms, or loud storm-like noises, you might try having him don a Thunder ShirtTM. (This is an actual accessory that has an actual positive effect and can actually be purchased from actual pet product sources.). If these remedies aren’t enough to help your pet find his inner calm in the storm of his angst, you can try an aromatherapy diffuser “Adaptil” for dogs and “Feeliway” for cats. 

*Do consult with your Vet to determine the best fit for your BFF and remember to breathe deeply, exhale slowly and it give them the thumbs up.