Monday, October 15, 2012
9 Suggestions for Improving Communication
With the Opposite Pet
As suggested by cats everywhere, there are 9 ways in which cats can improve communication with the opposite pet. Relationships don't exist in shiny pet store windows. They exist between two pets who bring their past nocturnal instincts, mouse-chasing (or tail-chasing) history, and treat expectations into it. Two different pets also have different levels of skill when it comes to communication - cats are more subtle, dogs are in your face (or on the carpet). Still, better communication, because it is a skill, can be learned.
1. STOP AND LISTEN
Who's at the door? Rather than bark your head off, take a moment to listen. Dogs are so afraid of not being heard, that they incessantly bark at any old noise. Take it from us cats, slowly meander your way to the window nearby the front door and simply peek through the blinds. It's so simple, a kitten can do it!
2. FORCE YOURSELF TO HEAR
Dogs have long been associated as having better hearing than humans. While that might be true of some humans, it is not true of all of them. Stop barking for a moment, your head will no doubt still be swirling with all the barks you wish to express, but when you're barking you're not hearing what's being said. Growl all you want, but cat therapists have a technique that works very well - it's called a No Bark collar.
3. BE OPEN AND HONEST WITH OTHER PETS
Some dogs have never been very open to having cats in the same household. Heck, some dogs don't even know why! But to be in a multi-species relationship is to take a serious step toward opening up your territory and your water dish.
Being open to pets of other species means sharing the little things - treats, water dishes, treats, tidbits of chicken. It means allowing cats to sleep in your oversized, cushiony bed. Giving us cats the silent treatment is about as useful as a fish with a bicycle. Keep the bicycle, give us the fish. Opening yourself up to a little scratching never hurt any dog (vets express a different opinion on this matter). The point is, open yourself up to making a cat's life better, it just might improve your relationship.
4. PAY ATTENTION TO NONVERBAL SIGNALS
Unlike humans, we do not need to utter fancy syllables to have our messages understood. Most of our communication is nonverbal. It's body language, the tone in our meows, the ssss behind our hisses. It's eye contact, distance, and, at times, an upward rolling of the spine. Learning cat lingo means that you need to learn how to read our signals. If you're pushing your limits with us, we'll let you know by hissing or folding our ears back...the more attuned you are to what we're communicating, the more easily you'll be able to sit next to us at a family gathering without getting your nose tweaked!
5. LOOK AT THE BIRDIE
Sometimes laser games turn into outright interspecies war, which can then morph into general arguments about who left the "surprise" for Master on his bed - for the record, it wasn't the cat. To be respectful of both cats and dogs, you must try to keep the discussion focused on the topic at hand (Who left the surprise for Master?). It's easy to get in the cheap shots - you chewed up the Master's slippers or you left a hairball in the Master's sink, just don't. If the argument is ostensibly about who gets to sleep next to Master on the couch, keep it on that topic. Don't veer off the country road of who does what in the house, who's responsible for greeting the Master at the end of a long day, and by the way, who dumped over the garbage can?
6. TRY TO MINIMIZE EMOTION WHEN TALKING ABOUT IMPORTANT, BIG DECISIONS
No pet wants to go to the vet when they feel emotionally vulnerable, charged-up or angry. Those are not the times to bring up serious issues (territories, pet dishes, litter pans). Bringing up sensitive topics, which need a pawhold of rationality in order to deal with them, are better left for when pets are calm and peaceful and not being placed into a pet carrier and paraded around the mall.
7. BE READY TO CEDE AN ARGUMENT
How many pets continue to argue or have heated wrestling contests simply because we want to be "right." Most pets' arguments revolve around one party thinking their "right" and the other party not willing to cede the point or back off. The reality is, both pets need to back off (despite the fact that the cat was right all along).
By doing this, you demonstrate that you want to be in a respectful interspecies relationship, even if you find dogs to be exasperating. It just comes down to priorities - if being "right" is more important than everyone's happiness, then consider separate living territories within the Master's domain, either that or make with the "cutsie eyes" the next time one of the kids' friends come over and beg to go home with them.
8. HUMOR AND PLAYFULNESS USUALLY HELP
You don't have to be a cat clown in order to use humor and playfulness in everyday interactions. You just need to use the sense of humor you do have and try to inject it into more of your communications with the other pets in the house. Hide a bone, treat, or toy under the other pet's kennel; put treats in the other pets' water dishes; or chew up the other pets' leash so that they can run wild and free (just don't get caught). We all have a side to us that enjoys fun and taking a break from the more serious task of guarding the household and other demands on pets.
9. COMMUNICATING IS MORE THAN JUST BARKING OR MEOWING
To communicate better and more effectively with the other species in your household, you don't have to bark or meow constantly. You can communicate in other ways - through your actions, and nowadays, electronically too (the Master's iPad is a very simple device to use and it utilizes touch screen technology). All too often pets (usually dogs) focus only on the barking aspect of their relationship, but their growls also speak loudly. Keeping in touch throughout the day or week with little nods of the head or acknowledgments of one another's presence lets the other pet know you respect them, maybe even like them (or at least have grown accustomed to them). Even if your communications are only playful, communication helps to lighten any species' mood.
You don't have to be a perfect barker or meower all the time, but working on better interspecies communication, according to cat experts, yields more treats, more privileges, and steak and chicken scraps. It's well worth the effort!