Are you making your pet miserable?

miserable pet

Are you making your pet miserable?

But more importantly, would you know if your behavior and actions are making your pet miserable?

Most people are not able to identify if their actions are making their animals miserable and often miss what those same animals are communicating.

I recently had an interesting discussion with someone I’ve know for many, many years.

In the past, she always had quite a few animals but they were happy and well taken care of.

She attended many of my classes but admitted that she was “willfully disobedient” and so did not follow my directives.

Funny, I though she never listened or learned–because in my book, you come to pet parenting school to learn how to keep your pets healthier, happier, and better behaved.

What that taught me was that despite gaining the knowledge–she simply didn’t want to know.

Fast forward to today and she argues with me about how her insane amount of animals doesn’t make a difference.

She insists that her pets are well taken care of…in her book that is.

In my book, once you get past a certain number of pets you simply cannot care for them properly.

You see, the reality is this:

If you cannot find the time to groom, exercise and give your animals quality time and attention–you are not doing a good job as a pet parent.

Now, in her case, the animals are well fed but they certainly are not well groomed nor can she get an animal to the veterinarian in a timely manner because the finances are just not there.

She has too many animals to take care of, cannot physically find the time to do it, and does not have the finances to provide for all their needs at any given time.

And if the animal control department ever discovers her location (she is in an unincorporated area) she is going to be in serious trouble–with fines and confiscation the likely outcomes.

Now, behaviorally the animals are actually pretty well adjusted because she is home all the time and rotates the dogs during her outings but I think pets need more than that.

Also, the house stinks and the dander, dust and toileting accidents are far from what I consider healthy living patterns for animals or humans.

So let’s look at one of her “simple” errors.

She chooses to feed her animals at the same time every day.

Why is this a bad thing?

This type of schedule tends to habituate animals and causes stress in a number of ways.

First, if the feeding is delayed, the animals act up.

If they act up and are then fed–it reinforces the behavior.

Next, it is stressful for them if a feeding is missed because they have been trained to a time based feeding activity.

Ever see animals pace at the zoo near feeding time?

It is the same thing.

If animals are fed at the same time and place, the stress builds up in their anticipation of the feeding.

Why create a problem when you can avoid one?

Anyway, my question is really this, are you making your pet miserable because of your actions and desires–and would you know it?

She certainly is–but argues that her pets are much better off than most animals.

But does that make it okay?

Okay, you know my opinion, you tell me what you think in the comments.

Photo Credit: Homer4K

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  1. Sounds like this woman might be an animal hoarder. Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine has done a lot of research in this area. The link to an article with recommedations for intervening if you discover your friend or family member is an animal hoarder:

  2. Thanks Carol, I appreciate your sharing the link. Also, she is not hoarder status and I would have reported it if she was. They have have recently relocated to a larger piece of property–which has helped greatly.

    She is involved in animal rescue and has kept far too many animals in the process. The place is cleaned daily but the accidents occur regularly because there isn’t good management in place. While I was onsite, there were no accidents at all.

    There is a specific grooming room and also a food storage area specifically for the animal food. Animal bowls are cleaned daily, fresh water daily, etc. They all have beds and bedding is changed regularly.

    My last visit resulted in her getting additional help in to get her caught up in grooming and they now have an aid onsite who is helping with the day-to-day tasks.

    As someone with a degree in animal management, I have a tough time accepting less than optimal conditions in rescue situations and other environments but I also have no qualms about intervention if necessary.

  3. Cathy Toft says

    I agree with Carol. This situation is classic for an animal hoarder. One aspect of a hoarder is being in a state of denial. This is a mental illness, not simply illogical or irrational behavior by a normal person. Although your points are well-taken for an ordinary pet owner, in the case of an animal hoarder, trying to appeal to reason will not work. An animal hoarder needs medical and social intervention, not advice for managing his or her pack or instructions on proper care etc. The Tufts web site is the best resource for friends and family members wishing to start an intervention, which Tufts urges them to do. Not only is the health and welfare of the animals at risk, but most animal hoarders suffer from self-neglect leading to poor health. I should add that ‘overwhelmed caretaker’ which applies to many rescuers is one of the three categories of animal hoarding established by Tufts.

  4. Thanks Cathy, this person is a rescue participant and very active in breed rescue. I see similar situations in a variety of those doing animal rescues. My concern is that this is not an isolated incident since the rescue facilities I have visited, and those involved in breed rescue, seem to exhibit the same issues. The problems are that they are not set up for animal management and are usually lay people who are into the breed. The other problem is that standards between these groups varies greatly without (it seems) a lot of regulation. Guess I am going to have to do a post on it…