Polly Klein and a now adult Jordie
Emma, a fluffy, white ten-week-old kitten, surveyed my office with the confidence of a conqueror viewing her new lands. Her blue eyes darted from the ticking clock to the window and then on to the gurgling water cooler. Spying a cat toy, she pawed at it, springing back with delight as it rolled about. She then wiggled under the cabinet only to emerge moments later covered with dust. She assessed the water bowl with a quick sniff then turned, sat down and started to groom herself. Emma might as well have been wearing a sign around her neck that said, "I'm adorable and I know it!"
Jill, Emma's person, had brought her in to see me because there was a problem. Emma was jumping all over Jill's other cat Bosco, a black and white tuxedo cat, who had been living contently with Jill for 3 years. Being the only cat in the house at the time, he slept when he wanted, ate when he wanted and enjoyed Jill's undivided attention in the evening. Since Emma had arrived a few weeks ago, she had been running around pouncing on Bosco and trying to wrestle with him. Bosco had taken to hiding in Jill's bedroom all day and never approached Jill when Emma was around.
Jill was very upset to see her sweet Bosco so miserable. She hoped it might help to have me explain to Emma that harassing Bosco was a bad idea. Jill wanted me to tell Emma that it wasn't okay to jump on Bosco or to bother him.
When Jill first called me about this situation, I suggested we wait until Emma was a bit older to talk with her about this issue. Generally, I find problem-solving conversations with baby animals to be fairly useless. Like young human children, they usually have very short attention spans and are focused on their own wants and needs. Jill insisted that she still wanted to attempt getting through to Emma, so I agreed to try.
My conversation with Emma went like this:
Me: "Hi Emma, I'm Polly. Your mom loves you very much and has some things she would like to talk with you about."
Emma (playing with toy): "What? I like this."
Me: "Emma, mom tells me you live with another cat."
Emma: "Where are we?"
Me: "You're in my office and I talk with dogs and cats here and help their people understand them better."
Emma then started wrestling with a small ball.
Me: "Emma, your mom says you live with another cat called Bosco. Do you know who I mean?"
Emma: "Bosco's not here. I'm beautiful, everyone tells me."
Me: "Yes, you are beautiful. Your mom wants to talk with you about Bosco."
Emma: "Mom wants to talk with me?" Emma then looked at Jill for a moment.
Me: "Yes, mom says when you are around Bosco you pounce and grab at him."
Emma: "I love to play. Why doesn't he like to play?"
Me: "He's older and doesn't play like that."
Me: "Because when cats get older sometimes they have less energy and don't feel like playing as much."
Emma seemed confused by the idea of not wanting to play.
Emma: "I like to play."
Me: "Mom hopes you can play gently around Bosco." (At this point I imagine a scene of Bosco lying quietly and Emma gently batting him.)
Emma: "No, that's not how to play."
Me: "Emma, mom loves you and she loves Bosco and she wants you both to be happy. When you pounce on Bosco that makes Bosco mad and then mom gets sad."
Emma was again confused.
Me: "Can you try to play more gently with Bosco to make mom happy?"
Emma: "I'm pretty."
Me: "Yes, Emma, you're pretty. Would you consider playing gently with Bosco to make mom happy?"
Emma: "That's not how I play. It smells like food here, but I don't see food. Where's the food?"
At this point I turned to Jill and relayed the conversation I'd just had with her little snowball. Jill said it didn't sound like Emma was even trying to change. I reminded her again that Emma was a baby and she was doing things normal for a baby: Emma was playing and her world revolved around herself. I suggested we have this conversation again when Emma was a little older and had a longer attention span and Jill agreed.
I always enjoy talking with young animals, but I also caution clients about expecting too much from these conversations. Talking with young animals can give you a good idea of how they see their world, which results in a better understanding of why they are doing a particular behavior. Still, I wouldn't expect to have deep conversations with young animals about much of anything. It's the same thing as expecting my 18 month old daughter to understand and convey deep thoughts about her world. They just don't have the maturity and experience to look at their environment the same way as older animals do.
The conversation with Emma reminded me of something that happened when was I preparing to teach my first animal communication class. I was trying to figure out some interesting way to start the class. Another person I know who also teaches animal communication said she asked her horse what was important for the students to know and then relayed the message to her students at the beginning of class. That sounded like a good idea, so I asked one of my cats, who didn't really care about my question and wasn't interested in thinking about an answer. Then I asked my three-year-old Newfoundland. He said, "Tell them you are nice and they have to listen really hard." Not profound, but I told him I would pass it along. At this point my 7-month-old Standard Poodle puppy, Jordie, broke into the conversation. "You didn't ask me!"
I turned to Jordie and said, "Okay, what do you think?" Jordie responded exactly the way you'd expect a 7-month-old to react. He said, "What are we talking about?"
If you've been trying to practice your animal communication skills with a young animal, be patient and give them a little bit of time to grow up. Then the possibilities will be endless for the conversations you can have with your animals.
If you have a question you would like to see addressed in an article, please send it to Polly Klein at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Animal Communication Tip: Picture What You Want
When your animal family members are doing something you find bothersome, try focusing on a positive action instead to help them understand what you would like them to do in place of the wrong behavior. When your cat is scratching on a piece of furniture it's easy to accidentally show your cat the wrong message by thinking about them destroying your favorite chair. The problem is the cat then gets from you an image of scratching on the wrong item but can misinterpret it, thinking you are encouraging it.
Instead, create an imagine in your mind of the cat going over to their scratching post and digging in its claws there. Then create an image in your mind of being happy and content while watching your cat scratching the post. As hard as it can be to change your normal reaction, it's very important to remember to focus on what you want, not what you don't want.
Picturing the positive behavior helps your animals more clearly understand the message you are trying to communicate.
Client Profile: Jake Starr
Who says only cats have nine lives?! Meet Jake, a 13-year-old Australian Shepherd with quite an amazing tale. Last summer, while accompanying his people on a vacation in Eastern Washington, Jake was bitten twice in the nose and face by a rattlesnake. He was rushed to the local vet, but the vet told his family it might be too dangerous to give Jake anti-venom medication. As Jake's condition worsened, his panicking people decided to rush back to Western Washington and to bring him to their local emergency vet. However, by the time they arrived Jake was in critical condition. The emergency vet told Jake's people the anti-venom medication should have been given to Jake immediately after the bites and it was now too late to give it to him.
Jake was at death's door. His people decided the best course of action now was intensive care treatment, Reiki and homeopathy. I was fortunate enough to talk with him throughout this process. Jake gathered all his remaining strength to fight for his life. Four and a half months later I am happy to say Jake is alive and well and his injuries continue to heal.
In this picture you can see what's left of the bites to Jake's nose and face. He gets acupuncture once a month and is on a diet of homemade food with herbal antioxidants to support his liver as a result of the trauma from the bite and the emergency drugs.
Jake's people want everyone to know that during this ordeal they learned there is a vaccine available for rattlesnake bites. If you are planning on traveling to an area where your animal may encounter a rattlesnake, please ask your veterinarian about this vaccine ahead of time so you can decide if it's appropriate for your animal family member.
If you would like to see your animal profiled here, just e-mail a picture to email@example.com. We will profile at least one client in each newsletter.