The secret
life of pets
The not so secret lives of pets copyright (c) 2021 Frania Shelley-Grielen.
All rights reserved.

Just how “secret” is the life of the pets that live with you?  The imaginary lives we
give our pets make for great blockbuster entertainment in
“The Secret Lives of Pets”
but what about the real story?  A New York Times reporter took a look at what goes
on behind the scenes for a few real life city pets.  Remote cameras allow live time
monitoring of dogs raiding the refrigerator, sleeping, waiting by their food bowl
when meal time approaches, shredding a roll of paper towels, mounting a pillow,
sitting alone in a doggy day care and yes, eating their own poop and more.

Knowing what our pets are up to when we are not with them let’s us know what
they are missing if we pay close enough attention.  Mostly it is us that they are
missing. The
NYT quotes dog behavior expert, Alexandra Horowitz on dogs being
home alone: “This is not when they come into themselves.  It is when they’re
waiting for the person to return so they can resume normal programming.” But
there is comfortably waiting around even if we may not believe it. Dr. Horowitz
told the newspaper that she got a second dog to keep her first company when she
was not around: “Our two dogs spent a truly impressive amount of time asleep
rump-to-rump on the sofa.”  Now we know that dogs do want to do things and
they do want to do them with us.  We also know that there’s also a lot of down
time just being a dog.  Dogs sleep 12-14 hours per day- if 8 of those hours are
with you at night-there’s a good bit of napping to get in during the day.
Seeing that sort of social connection of two dogs sleeping together is one of
contentment or comfortably waiting while getting in nap time.

And there’s being driven to distraction by boredom- a puppy, shredding a roll of
paper towels is most probably doing this because that roll of paper towels is what
is available to play with and offer that intrinsic shredding satisfaction.  There is
being able to do what they would like to do when you’re home but can’t-raiding
the refrigerator is a definite “no, no” when humans are around, as is mounting
or getting to ricochets off the furniture.  There’s what they’re not getting-the
dog that poops on the floor and eats it-needs a dog walker (one that comes on
time), and the one sitting alone in a sea of dogs at day care probably needs to
be home instead.

Most pet owners live with animals because they love animals and treasure the
human animal bond.  They want to provide their pets the best welfare possible
whether with them or not.  But are pet owners looking at welfare from the pet
perspective?  Or do they even know what exactly “welfare” means?

Animal welfare is how the animal perceives their world from their own
perspective.  It is now widely accepted that basic animal welfare includes freedom
from hunger and thirst, freedom from discomfort, freedom from injury and
disease, freedom to express normal behaviors and freedom from fear and distress.  
Some  examples of how we can provide some aspects of these “five freedoms” are
seen when we offer our pets the right diet and access to fresh water, a clean litter
box or a good dog walker for a mid day walk, comfortable resting spaces including
cat and dog beds with at least three raised sides along with soft throws and spots to
rest on our own furniture.  And that pet perspective means different needs for
different species-those comfortable resting spaces for cats in addition to beds, are
elevated surfaces and places to hide because that is part of normal cat behavior.  
Allowing for natural behaviors for dogs is getting to chew on not just bones and
toys but a meal fed in a
Kong instead of gulped out of a bowl and for cats feeding
with food puzzles satisfies hunting and foraging behaviors over an extended
period of time.  And both provisions prevent boredom and allow for a richer life
for the animal to have when they are home alone.  Fear and distress is alleviated
by avoiding and preventing the situations that cause those like keeping feeding
times regular, along with adding in the enrichments shown to alleviate stress
such as classical music which can also be listened to without an owner present.

Seeing the secret life of our pets without us can better inform us what they need
if we look and listen and provide it both when we are home and when we are not.

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"Seeing the secret life of our pets
without us can better inform us
what provide it both when we
are home and when we are not."
Contact me for a consultation
copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
212-722-2509 / 646-228-7813

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