As a flower essence consultant who works frequently with companion animals, I have often noticed that animals may mirror the emotions and/or behavior of their humans.
I once had a consultation with a dog that was having urinary “accidents” in the house. The animal, although young, was long past the age when such incidents would be part of the learning experience. She had regressed to the habits of an untrained puppy.
In a consultation I always ask the human what’s going on in his/her life. The woman said that she was having major issues with both of her adult children. She had often caught herself longing for the days when they’d been easy-to-handle infants. Upon hearing this, I invited her to explore the possibility that the dog, by playing the role of a non-housebroken puppy, tried to fulfill her human’s longing.
It may seem unbelievable that an animal can so accurately sense and mirror humans’ emotions. In part this is because we are fixed on the idea that communication is primarily verbal. Animals, we think, don’t understand our words, so how can they know what we feel?
This viewpoint disregards how much is communicated through other senses. Animals, much better than we, use their keen senses of smell and hearing to gather information. Many animals also exhibit an awareness that I can only describe as psychic.
One of my cats, in a group gathering, will immediately go to the human whom he has decided is the most lonely or unhappy one in the crowd. Although I noticed early in his life how he focused on specific individuals, it took me a while to make the connection. On several occasions I thought I might be wrong, since the target human seemed happy and friendly. Each time, though, the person would eventually say something to indicate the depth of their loneliness. Often they would also say how much the cat’s attention had relieved this feeling.
Companion animals are generous to us in this way, but they may pay a price in terms of their inner harmony. This can be the cause of what we call behavioral problems. Instead of labeling the animal as having a problem, it’s a much better idea to look at ourselves and try to discover what ignored emotional issues in ourselves may be causing the so-called misbehavior in our companion animals.
This is easiest to do when we don’t blame ourselves. Guilt never leads to understanding. A non-judgmental approach does. If you have a cat that suddenly decides not to use the litter box, you might ask yourself if you are feeling rebellious about something you don’t want to do. If your dog doesn’t want to eat his usual food, ask if there’s a situation in your life you’re finding hard to “swallow.”
Please note: Any sudden change in an animal’s behavior, especially one that may be jeopardizing its physical health, requires a consultation with a vet. Physical causes must be ruled out before emotional interactions get explored.