Britain is a nation of pet lovers. Almost half of us treat our pets like a child, bringing us happiness and improving our overall quality of life. We honestly couldn't imagine life without them!
However, according to a poll of more than 1,000 pet owners, three quarters felt that their pets were behaving in a way that they didn't understand, with half admitting that it causes them stress and frequently leads to them cancelling plans. We all wish that we could speak to our pets and try to understand them better, and it can be frustrating when all we want to do is what's best for them!
The study, commissioned by Ceva Animal Health, found that more than half of pet owners felt that their pet would misbehave frequently, with a large portion of pet lovers putting it down to their pets being fearful or anxious. Many admitted to consulting their vet or, in desperation, taking to Google and 'self-diagnosing' the problem!
In extreme cases, we'll change plans up to four times a week to cater to our pets, and often feel anxious and guilty about leaving them home alone!
Pets can present fear and anxiety in many forms of behaviour, which may seem normal, but are actually signs owners should not ignore. For dogs, barking was the most obvious, and scratching for cats. The survey also revealed that half of pet owners had incurred damage to their homes as a result of their pets' strange behaviour, causing up to £1000 in damages.
Such behaviour should not be ignored, with Animal Behaviourist and owner of Pet Behaviour Therapy, Ellena Hinson, suggesting:
"Many of the behaviours we see in our pets are normal behaviours that serve a function. Some of these behaviours aren't always appreciated in our homes. Destruction for example, dogs jumping up at guests, or urine spraying in cats.
Stress from fear, anxiety, pain or frustration are all normal too, just as they are in humans. However, this stress can manifest in many different behaviours which can then present a problem for the owners."
A change in your pets' behaviour can often be the result of a change in their environment. If you have moved home, introduced a new member into the family, or started leaving your pet at home while you're at work, they are likely to become anxious and change their behaviour.
The best option is of course to ease your pet slowly into the change - give them plenty of attention, and make them sure that they've no cause to be anxious. There are also multiple products on the market, such as Adaptil and Feliscratch, which work by releasing DAP pheromones which mimic your pet's naturally produced pheromones and have a calming effect.
Perhaps one day we'll be able to speak with our pets and get to the root of the problem. Until then, however, all we can do is spend time with them, nurture them, and give them unconditional love.