True

What if humans were more like the animals and insects? What if, for example, when we became bored we automatically began to make a high pitched droning sound like a cicada? It would be a game changer. Instead of pretending rapt interest in lectures that have continued too long or failed to actually inform or excite, we would be obliged by polite dignity to excuse ourselves and quietly leave the auditorium before we began to distract the others. The pompous lecturer would be left to face the empty seats of his own humility, and to reorganize his thoughts into words that better touch and inspire the listeners.

cicada

Click here for sound sample

Schools would become such a wild cacophony of squealing drones by lunchtime that students would have to be sent home early. Teachers, unable to hear themselves over the high pitched symphonies winding into frantic fervor, would have to forever abandon their forced memorization and superficial covering of topics for tests in favor of actual teaching. The neuroatypical students could no longer be marginalized, ignored, or labeled as poor learners. Their daily droning would teach us once and for all that their problem was not slow learning, but learning that was too fast, too thorough, and too far-reaching for traditional methods of spoon feeding disparate factoids. We would be forced to let them learn from experiential activities and then teach us. There would remain no doubt, no delusion about exactly who was failing whom.

What if your friends and lovers could no longer pretend to be engaged in your self-absorbed monologues? What if your children could no longer be expected to sit quietly through Grandpa’s inane diatribe or Grandma’s lecture on proper manners? We would be forced to become as interested in the lives and thoughts of others as we are in ourselves. There would be no more protracted and jealous divorce battles. We would have been driven from the home holding our ears during the first few days when we began to stifle our partners mind and spirit. Selecting a partner would become much easier, though. They would be the ones still listening when all the others had drifted away amid stifled squeaks.

angry ears

angry ears

And what if we had ears like cats or like the beautiful blue Navi from Avatar? If we walked into work in the morning with our ears laid back, people would know to stay away from us until we were over the strain of our commute. There would be no more brown nosing the boss for a promotion. The flex and tilt of our ears would give away our true feelings. Maybe bosses would even be obliged to become honestly engaged with their team rather than little dictators giving the hard work to others and stealing the credit for themselves.

Maybe we wouldn’t be able to go around grouchy all week snapping at others and blaming them for our foul moods if everyone could see that we arrived in a foul mood and simply nursed it for days. Seeing ourselves in the mirror might be enough to make us pull on the big boy or big girl pants and get over our bad selves. Maybe we couldn’t ignore our friends who had spent days or weeks with their ears drooping in depression. We might find a way to reach out to them and help.

depression cat

depression cat

Or if we could wag our tails like dogs when friends and loved ones came home. Flick the tips of our tails testily like cats before we lost our tempers. Purr when petted or given affection. Hiss our displeasure at annoyances. Maybe then our lives wouldn’t be built on fake relationships. Maybe our blood pressure wouldn’t soar, our arteries wouldn’t clog, and our bowels wouldn’t back up in our 40’s. Maybe it would be easier to focus on how much wagging or purring we had in or lives each day than how much bulged in our bank accounts. If healthy happy children wagged and yipped and gamboled playfully when their parents came home, perhaps abusive parenting would cease to be hidden. Then, perhaps, it could cease to exist.

happy wags

happy wags

Or maybe, just maybe, we could use our words. Since spoken words are what set us apart from other animals in our kingdom, maybe our words could be used to express our true emotions. Maybe we could allow people to speak their feelings freely and hiding true feelings behind false smiles could be called rude and thoughtless, instead of polite. Maybe children could be congratulated for identifying and giving voice to their true feelings. Maybe when people got angry they could just shout, “I’m angry at you!” and we could acknowledge their right to feel, and give them space until they were ready to solve the conflict. Maybe we wouldn’t follow false leaders into false wars if we all had a solid grip on how we really felt, and we weren’t afraid to say so. Maybe if we simply said what we felt to be true and refrained from saying what we didn’t honestly feel, maybe there would be a lot less confusion, coercion, and conflict. Maybe our true hearts and minds are a better guideline than all the intricacies of manners and polite society. Maybe its enough to be true to ourselves.

Make purrs, not war.

Make purrs, not war.

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People of Power

feel-the-power-of-love

Week after week in my office I meet amazing people of power.  And by “power” I mean the only true power that exists: the power of an open heart and an open mind.   Real power is the power that comes from empowering others and from challenging ourselves to learn and grow in confidence, wisdom, and compassion.   Each time I meet one of these people they present the same way: very reserved and modest, somewhat hesitant and unsure.  And they usually ask a question that sounds like this, “Am I a terrible person?  It feels like everyone is out to get me.”

The reason people of genuine power are reserved and modest is simple.  If power goes to your head you quickly become arrogant and arrogance consumes power.  Arrogance is simply the idea that any one person is somehow better…or worse, than any other.  This includes all concepts of inequality from racism to hero worship.  So its fine to be proud of your accomplishments & it’s important to appreciate your strengths and skills, but it’s equally important to remind yourself that others have strengths & skills and CAN accomplish what you have, given the right resources.  In short, people become and remain powerful by recognizing and supporting the power of others.

empower bill

The reason these genuinely powerful people come in feeling put down, brushed aside, criticized, and condemned is a bit more convoluted.   But the simplest answer is this:  they are NOT imagining it or making it up.  Forces of evil really do rise up to stop people who persist in growing in authentic personal power.  These “forces” may take the form of a bully boss, a bad manager, a system that stifles creativity and justice, family members who undermine one another, and religions or religious leaders that become self-serving.  These are all simply vehicles for the same principle.  Great good attracts attacks & criticism.  Great power always reflects on and corrects itself first.  So if you are self reflective, always trying to be better and feeling isolated, attacked or condemned, you may actually be a person of great power.

As an example of this principle, consider my dog.  I have adopted a dog who is on the large and powerful side.  You can see the power ripple through his muscles and his jaws.  You can hear the power in his deep bark.  You can feel the power in his pace, stride, stamina and assertive demeanor.  But the dog cannot see himself.  This powerful dog feels, within himself, that he is an equal to all other dogs he meets.  So if a tiny dachshund or yorkie barks a challenge, my dog feels attacked and wants to bark back.

If my dog begins to behave like the little pocket dogs along our walk, barking, jumping, running & pulling, he frightens people.  Humans and other dogs alike react by condemning or attacking my dog.  They think he is a Bad Dog, a scary out-of-control dog.  My dog is behaving EXACTLY like his smaller peers.  But because of his power, this behavior frightens others. Because of their fear, they react by condemning, attacking, or isolating him.

bark dog

When I first met this dog I could see his power and his potential to be dangerous.  I could also see that this dog had been badly abused every day of his life and still had an open heart and a willingness to self-correct, learn and become a better dog.  I was afraid of him.  But I didn’t let my fear stop me from befriending him, supporting him, and teaching him.  Now I am training my dog in the basic rules of the powerful:

1. Let others lead, even if you must teach them how.

2. Never bark, but never cower.

3. Empower and support those who are weaker.

4. No matter how well, or how poorly you did today, determine to do better tomorrow.

And most importantly-

5. Never be bothered by the small dogs yapping along your path.

lion2

 

Today, like never before, people are waking up to their own true nature as people of real power in a world that condemns the great and  embraces the corrupt.   I am not saying that the world is evil or even that some people are evil.  I am saying this – we are all evil and we are all good.  Good and evil are the very nature of existence.   But when we choose to do good, especially against great odds, we become great.  And when we choose evil – we choose to see others as separate or distinct from ourselves, better or worse than ourselves, we become less and less powerful.  We consume our own power by seeking to destroy the power of others.  Evil is an idea, a persistent and pervasive idea.  While good is not just an idea.  Good is an action, it too persistent and pervasive.

A wonderful and powerful client of mine recently suggested that I begin a support group for the beleaguered and browbeaten people of power in our area.  If you think you might be a powerful dog with a heart of gold surrounded by small dogs nipping at your heals, please click on the links below and come to the meeting.  If you stand up for justice and equality only to be criticized and condemned, do the same.  If you’re tired of being told you’re too sensitive, too optimistic, or too nice, click and come.  If you’re unsure but curious, if what I’m saying here makes a profound sort of sense, if you don’t like to join groups because it usually turns out badly, click, or call, or text, or email.  You may just be one of the hidden persons of power that the world so desperately needs now.  You may be the key to empowering someone else who feels exactly as you do.

Click for Meet Up Page

Click for Facebook page

Text:  504-312-3097

 

 

 

How to Raise Children and Pets II

Be The Leader

The most important practical step in teaching children and pets is to establish your role as the firm and fair leader.  If you are a good competent leader your young charges will be eager to learn from you.  If you are a poor leader, it won’t matter how good your teaching techniques are, neither pets nor kids will learn much.  (They will learn to be like you but they will not behave or learn manners.)

Leaders eat first.

Leaders eat first.

Rule of Food

In dog and cat communities the rule of leadership is simple and clear:  The one who makes the kill eats his fill.  In other words to establish yourself as the leader, you must eat your meals and snacks before your pets and resist the urge to share, until you are finished.  It is a good practice for the leader to share the last bite of food as a reward for waiting patiently.  Do NOT share while you are still eating.  This applies to both cats and dogs.  With cats, its important also that you do not even let them sniff your food.  If you DON’T apply this rule your kitten or puppy will soon establish themselves as your leader and your decisions will be disregarded and overturned.

Now for the food rule to work you must put down only as much dog or cat food as your pet can eat in one sitting. Do NOT keep the food bowl filled throughout the day.  Put it down at mealtimes and then take it up.  You should leave  fresh water out through the day.

Firm and Fair

The rule of food does not really apply to humans but the firm and fair rule does.  Being the leader depends on being firm and fair.  The leader of any group is expected to make decisions for the well-being of the group members.  If you make decisions that are self-serving and unfair to your youngsters, they will begin to disregard your decisions and rebel.  So you need to say what you mean and mean what you say.

The easiest way to stay consistent (i.e. firm) is to decide in advance which things actually matter TO YOU.   Enforce rules and learning that apply to those things.   Then decide that all the things that don’t matter, DON’T  MATTER.  For example, when my kids were babies I decided that Safety, Health, and Getting Along With Others were the things I cared about.  I can be firm and consistent about teaching and enforcing rules that apply to these areas because I ACTUALLY care about them and because they ACTUALLY matter for my kids’ futures.  So I don’t bother my kids with whether their choice of clothing matches or is fashionable, my concern is only for whether the clothes are clean, comfortable and appropriate for the weather.

Let kids dress themselves.

Kids need to make their own choices.

Kid fashion.

Kid controlled fashion.

Likewise, when my kids became teens I applied the same standards to monitoring their social life.  Do they have the tools for making friends and Getting Along?  Are they staying Safe and Healthy?  So while other Mom’s were asking their FaceBook friends “At what age should girls be allowed to date?” and fretting over making social choices FOR their teens, my rules were clear.  I knew that I would allow my daughters to date as early and as often as they had an interest.  Because when they are too young to drive their dates were just another opportunity for me to teach Health, Safety, and Getting Along.  I took them on their dates, demonstrating how to strike up conversation, how to manage awkward moments, how to meet the parents, how to trust their own good judgment, and how to stay Safe and Healthy.

Just as I had allowed my kids to choose their clothes, I also allowed them to choose their own pace for dating, and drinking, and sex – as long as they are safe & healthy & getting along.  Allowing young people freedom of choice gives them the chance to develop good judgment.  It allows them to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes while you are still there to help, and the consequences are still relatively manageable.

Middle school dating is good practice.

Middle school dating is good practice.

Too much restriction communicates the message that you don’t trust their judgment and decision making abilities.  And that in turn teaches your child that she cannot trust her own intuition, judgment, and decisions.  So when her friends all jump off a bridge she will go along with them.  Even though her intuition tells her “Danger!” she knows she cannot trust her intuition but must trust in “what other people will think.”  When an adult tells your son firmly to get in the white van, in he gets, even though his spidey sense is tingling.  Because you have taught him he must do things “because I say so” rather than trusting his own decision making skills.

The white van of random authority.

The white van of random authority.

You see?  To keep your kids truly safe when you are not around they must learn to trust themselves, NOT to simply comply with adults, or group think.  Its logical and reasonable.  And it explains the age-old questions of why teenagers are so hell-bent on going along with the crowd and yielding to peer pressure.  Its because their parents spent their whole childhood teaching them that “keeping up with the Jones'” and “what the neighbors think” is more important than being real, or safe or loved.

How to say “NO”

Before I teach you how to make ‘NO’ stick, you must first be sure that you are ONLY saying ‘no’ to things that actually matter.  Some parents seem to think their job is to say ‘no’ several times per hour. Or maybe they just get off on the feeling of power they get from saying ‘no’ to small people and punishing them if they disobey.  Some fools call this leadership, but that is a misnomer.  The correct pronunciation of the word is “Bullying“.  So if you were raised by or schooled by bullies, I am truly sorry.  But from here on out you need to work on  your sense of personal power and stop bullying smaller people.

True power comes only from empowering others.  Everything else is properly called ‘Bullying

To make ‘no’ mean ‘no’ you must employ a technique I call the Baby Elephant.  When Indian elephants are babies they tie one foot to a stake with a rope.  The baby elephant soon learns that it cannot pull the stake out of the ground.  Now when that baby grows up it can be tied to the same stake.  Even though it is now strong enough to pull the stake up and run off, it stays anchored to the spot by its belief that it is not strong enough to disobey.

Use the Baby Elephant technique early and often.

Use the Baby Elephant technique early and often.

When your baby (human, canine, or feline) is young you must employ the Baby Elephant technique whenever possible – but NOT by Bullying, simply by following up any legit ‘no’ by making it so.  For example, lets say you take your young human to grandma’s or to the home of a childless friend.  Baby, being intelligent and curious, spots the delicate glass vase on the coffee table and goes for it like a magnet.  You say ONE loud and clear (but not frantic) “NO”.  Then you immediately swoop down and wisk the vase away to a high shelf where baby can neither see nor touch it.

See how nicely that works.  Once again, you say one “NO” then you make it so.  Keep this policy up for as long as you can.  Once baby is so big that you can no longer “make it so” they will actually believe deep in their soul that when YOU say “No” it always means “No”.  Their firm belief based on your consistent behavior will continue to make it so for the rest of their life.  Magic!

The Baby Elephant technique works with kittens and pups also, so work it early and often.  Remember, you must teach them good behaviors when they are still small enough to make it so.  For example, when that cuddly adorable kitten plays with you and for the first time flares its tiny claws out, say “No” then immediately make it so.  This is easily done by wrapping a small amount of scotch tape over its front paws.  It may take 15-20 minutes for kitty to pull the tape off.  And while it doesn’t hurt, it makes an indelible impact on the mind.  You will probably only need to repeat this lesson with tape about 2-3 times before they learn that claws and play don’t mix.

You can use this technique with humans and pets to teach good manners of all kinds.  For example, if you want your pet to stay off the furniture you can say “No” and then pick up the baby and put them in a confined space for a short while – like a play pen.  You can keep kitties off the kitchen counters by covering the counter with sticky reversed tape or crumpled foil – and saying one firm “No” when they test their agility.  Again, it won’t take many ‘tries’ to teach the lesson.

Keep your “no’s” short and sweet and keep your repercussions short and intuitive.  The idea, again, is NOT to punish – ever.  But to teach self control.  Allowing baby to experience natural repercussions is best. And when that isn’t safe or practical, make the repercussions as ‘natural’ and logical as possible.  So if your voice has a punishing tone or the time in the play pen is long enough to make baby cry, you are being too harsh.  The idea is to create a learning situation that rewards, rather that punishes the learner – makes them proud and happy to learn!

Easy Enough

I am a Girl.  (You and my Ms Mag friends may want to correct me, “No, no, You’re a woman.” but if you knew me you would agree.  I am a girly girl.) Girls like to share and be nice.   I have many girl friends who dislike some of the harsher realities involved in Being The Leader.  Like eating a big pompous meal while cute kitties and doggies watch with big sad eyes and mournful sighs.  Girls, bear in mind that none of your furry friends is starving.  Nor will they starve as long as they remain in your home.  But if you let the cute cuddly babies “share” rather than learning manners, once they become adults they will make your life hell.  And you may just throw up your hands and decide to set them loose on their own.  Then, I promise you, they will not only starve, but starving may well become the least of their worries.

The same happens with human babies.  It may sometimes seem like too much work to swoop down and make the magic “No” a concrete reality.  It may often seem easier to simply confine and restrict your child rather than let them experience the consequences of their decisions.   But one day that child will be alone in the world without you.  One day their consequences will be beyond your ability to clean up with a kiss and a bandaid.  Your child will one day fall and break a leg if you don’t let them fall and skin a knee early and often.  Likewise, she may break her heart only once, once and for all.  Unless you let her bruise it a little over the years when you’re there to teach her to tuck and roll and leave behind a trail of friends instead of wounded enemies.

Let them skin their knees and hearts while they can.

Let them skin their knees and hearts while they have you.

In short, you need to toughen up and let your babies suffer discomforts.  Its true that it hurts you more than them, while they’re cute and fluffy and little.  But if you’re too selfish to hurt for them while you can, you will cause them a great deal of hurt down the road.  So toughen up like this girly girl and take it like a man.  The world is much to big and wild a place for you to teach a baby all it needs to know.  Your job is to teach it how to learn quickly and learn well.  Your job is to prepare it for the day it faces the big wild world alone.

 

 

Love – Pets, Parents & Partners

Everywhere we are inundated by songs, stories, and movies about love.   Yet still people wonder “What is love?”  Still people go out looking for love.  Still people in their 20’s, 30’s, 50’s and beyond claim that they want to “find someone to love”  or “fall in love”.  What frustrates me most is how many people think of love as a mere feeling.  Or how often people (or songs) claim that “my love” (i.e. feelings) should require, expect or demand some response from “you”.

Love is what you do.

Love is what you do.

I can understand why young people are confused.  (I remember in my tweens asking my mother and other adults “How will I know when I’m in love?” and being blithely told, “Oh, you’ll just know!” with a secret look that I now realize was bluster to cover up their own ignorance.)  MOST, not just many, adults go through life and NEVER actually experience real love.  I’m going to save you from that sad fate.  I’m going to tell you the secret.

Love, like happiness, is something you MAKE for yourself out of thin air.  Only you have to CHOOSE to make it, you have to decide and then commit to loving or make a determination that you WILL love someone.  Because the truth is love is NOT something you feel. Love is something you DO for another person.

Real love is unconditional.

Real love is unconditional.

Love is what you CHOOSE to do when another person’s happiness is as important to you as your own.  When you realize that someone makes you happy whenever they feel happy and you feel yourself drawn in to that whirwind of happiness, then you dedicate yourself and your actions to helping that person along the road to happiness – that, my friends, IS LOVE.  So love is an action.  Love is a dedication to action that empowers and enhances another person’s life.  Without ACTION there is no love.

That’s a hard concept to grasp.  But it is the truth.  Without action there is NO LOVE.  You cannot claim to love someone if you are not taking action for their happiness and lifelong benefit.  LIFELONG benefit.  That’s right, I went there!  This is exactly why children get spoiled if you give them things but not attention, or if you indulge their whims, without looking out for their health, safety, and manners.  Manners and self-control is what children NEED to make true friends and have happy satisfying lives.  If you indulge children but neglect their long term happiness, they become spoiled.  They act like brats.  But the secret is this:  you can indulge your kids or grandkids all you want as long as you also give them what they need for long term happiness:  attention, health, safety & manners.

Love is empowering.

Love is empowering.

Raising kids is how most people learn true love.  I have been attacked and badgered by folks who want to claim that the love we feel for children is intrinsically different than the love we feel for a romantic partner.  This is a delusion.  If you want to learn how to love, raise a child or even a pet.  But be sure you don’t spoil them.  Spoiled behavior is your sign that you are indulging YOURSELF without thinking of the long term well being of the pet or child.  Children and pets who are actually loved will not become spoiled.

So why do so many people think the love we feel for our romantic partners is different?  Because they have never actually loved.  What they FEEL is DESIRE.  Desire takes many forms (sexual, affectionate, attention) but it is not love, it is selfish.  Love is something you do for another.  Desire is something you feel.  It’s really that simple.

So if you have never taken action for the long-term happiness and benefit of another person, you have never experienced true love.  Please, do NOT go out looking for a romantic partner.  Please, do NOT adopt a pet or a child. If you have never loved someone, do NOT focus your selfish desire on some other person or you may well ruin their life, along with your own.  If you have never experienced true love? Work on YOU.

Work on COMPASSION – the ability to put yourself in another person’s place and feel what they feel, understand their motivations and their shortcomings and actually care about their happiness.  Work on WISDOM – the ability to project into the future and predict the outcome and then choose to do the thing that benefits that other person the most.  Work on COURAGE – the ability to ACT in spite of fear.  If there is no fear, there is no courage.  Courage is what it takes to change desire, or any warm feeling for another person into real love.  Because without action there is NO true love.  So work on YOU, before you draw another person into your life, canine, feline, or human.

Love is giving.

Love is giving.

Lastly, love is NOT limited by like.  You may LIKE someone you do not love or love someone you do not particularly like.  For example as adults, many of us LOVE our families of origin but, alas few of us actually LIKE them.  Like is what makes you want to spend time in another person’s company, share activities and conversation.  Love, is a decision and a dedication to that decision.  To me, love is easy but like is rare.  Love never gives up and I never actually stop loving anyone that I have ever loved.  But like, well, that is based on behavior.  So I can fall out of like in an instant if I lose respect for someone or their behavior.  Love is not conditional.

Love is active and continuous and everlasting.

Love is active and continuous and everlasting.

Ideally, a good romantic partnership will consist of love and like.  You may decide to break up with a partner when respect or like fades, but if you truly loved, you will continue to love them….from an appropriate distance.  Likewise, because the children and pets we raise are people we choose, we must have the courage, maturity, and decency to simply DECIDE to love them.  Therefore, you are never allowed to STOP loving pets or children.  You ARE, however allowed to take a break from their company when their irritating behaviors or whiny voices or ever-present demands make you want to scream.  Don’t scream.  Don’t hit.  Don’t punish. Dont blame.  DO give yourself a break!!

 

 

How to Raise Children and Pets

First: Get Control

Before you acquire a new baby  (human, canine or feline) you must completely outlaw violence. Using any form of violence on a tiny vulnerable mostly helpless person who is programed to love you no matter how awful you are, will only teach your young charge one thing: violence.  If you were hoping to raise a violent individual who would destroy your peace and happiness, there are many already available for adoption from prisons and pounds.  Go adopt one. Bring it into your happy home, give it access to your most precious possessions and then go to sleep with it in your bed.  How does that feel to you?  Frightening?  Insecure? Desperate?

Right.  Those are exactly the reasons you should outlaw all forms of violence before you begin to raise a baby anything.  Like it or not, if you try to “teach” with violence you will simply create a dangerous adult being who bullies other people and makes them feel frightened, insecure, and desperate.  Granted, there are a few remarkably powerful and golden hearted individuals in every species who can endure violence when they are most vulnerable and still grow up to resist inflicting any form of bullying or brutality on others.  But realize that their parents are NOT responsible for their decent noble spirits.   They were born with it.

So before your youngster is brought home engrave these behaviors on your heart as unacceptable:

1. Spanking, hitting, slapping, pinching, kicking or any form of Physical Violence.

2. Shaming, yelling, humiliating, undermining or any form of Emotional violence.

3. Bribing, bullying, demanding, controlling, sass, sarcasm and any other form of Childish Behavior that you don’t enjoy in strong aggressive teenagers.

You MUST outlaw all forms of these behaviors in YOURSELF and any other caretakers or you will be teaching these behaviors to your youngster who will then grow into an adult and inflict the behaviors on YOU and others.  Remember also that one day you may well be the vulnerable one in the equation.  It really is that simple.  Young people learn to use the behaviors we demonstrate in our treatment of them.  They learn to be the people WE are.  Nothing more and nothing less.

If you don’t want a child who hits, never hit your child.  If you don’t want a child who bullies or manipulates, don’t bully or manipulate your child.  If you don’t want a child who screams at you or her teachers, or spouse don’t raise your voice at the child.  If you don’t want a teenager who lies, cheats, talks back, backstabs, you get the picture?  To raise the kind of person you will be proud of and want in your life, YOU must BECOME that noble person and demonstrate how that person would negotiate the challenges of life every day.

If you are the sort of person who likes to use and defend gentle euphemisms such as “spanking”, “swating their bottom”, “disciplining” instead of the words like “violence” and “child abuse”, then you will need to eliminate those lies from your vocabulary.  I know that’s how you were raised.  I know you want to honor and defend your parents.   Your parents did the very best they could.   Honor your parents by doing even better.

Now, if you are feeling angry at this point and beginning to compose a heated response to my words, that’s fine.  That’s fair.  Write and post your remarks.  Call that therapy.  If you are feeling desperate and out of control at the thought of never using any of these violent tools to control a young person, that is simply because you were never taught any real tools for discipline.  And it is also because you were raised to believe you can control other people.  You cannot.  You can only control one person in this whole world: Yourself.  Obviously you can’t do that very well, none of us can. But realize now that any ideas you had about controlling small people WILL NOT WORK.

Here’s where control comes in in the whole business of childrearing (or pets):  BIRTH CONTROL.

That is all.  Get used to it.  You will NEVER control your child or pet.  However, if you can learn and exercise a high degree of SELF CONTROL, then (and only then) you will teach your kids and pets to do the same.  But if you find yourself trying to control other people at work or at home this is a sign that you should keep up the birth control and avoid getting pets who don’t live in a glass tank, because you are not prepared to parent.  People who want to control others are people who lack self-control.  Plain and simple.

Of course, we ALL grapple for control at times and it always seems like we need to control people around us or our environment.  And we can change both our environment AND the people in our lives.  The thing is we change others ONLY by changing ourselves.  How we say and do things can completely change how others react.  That is what parenting is really all about.  Whether we parent little humans or fur babies, parenting is all about becoming better people ourselves.  Its a great challenge AND its a great opportunity.

So let me say again: If you are not ready to become a better person yet?  Spay, neuter, use birth control.  Then volunteer at an animal shelter or a kindergarten to get your baby fix.  When you ARE ready for a lifelong commitment to improving your personal best as a human being, follow the steps below.

 

Discipline is teaching self-control

Discipline is teaching self-control

Second:  Set your Goal

Whether you have chosen to raise a small human, small dog or small cat, recognize the FACT that they are only small and inexperienced.  They are NOT toys.  They are NOT simpleminded.  They are NOT lesser beings.  And they are NOT going to stay small, inexperienced, or babies.  It seems most of the problems created by parents are simply because we raise those small people to be babies rather than raising them to be competent adults.

Likewise, most parenting problems can be solved by always honoring the innate personhood of your small charge.  And by constantly reflecting on how your actions will train your small person to be a decent adult.  Here are some examples:

Cute is its own reward

When raising a child, puppy, or kitten, never reward it for being cute or babyish.  Of course cuteness is an evolutionary survival mechanism that keeps small people alive through the difficult early years when they have so many needs and demands for our attention that we can scarcely pay attention to ANYTHING else.  In short, cuteness is YOUR reward for all the attention your small person is sucking up.  It is only natural that you desire the reward of cuteness and want to encourage it.  But you MUST be responsible and control yourself.  Do Not become so selfish that you encourage cuteness and doom your baby to suffer.

Feel free to enjoy your reward of cuteness.  Feel free to hug and love on your small person in gentle ways.  Just control yourself a bit.  Do Not give treats for any form of cuteness.  Give smiles, give hugs, give pats and cuddles.  Then pull yourself together and let that awesome cuteness encourage you to do what is best for the future of your small being.  Like teaching them good manners so that others will want to love them and be around them, even after they have lost their fluffy cuteness.

Kitten behaviors are NOT so cute in grown cats.

Kitten behaviors are NOT so cute in grown cats.

Reward Strength & Independence

Most of us adults wish we could be strong, independent, wise and self-controlled.   Why then, would we encourage the exact opposite in our small beings?  This is simply another example of accidentally rewarding childishness.  We feel so good when our little ones want to be with us, prefer our company to most any other, depend on us and show gratitude for each little thing we do for them, that we may accidentally slip into rewarding these behaviors.  Soon, without meaning to, we are rewarding weakness and discouraging strength.

So it is our job to control ourselves and our selfish impulses to be needed.  Teaching your little ones to be competent adults means teaching good manners.  This is true for ALL babies, human and otherwise.  Manners are NOT for you and they are NOT optional.  Manners are what we teach for the happiness of our babies.  This means teaching your puppy to wait patiently to be petted rather than charging and jumping up on friends and newcomers.  It means teaching your kitten to play without claws and teeth (kitten teeth and claws are so soft and cute that it hardly seems a problem, but grown cats that don’t control their teeth and claws will make your home a living hell.)  And it means teaching your child to wait quietly for your attention unless there is an emergency.  Actually, it means kindly and gently teaching your child good behaviors throughout its life with you.  Remember always – your little one does not know s/he will soon be a grown adult but YOU do!  Therefore it is your responsibility to teach adult norms and behaviors.  Likewise, it is your job to be patient and remember that those norms do not come naturally.  They must be taught with understanding and kindness.  Never laugh at your child’s ignorance.  They only lack experience, not intelligence or feelings.

Venting strong emotions makes kids strong, NOT WEAK!

Venting strong emotions makes kids strong, NOT WEAK!

Encourage Emotional Strength

Emotional strength is probably the most difficult to teach simply because most of us were not properly taught it when we were young.  So here’s the basic process:

1.Teach them to identify & express their emotions.

2. Teach them to vent their emotions.

3. Teach them to enjoy emotions in themselves and others.

Express and Identify – When a small being gets emotional simply help them name the emotion like this, “Are you feeling sad?”  Before long your youngster will be able to correct you when you are mis-labeling, like this, “No, I’m frustrated!”  Then you simply accept and acknowledge their feeling as valid, like this, “Oh, yes, it is frustrating.”

Vent – Once your child has identified their emotion and you have validated their right to feel, most young people will be satisfied and simply move past the emotional state.  It REALLY is that simple.   But sometimes when emotions are BIG they need to get the emotion chemicals out of their system.

Crying is one great way to vent powerful emotions.  A good cry can vent grief, sadness, frustration, shock and surprise, relief and even deeply felt happiness.  Far from weakness, a good cry is how the strongest adults vent powerful feelings safely.  So let your kid have a good cry.  A few encouraging pats and a bit of privacy are all they need.

Unless the crying goes on too long.  Then they may need to talk because they are likely feeling a tangled knot of emotions that they can only unravel by talking…or a sort of cry, talk, cry talk process.  BUT you have rights to feelings too!  If the crying is getting on your nerves – say so! Like this, “Feel free to cry all you want.  But please go cry in your room because I can’t hear it anymore without getting irritated.”  Saying it like that teaches your kid to respect other’s rights to vent while also respecting themselves.  Whatever you do, please DO NOT reward or shame ANYONE for crying.*

Running is also a good way to vent emotions.  Running and screaming, running and barking, running away and crying are all excellent emotional vents.  Jumping or swinging high on a swing, chasing or throwing balls, swinging a bat, splashing in puddles and so on can also be helpful.  Sitting still and pretending NOT to have emotions is not only unhelpful, it actually contributes to a LACK of self control in adulthood.  Too much restraint during high emotions by oneself or others creates a potential for violence.

Obviously the express and identify steps above are going to be a lot easier with small people who can talk.  With puppies, kittens and pre-talking humans its going to be on you to watch for cues and name the emotions as best you can.  So this is where your own self improvement comes in big time.  We all had difficult childhoods because childhood is simply difficult.  Now, as an adult, teach yourself to identify, express, and vent emotions even if its only so your fur or skin babies can have a better childhood than you did.  Try not to oversimplify. (as noted above and in other blogs many emotions can look the same without being the same.) And NEVER reward or punish feelings.*

Enjoy – positive emotions are easy to enjoy, but one little known fact is that ALL emotions end with a happy euphoria once properly vented.  So if you and your babies are identifying and venting properly even the dark and heavy emotions will give you a happy lift once the darker aspects of those feelings have passed.

Good discipline means NO punishment needed

Good discipline means NO punishment needed

NEVER EVER Punish

*As noted above, emotions should neither be rewarded or punished.  This is primarily because all emotions contain their own rewards if you can learn to handle them appropriately.  Emotions will motivate positive action and positive feelings once the negative feeling have been vented.  They are perfectly set up to motivate learning, personal growth, and positive action.  But it is also important NOT to apply external rewards because it can encourage fake emotions or wallowing in emotionalism which will ruin relationships with others.

Emotions are neither wrong nor right, they simply ARE.  If you and your kids learn to handle them well they are excellent tools.  But there is absolutely NO way to bend emotions to fit what you think is right or wrong.  Feelings are messages from our bodies.  They should be respected, handled and learned from.  They should never be repressed and never used to control others.

There is another reason you should NEVER, EVER, EVER punish your kids.  Punishment is NOT discipline.  Punishment is what happens when discipline FAILS.  Discipline is teaching and learning SELF-CONTROL.  So if you punish your kids you effectively take away their opportunity for self control.  Better that you should punish YOURSELF if your efforts to teach self-control have failed and your youngster has misbehaved or run amuck.  Its okay to punish yourself a little because that is still a form of self-control. You can give yourself a little time-out and still feel good enough about yourself to learn better ways to teach discipline to self and others.

So now you have learned the basics.  You can focus on YOUR OWN learning and self-improvement.  You can sort and handle emotions.  And you can focus on discipline as lessons in self control reinforced by rewards. (But NOT punishment!)  From there you can find a variety of ways to teach your youngsters with positive reinforcement.  You can find some suggestions in the library, bookstore, or pet stores.  And if you are patient and give me even a little bit of encouragement and positive reinforcement, I will tell you some fun and effective ways I have learned to teach dogs, cats, and children of all ages in my next blog.

 

How to Negotiate Peace

This weekend I was hired to come into a home of 2 dogs and 5 cats and mediate a peace accord that would allow the 2 humans of the house to enjoy all their pets.  The house had become a bit of a war zone, a sort of Palestine/West Bank situation, in which cats and dogs were opposed.  Team Cat occasionally lobbed missiles in the form of silent (to humans) insults.  Team Dog responded with aggressive barking, charging the gate that separated the (otherwise) happy home into a Cats Only zone upstairs and a  Dogs Only zone downstairs.  Whenever the barrier (baby gate) had been breached violence ensued.  Both teams agreed on only one thing:  They love and adore their humans.

Getting to the bottom of the issues underlying the conflict was long and involved.  It took more than 1.5 hours and a great deal of understanding.  In the end, however, there was a deeper level of understanding and respect between the teams, and indeed, the beginnings of a single team in a truly peaceful home.  As with all conflicts this one was based primarily on misunderstandings and assumptions that were further convoluted by basic cultural differences.  I shall summarize as concisely as possible with sidebar notes on cultural differences that I have learned over the years by working with animals of all kinds.

Bear - alpha male & leader of Team Dog

Bear – alpha male & leader of Team Dog

Dog Issues

The problem for dogs was that Bear, a natural alpha male, was duly elected leader of Team Dog.  But because Bear had a genetic disorder (hip dysplasia), his Mom had kindly decided to let him die as a puppy.  Thus, Bear was not given the home training by his Mom that would have taught him leader protocol.  (Yes! Dogs and cats learn this protocol and a great deal of important things from their Mom’s.  If they lose out on time with their Mom, they have trouble getting along with others of their species.  That is, unless a friend teaches them.) However, Sidney, a non-alpha neutral female, has been teaching Bear leader protocol in an offhand casual way that honors his rank as leader. In short, both Bear and Sidney agree that Bear is the best dog leader.  But leadership among dogs (and cats) is NEVER a permanent, guaranteed position.   Leadership must constantly be challenged and re-evaluated.  Daily renegotiations are required and leadership is reinforced by a series of challenges.

Sidney, loyal neutral in-the-know

Sidney, loyal neutral friend

Because Bear did not know protocol at first the cats had taken to calling him a big dummy.  But Bear and Sidney had been working together as a very effective team to help Bear be the solid and respect-worthy leader he has become.  Still, cat insults sting and can undermine confidence in the best of leaders.

Mr. B - noble Non-alpha leader of Team Cat

Mr. B – noble Non-alpha leader of Team Cat

Cat Issues

The problem for the cats was that their acknowledged leader, Mr. B, is a non-alpha male who simply took charge and responsibility because a leader was needed.  There are 3 natural alpha cats in the household.  Two are young adolescents who are not interested in giving up the fun and frolic of childhood for the weighty responsibility of leadership.  The third is a somewhat reclusive alpha female that the cats described as “like you”. ( I was a bit hurt by this reference at first but I was able to get over my bad self and understand the intricacies of cat culture and leadership.  Details are outlined below in the sidebar called “Alphas and Non-Alphas  “) In short this female is alpha but not authoritative.

The Teens - Angel & Mia

The Teens – Angel & Mia

Cat vs Dog

The problems between Team Cat and Team Dog were that:

1) Cats should naturally take charge over dogs (because the dogs are more afraid of cats AND because while cats can make a dogs life living hell, dogs can literally end a cat’s life, therefore only cat leadership can guarantee cat survival and preserve true peace.)

2) The alpha non-leader female cat, Mattie keeps mouthing off to the dogs and this undermines the cat leader’s attempts to make peace.  But Mattie will not take the responsibility of leadership herself.

3) Both cats and dogs were adamant that one group had to be in charge and that group’s leader would have absolute authority over all interactions. (Their human and I disagree with this notion and I proposed the idea of each individual taking charge of themselves and all agreeing to a set of guidelines, such as Dogs get the floor and Cats get the furniture and high places.  But both teams were insistent that one group must rule.)

"Really people, really?" Munchkin - neutral with poise.

“Really people, really?” Munchkin – neutral with poise.

Ultimately what came out of the discussion was the realization that the Dogs didn’t know Mr. B, the non-alpha male, was the true leader, not by choice or by dominance, but by his maturity and fairness and because he took responsibility to do the job when no one else would.  Once Bear (dog leader) realized this, he actually lowered his head to his paws and said reverently, “He’s a good-dog!”  Then things got significantly better.

I got them all to agree that dogs and cats could share the family room.  Dogs would have the floor and cats would have the high places, such as furniture and shelves.  The humans also agreed to  installing more shelves and hammocks up high for the cats.  Bear insisted “No cats can jump down on us from above, though!” sending an image of a cat, claws extended landing on a poor dog’s back.  It was agreed.

Mattie -

Mattie -alpha female non-dominant

Mattie

It seemed to me that Mattie, the alpha non-dominant female, was only lobbing insults at the dogs because she loves Mr. B and was angry that the dogs had attacked him a year ago.  She didn’t realize that because of her natural alpha status she was actually making more trouble for Mr. B with her insults.  When Mattie confirmed my suspicion, I realized that she had not been taught proper protocol by her mother either.  I explained the benefits and responsibilities of her rank.  Though she wasn’t happy with the restrictions of being a natural alpha, it did explain why the other cats often antagonize her.  She was now willing to adapt to proper cat culture.

Nikki & Bear

Nikki & Bear

Follow Up

One day later, Nikki, human pet lover extraordinaire, reports that the dogs, Bear and Sidney, are behaving better than ever which surprised and impressed everyone at doggie daycare!  The cats are changing for the better too.  Most notably, Mattie (who tends to hide) was out and about looking way more confident!

If you liked this blog, please send a copy to NetanyahuMahmoud Abbas, and President Obama.  Peace is possible, but we have to be more humanistic and wise, like our pets.


Sidebar: Alpha & Non-Alpha

In both dog and cat society there are alphas (a.k.a. True Male & True Female) and there are Neutrals.  There are many different categories/ranks of neutrals.  These animals are truly gender neutral, even though humans may identify them as ‘male’ or ‘female’ based on their genitalia.

When cats and dogs speak to me psychically I can hear by their voices that they are neutral.  To other dogs and cats they can identify the categories of one another by smell and by the spirit of each animal, which they can actually see.  Neutrals have a lot more freedom and latitude in society than the alphas.  While the scent of an alpha will trigger a specific reaction from other members, most neutrals are not so polarizing.  Neutrals can befriend a wide variety of other categories in their species and most all others are eager to befriend them.  They are truly peacekeepers.

Alpha scents trigger reactions in others.  Much of this reaction is sexual.  Others are drawn to them as a mate but they are also drawn to compete with the alphas.  The alpha in any group is more-or-less required to take responsibility for leadership also.  And leadership is often more of a burden than a privilege.  Alphas can choose to mate with anyone, but they must choose wisely.  Mating can imply equality and a non-alpha mate may become arrogant from the heady perfume of the alpha, if they have not earned the rank.

When there is no alpha in a group it falls to one of the high ranking neutrals to take leadership.  This is a burden that most neutrals will eagerly give up whenever a good alpha arrives.  However, if the alpha is a poor leader the neutral may continue to fight for the position to protect the other group members.  When they are not the leaders, however, neutrals will only tussle or mate with others of similar rank.  I often see two dogs meet and engage in continuous interaction, like a big ‘ol crush.  When I ask why they excitedly report, “We’re the same!!”

By the Way – both cats and dogs report that humans can be alphas or neutrals just like they are.  In any species the neutrals far out number the True Males or True Females.  So, think about that.

 

Dogs vs. Cats

Who's smarter, dogs or cats?

Who’s smarter, dogs or cats?

 

There is a popular notion that there are Cat People and there are Dog People.  Some folks say dogs are the more intelligent species because they are so easy to train.  Some say cat’s are the more intelligent species because they are more independent and less needy.  Well, I have met and worked with quite a few cats and dogs in my time and I have to say they are BOTH very intelligent animals.  And while I cannot definitively say that cats or dogs are more intelligent than humans, it would be fair to say that some cats and dogs I’ve met are indeed smarter than some humans I’ve met.

Other than that observation, it all comes down to culture.  Dogs literally evolved side by side with our own species and much evidence points to the possibility that dogs evolved as an indirect result of human settlements.  Clearly dogs and wolves share a common ancestor.  There is evidence to support the idea that modern dogs first evolved as a species from those tamer wolves that discovered trash pits around human settlements were a better source of food than the scraps they were afforded in the pack.  Now, the very gene that makes the more alpha wolves aggressive and thus ensures them the ability to kill prey also ensures them a good feed.  As I mentioned in other blogs, the rule of the pack is, “He who makes the kill eats his fill.”  Dogs (and cats) still observe a system of hierarchy where feeding is concerned and the lowest ranking dogs would have had to wait till the others ate before they were even given the chance to chew on the bones.  So a few of these hungrier, less aggressive wolves found that waiting near human settlements was a more rewarding way to get some scraps.

These less aggressive wolves must have begun to breed with others who were on the trash heaps and also less aggressive.  Genetics experiments have shown that when you breed for less aggressive behavior in canines, you  also “turn on” genes that produce the familiar traits of dogs that wolves do not have: barking, floppy ears, curly tails, spots, stripes, and a vast array of coat colors.  Thus the modern dog species emerged largely because humans began living in one place and producing trash heaps.  Anthropologists have actually found remains of dogs among human settlements as far back as humans stopped being nomadic and began to settle.

puppy kitten

Cat history is much more mysterious.  Many theories point to the ancient Egyptians as the first to domesticate cats.  There are several species of larger wild cats, so unlike dogs there is not so clear a path of evolution.  I’ve even heard some fringe speculation that cats came to this planet with extraterrestrials.  (And, given my experience talking to the two cats in my own house, that actually makes the most sense to me.)  Still, however you cut it, dog thinking and culture is simply going to fit in better with human thinking and culture because we have evolved side by side.  Cats, it seems, adopted us somewhere along the way and have since come and gone more-or-less as they please.  In fact there is a wild species of cat in Scotland that is about the size and shape of our domestic cat.  Most likely it has evolved back to the wild.

So my point is dogs evolved alongside us and part of their survival depended on human survival.  It only stands to reason that dogs are disposed to doing the bidding of humans and generally more eager to please.  Its literally in their genes.  Cat’s apparent inability to be trained is not because they don’t understand our commands, but simply because they don’t care.

My old roommate from college actually trained her cat to fetch cotton balls and Q-tips.  When I enthusiastically proposed to my cat men that we learn to do that, the response was cool.  “You mean fetch like a dog? pffft!”  “But it would be a new game we could play together!”  “Dogs are silly!”

together2

I had an opportunity last week to talk with a canine patient of mine.  His human has two dogs and an array of cats (4? 6? Cats always seem more numerous in groups.) She has been trying to get her pets to integrate and live peacefully in the same space.  So I asked this dog, Bear if he thought he might be able to get along with the cats. “Nope!” was his reply.  “No, I mean the cat’s in your house, not my cats.”  Bear, “Oh, ok, Nope!”  I asked him why and he said cat’s were mean. “They will intentionally hurt your feelings!”  I have to vouch for the fact that this is true.  The cats in my house spend more time talking crap and teasing one another than most any other activity.  I would definitely say that more damage is done by their petty teasing than by any claws or teeth.

So I may have to agree with those who favor dogs for their loyalty, their desire to please, and their kind and friendly dispositions.  Still, I am purely blown away by the intelligence of my cat, Josh.  Josh was rescued and lived at a vet practice after more than a year of difficult conditions and rough experiences on the street.  While at the vet, he befriended a wise cat who taught him the ways of humans.  Josh is a fast learner!  Motivated by his desire to be adopted and have a true home, Josh learned to treat humans as alphas, even if they don’t earn the title.  He learned to roll over charmingly for belly rubs, to tolerate hugs, and to keep his claws retracted around the soft hairless humans.  He is also quick to distract humans by playing adorably with his tail rather than pouncing or plopping down on the keyboard.  He even sleeps respectfully at the foot of the bed.  Josh didn’t learn these behaviors on the street and he didn’t learn them as a kitten, or he might not have been left behind by his first family.  Josh learned these behaviors as an adult, taught by another cat and listening to what humans like best in pets.

To me, the most impressive testament to his intelligence is Josh’s sarcasm.  When Josh first arrived in our home he had a sarcastic retort to most every human question he was asked.  When I walked into the living room one morning and said, “Hi Josh!  Where’s Prince?” He replied, “He’s dead.  I ate him.”  When I would suggest that he and Prince could be friends and share instead of fighting for dominance he replied, “Oh, ok THAT”S a great idea! Maybe we can wear dresses and have a little tea party too.”  Some of Josh’s sarcasm actually went right over my head.  I could tell I was being mocked, but I couldn’t understand why.  My favorite was when I was looking for mac & cheese in the soup isle and instead found coffee and tea, “Who puts coffee next to the soup?!” I exclaimed.  Without missing a beat Josh shot, “Oh my god!  Do you mean to tell me there is something illogical in the perfectly reasonable, logical human world??!”

together 3

Josh explained that his sarcasm was a habit he developed from years of humans talking to him and asking him questions but never once listening for his answer.  Feeling totally ignored and discounted, Josh developed the habit of sarcastic retorts.  But sarcasm is a very intelligent form of humor.  It requires understanding the situation so well that you can say the complete opposite of what you mean.  In this case, Josh has a thorough grip on both the human and cat cultural norms.  He has taught me quite a lot about animals and also about my own species.

So when it comes to who is smarter, I fall squarely on the side of both dogs and cats.  They are highly intelligent, with intricate rules of behavior and engagement.  They can hear what we are saying and thinking, can learn to understand our spoken language, and with the right motivation they can both be taught useful behaviors and fun tricks.  In short, both dogs and cats are intelligent enough to deserve listening and kindness.  They are smart enough that if one is behaving badly we should assume there is a valid reason for it.

I talk to animals, but most importantly I listen.  I can help your rescued pet understand and adjust to a new home and also help him heal from his difficult past treatment.  I can help pets get along in your home.  I can also heal health problems and disorders that elude even the best vets.  Right now I’m running a special.  You can bring your fuzzy friends for compassionate treatment at only half the normal cost.  Ask for the “Coupon rate” ($40) when you call or buy the coupon online at:

 https://www.livingsocial.com/cities/162-hampton-roads-peninsula/deals/1274760-nutrition-therapy-or-pet-therapy-and-healing

 

Training Your Cat

Turns out the most important key to training a cat is knowing that YES, you CAN.  And also you SHOULD.  Like dogs, cats are very smart animals & smart animals need the stimulation of learning.  They also enjoy the one-on-one interaction and face time with YOU that training involves.  Like human children they also benefit from learning basic manners because it allows them better friendships.  I know it sometimes seems unfair to train animals but think how bored and frustrated a human child would be if he never got to go to school, learn to read and write and color and most importantly MAKE FRIENDS.  Bored kids and cats will always get up to mischief, so teach them early and often.

cats amazing world of scents

cats amazing world of scents

The second important key to training you cat is knowing that cats lives are ruled by a complex and exciting system of scents and sounds to which humans are mostly oblivious.  It is these smell messages that tend to drive cat behavior.  So before you are granted the authority to make the rules you have to get the smell messages under control.

Here’s how it works:

Females in general give off a scent that is an intoxicating “come hither” message.  Therefor the female scent is like a reward.

Males in general give off a scent that says, “Back off, this is mine!”  So it is like a deterrent.

Now, I’m saying “in general” because cats recognize a whole range of gender identities and NOT just your basic male/female.  But that’s a discussion for another day.  For now lets just work with this oversimplified picture.

Too much exposure to female scents will make a cat want to OWN you, dominate you, engage you in sexual play (like gentle biting, “marking” by rubbing their faces against you, and cleaning their privates AT you.)  Yes, I’m sorry to burst your bubble but adult cats are sexy little beasts and they don’t mind making you part of their cross-species fantasies.  So if you are a female owner, limit the amount of time your cat spends in your bed, laundry, bathroom.  Avoid nudity, toileting, sex in front of your cat that expose him to the sights and scents of your personal smells.  (My cat even warns me when I have been wearing my favorite sweats too many times without washing.)  Just think of your personal scent as a reward.  Don’t give it out to any kitty who has not been a perfect gentleman or lady.  Of course, this is less critical with female cats, and MORE critical with adolescent males.  You be the judge.  If your kitty starts being too familiar or trying to order you around (waking you up for midnight feedings or insisting that you hold the door for them 5 times each hour) you have been OWNED.  To change the order of things you must be more discrete with your lovely scents & sights.

Too much exposure to male scents will make your cats want to fight you and want to fight each other.  So guys should avoid a scent overload too.  In general though, your male scent occasionally be wafted around as a signal that you are the responsible individual who gets to make the rules is okay.  But you still need to make sure kitty is following your rules and therefore trustworthy before you treat him/her to too much familiarity.  So, males should also keep doors closed when you are naked or in the toilet.   Exposure to our privates and our private business represents an invitation to enter a familiar and intimate kind of relationship. The kind in which kitty may make some of the rules.

The sexy world of cats

Evidently, there are now cat “diffusers” on the market that look like a plug in air freshener but serve to modify and confuse the scent signals of the kitty world so there’s not so much love and war & more peace and quietude.  I’ll let you know how they work once mine arrives.

Once you have established the basic atmosphere that signals to kitty you are in charge and that is not open to negotiation (BTW – i have it on good authority from both cats and dogs that its ALWAYS open to negotiation, so stay on your toes) training your cat is a lot like training your dog.  The only difference is that your cat can hear everything you “think” to it – not your spoken words so much (though some do learn our verbal language over time)

1. “Tell” your cat what you want it to do by thinking the words in your head as if talking to yourself.  Include the phrase “and I will give you a treat” (Because cat’s are not internally motivated to please like dogs are, but they do respond to logic)

2. Reward your cat with immediate praise and a 1/2 teaspoon of soft food or other tasty morsel.

3. If you cat cannot seem to comply with your instructions, just break the action down into smaller steps & reward for each.

cat counter cartoon

 

My Example:

Prince, my teenage boy cat, likes to jump up on my kitchen counters.  I’m training him to wait on the floor for food.

1. I hold Prince’s food bowl & he comes running over. “Stay” I say to Prince, as I place his bowl on the counter & fill it.  Prince jumps up onto the counter!  I say, “No, Prince! OFF!” and push him gently off then place the EMPTY food bowl in front of him.

 

I repeat step 1.

I repeat step 1 again.

cat n counter

Finally I hold the bowl in one hand & the bag of kibble under the other arm whilst looking firmly at Prince, pointing a finger & saying “Stay, Prince!  Stay…Stay…SIT, Prince”  Prince Sits!!  I pour the kibble. Prince still sits!

“Good, Prince!” I say & place the full bowl of kibble before him.  “Good job!” I say again and pet his head.

I go on to use the same process to reward Josh, our older male, for staying instead of running in to kick Prince’s butt while he’s eating.  The next day I find out all my high praise and rewards have gone straight to Prince’s head and he is trying to once again assert dominance over Josh, our older male by leaving his poo unburied in the litter box.  Tomorrow I shall try again, and again until that diffuser arrives.  (Please, please work, O mighty Diffuser!”)

That night I google articles called “How to train your cat to stay off the counter”.  Most of them end up being attempts to train humans to accept counter lounging by cats such as this one:    http://jacksongalaxy.com/2012/08/10/qa-how-to-keep-cats-off-counter-tops/                 I then give myself a pat on the back, a few hardy words of praise & even 1/2 a teaspoon of cookie dough!  “Good Job, Tolley!”  I shall do it again tomorrow!

counter-cat-007

 

Weird Cat Behavior Explained

While I”m learning more about the kitty protocol and hierarchy system (which is VERY complex and not a little bit sexual) let me tell you useful tidbits I’ve learned about cat behavior. Some of these are real eye-openers,  Some are just weird.

1)Why do cats beg for belly rubs & then attack you on the 3rd rub?

Josh: because it tickles!! Apparently that fuzzy soft belly is quite sensitive and like humans a serious tickle fest makes them want to strike out.  Stick to the area you are offered. (I got so into it that I went up under his kitty armpits & he got really mad & said, “Any other cat would have scratched you!!”) Also, you might want to avoid the cutest part down near the back feet because it may be construed as flirtatious.

The sweet trap

The sweet trap

 

2)Why do cats maul your house plants or fresh flowers?

Josh: Cats can hear plants “speak” too and when we bite them they make little noises (calling out for help, I expect!) that makes for a fun interactive game.  I’m not making this up, I swear!

cats-vs-plants

cats-vs-plants

 

3)Why do two cats meet and stare each other down and then one starts hissing for no reason?

Well, it turns out that the one who hisses is NOT the aggressor.  A hissing cat (likewise a growling dog) is on the defence against an aggressor.  In the case of  cats, they are not sitting silently when they meet, they are talking crap.  First they size up one another’s smell signals.  Then they negotiate territory.  My teenaged male, Prince, for example, was eager to meet Josh and have a new friend and mentor.  But as soon as Josh was close enough to smell and in our home, Prince met him (at the door) with “mine, mine, mine”.  This is MY house, these are MY toys, She’s MINE.  That’s MINE.  And so the games began.  Prince is the one who hisses in our house because Josh puts the smack-down on him and demands the leaders share of things.  And, apparently, I spoiled Prince by letting a wild arrogant teenaged boy have too much freedom and not enough discipline in this house before Josh arrived (*sigh*).

Cat confrontation

 

4)Why do cat’s love laser tag?

Those cute little laser pointers that drive cats wild?  Well, I noticed that my smarty-pants cats had figured out rather quickly that I was holding and controlling the pointer.  I thought they would lose interest in the game, but they didn’t.  It only took a little edge off their frantic efforts to capture the red dot.  So why the fascination?  Josh offered to show me what the laser dot looks like through his eyes and it is simply AMAZING! Its not just a red dot, its a rainbow of prismatic colors going out in all directions.  Finding the actual point of the dot is a great game in itself but it is always an eye catcher because its like a twirling disco ball for cats!

 

5) What do cat’s see at night?

After the laser tag experience I had to see what cats see in the dark.  Plus, Josh was constantly making fun of me for turning on the lights.  I explained to Josh that putting someone in a dark room alone was rude to the point of cruel in human terms.  Josh just laughs.  “We see better in the dark.” he explains.  So finally I had a look.  It was confusing at first because I honestly expected to see the room lit us as in daylight, but no.  It took awhile to register what I was seeing.  These cats see a world at night that boggles the senses!!  Its NOT visual light!  They see smells, emotions, hormones.  My god, I think they may see souls!  I’m going to have to take another look, because, honestly, that first view was much too much.  This explains why my Josh is always sneering at the human fascination with the visual world.

We can sit and watch movies or games on a screen that to cats is foolishly absurd because its so obviously not “real”. One evening while petting Josh I was musing about the color of his eyes (a lovely pale green) and thinking of Prince’s eyes (a bright yellow) and wondering to myself what they would look like with their eye color switched.  Wouldn’t Prince be beautiful with his soft gray fur and Josh’s pale aqua eyes?  Josh sat up in disgust, “What does THAT matter?!  WHY do you even care??!”  He continually expresses a disgust and confusion about human’s over-fascination with the visual.  I’ve tried to explain in several different ways, to no avail.  Now I realize my mistake.  We humans see almost NOTHING of this world we live in.  We focus all our concerns on the visual presentation and little or noting on what is true and real.   Well, now we both know why.  Our world is limited to the superficial.  I think Josh pities us now.

 

get a cat door

get a cat door

 

6) Why do cat’s beg to go outside and then change their mind moments later and demand to come in? Or let you stand there with the door open while they “decide” which way they prefer to go?

These cats are maintaining ownership of you. To remind you that they have the upper hand they need to make you do their bidding every day.  They run your through your paces by asking for little things.  Indoor-outdoor cats know that asking to go outside will get action from you, so they use that.  They don’t really have anything they need to do, they just want to make you follow their commands. Which leads me to the following list:

7)  Why do cats wake you up at night?  Turn up their noses at food?  Shred all the furniture?  Sit on your counters?  Stomp on your sleeping body?  Attack your feet?  Scratch you without warning?

All of these behaviors are either the result of “ownership”,  an attempt to establish “ownership”, or a process of leveling up their ownership of you into a full-on dictatorship.  Do NOT be OWNED by a cat!  See my last blog ( https://clearmirrorhealing.wordpress.com/2014/09/15/how-to-train-your-cat/  ) for basics and my next blog for more intimate details.

 

 

 

How to Train Your Cat

 

If you’ve ever had a cat you have surely concluded that cat’s can’t be trained.  You may have had the vague uneasy feeling that your cat was training you.  You’re no doubt familiar with some of the super-annoying habits that seem to come with cat ownership: walking, shedding and sleeping on kitchen counters, scratching everything in sight, the loud calls at doors, the mauling of house plants, tearing of carpets, stomping on your chest at 3:00am to breath whiskery breath into your face and meow loudly for food. Like me, you may have assumed those behaviors were just things cats do.

Wrong! Meet my new cat Josh. Josh is a 3yr old rescue cat who’s spent years living in the wild after being abandoned by a “loving” family because his arrogant teen male behaviors just became too much for them. Josh has been through a lot of emotional and physical distress, has contracted FIV, the cat equivalent of HIV+. Josh is wise for his years, street wise, human wise, charming and cute, and far far more intelligent than I ever expected from a kitty.

Josh

Josh

Josh came into our home to help me train our male teenage cat who was bored, lonely and out of control with the annoying cat behaviors. Since arriving, Josh has taught me at least as much as he has taught Prince. The big picture is, cats can indeed be trained at any age. You are just doing it wrong. Allow me to share with you Cat Culture Protocol 101.

If you are a good dog trainer, you are no doubt familiar with the richly detailed hierarchy of dog social systems. Cats, it turns out, have an even more complex system. The good news is you don’t have to be a mean evil dictator bent on domination to get control of the kitties in your house & enjoy some peace and friendliness with your cat companions. But you do have to learn the rules of cat culture and then play it like a game. Play by their rules until you gain the authority to set your own rules.

Now, my rules are things like, “Equality, love, and fun for all” At first my friend Josh sneered at my silly-naive-girly-fluf rules. My idea of rainbows and lollypops, peace, love and gumdrops has worked for me and my daughters for years. With only a few adjustments and an open mind I am learning to make it work for the cat boys too. So here are the basics that I’ve learned in terms you can understand and use.

Rule One: Your cat will OWN you if you let him!

The two males Josh (3yrs) and Prince (1yr) sat discussing terms in my living room the first day when suddenly Josh wheeled around and looked at me and said with alarm & a hint of shame in his voice, “Prince says he owns you, is that true?!” “Of course not,” I replied, “No one can own people, only love them, neither humans nor pets.” My response was discussed, sneered at and dismissed. Then Josh began (sometimes patiently, sometimes rather cruelly) to teach me about ownership in the cat world. Turns out I had inadvertently signaled to Prince that he “OWNED” me & that was why his behavior became unmanageable.

Kitty Man Josh

Kitty Man Josh

Cats base ownership on a system of smells and behaviors. But while in dog protocol butt-sniffing is a polite form of greeting, cat protocol dictates that we only allow others to sniff our stuff if they have met our strict standards of trust and loyalty. So, do NOT allow your cat to sniff your nether regions until and unless they are behaving per YOUR standards. No problem there, right? Humans don’t do that crazy stuff, right?

WRONG! Your cat’s ability to smell is much much more sensitive than yours! So you need to avoid many seemingly benign activities if you want to avoid being “Owned” Here’s a short list:

  • Avoid being naked in front of your cat.
  • Avoid letting your cat watch you in the bath or shower or on the toilet.
  • Do NOT let your cat sniff the toilet or drink from the bowel after you use it (if you haven’t seen them try you are probably not watching).
  • Menstruating females should keep any used products out of reach, or just keep the bathroom door shut tight.
  • Avoid letting your cat sleep in bed with you – especially if you sleep nude or in underclothes.
  • Do not sit on the floor with your cat with your rear or privates pointed in his direction.
  • Do NOT let your cat watch you make love.
  • Do not even break wind when your cat is behind you.

I hate to mention – but these Rules of Smells are even more important for women than for men. From what I’ve gleaned, that is because we smell naturally fabulous! I’ll share more when I understand more myself.

Don't let kitty watch.

Don’t let kitty watch.

If you’re like me, that list seems crazy, too restrictive and just plain WRONG! I know, right? Sorry, friend, it wasn’t me who made the rules. Doesn’t everyone say cats are crazy? The good news is you don’t have to turn your life upside-down to please your cat. You just have to know what rules s/he is playing by, and make a SHOW of honoring those rules to stay in charge and keep from becoming property. Silly me, I always took my cat’s fascination with my bathroom habits to be innocent curiosity, but no. Adult cat’s are simply not innocent – they are WILD THANGS! Don’t make my mistake yourself. Well informed is well prepared.

Rule Two: Real Leaders Eat First

The other set of protocol for cats has to do with food. This set is probably familiar to any good dog trainers. In a dog pack the dog(s) who make the kill get their fill. The same is true with cats, it seems. So do not feed your feline before you feed yourself. Let them see you eat a meal and THEN serve them. It is a nice reward to give your cat the last bite of your meal. This is how you reward him for his patience during your meal. DO NOT let your cat so much as sniff your food before you eat it or s/he will OWN you and you will never again be able to eat or sleep in peace. I know a friend who trains excellent service dogs – the best behaved dogs you will ever meet. She actually makes a habit of pretending to take a bite of her dog’s dinner before setting the bowl down for Fido. This would be good cat protocol too. Do NOT leave a dish of food available for your fluffy friend throughout the day no matter how convenient it seems. It will become very inconvenient when Fluffy begins to demand only the choicest vittles, howls for you to fill his bowl YET fuller, or climbs onto the table to steal your meal.

Not even once!

Not even once!

 

You don’t have to follow these rules, of course. You only have to realize that your cat thinks these are THE rules that govern family life. Make a show of following the rules, especially at first. Think of them as a fun game you play with your kitty. When you are too tired to play by THE rules, put Fluffy in a separate room and play by your rules: walk around pants free, sit however you please, eat however you like, and even cut wind in your own home. But when kitty is in the same room remember – s/he is ALWAYS watching! If that cute cuddly ball of fluff is allowed to own you, you will be mere property living everyday in Crazy Cat Hell.

Eating-With-A-Cat

 

P.S.  After I wrote this blog my cat, Josh informed me that I “Got it all wrong, as usual.”  Apparently that list of Don’ts was meant to apply to Yours Truly – but not necessarily to all humans.  Josh has since explained to me more about the complex system of roles among cats.  The above list would apply to a “Full Female” (Alpha – by human terms) human males & non-alpha females would have different ‘rules’ and, more latitude.  Find out what makes someone an Alpha & how all this protocol can be used for peace (and quiet) in my next blog.