“There is No Leaving” – How to Keep Your Animals Happy When You Leave Them

At the “tail” end of the day, I asked Panther Ridge founder Judy Berens to select the neediest cat for our group to connect with. She chose Mattie, a 16 year old Clouded Leopard. Mattie ran over to the fence to greet us immediately and I received a clear Judy/Matti love message right away: “Love me, love me, love me.” She looked like a kitten desperately wanting to play.

It seemed like she was very lonely, and I asked if she wanted a mate. No, she wanted Judy! Judy agreed, and said they were very close. “Mattie would be happy to curl up in bed with me if I let her!”

Judy went right in the enclosure and you can see in this photo the love oozing between the two. Judy said she was feeling badly that lately she hadn’t been giving Mattie enough attention. Mattie would respond by biting her ankles as she tried to walk around or leave.

I noted that Mattie wasn’t angry; she was attempting to grab Judy and keep her there longer. This reframe of emotions can be very useful to unravel a difficult situation. Because Judy felt guilty, she assumed Mattie’s behavior was coming from anger.

Judy sat down in Mattie’s pen while our group practiced their newly refined communication techniques. One student shared that she learned to always tell her animals where she was going and when she would be returning, using pictures and imagery that an animal could reference (see exercise below). I agreed, adding to send positive thoughts daily, letting them know you are okay, instead of sending worry, and guilt that we are away and they must be sad.

So in Mattie’s case, Judy wasn’t traveling, but spending her time with 20 other cats and sanctuary duties. Judy felt overwhelmed with sadness at not being able to do more for Mattie. One of the participants, a holistic vet, reassured Judy, telling her that she couldn’t possibly do more, that all the animals were extremely healthy and vibrant, had beautiful clean stimulating environments, and for the most part were extremely happy. It was so true. She went on to say; “and you can be with her in your heart.”

So we talked about how Judy could send love, rather than worry or guilt, whenever she thought of Mattie or walked by her pen. “Love, love, love”, says everything is okay. I explained that when we shift our energy, our intentions and thoughts, the animals will feel it and respond accordingly. Consciously sending love fills the long hours of physical separation.

Judy began sending love instead of guilt and sadness at not being able to play more, and we all watched as Mattie shifted too. When I felt that Mattie was calmer, I asked Judy to begin to stand up and move slowly toward the gate, sending love, love, love. Mattie came toward Judy, but not with the same gusto. She grabbed at Judy’s legs with her paws, but didn’t bite, and I asked Judy to stand still, and again beam love. Mattie instantly rolled over on her back, and let go of her legs. “This is habit too,” I commented. “She is used to chasing your legs when you head out.” Habit, not anger. This new understanding changed Judy’s entire emotional response. “Send more love, and wait.” Mattie slowly got up and calmly retreated to the back of her cage. “Now, begin to walk toward the gate without changing your energy.” Judy did this beautifully. As she closed the gate, Mattie just watched serenely from a distance. “In this space of love, there is no leaving.”

Problem: Animals Become Distraught When Left

I noticed that my puppy Suki would be really calm if I told her where I was going, how long, when I would return, and why she couldn’t come with me. On the few occasions I forgot to mention it, she would look like she was about to bolt through the window.

Whenever you are going out or leave your animals for a time, your animals may feel sad, upset, or even aggressive.

One very smart “investment” horse was so tired of everyone coming and going without explanation she began attacking them when they left her stall. It was only when I asked the people to share with her their plans: “I am getting the grooming bucket, or tack, or that they would come back tomorrow to ride”, etc. that she would begin to let them in and out of the stall without incident.

Animals understand much more than we think. They know when you are planning to go on vacation long before you get the suitcase out. So how can you ease their minds this summer? Tell them what is happening! Trying to hide it is not working is it? So have a good heart to heart whenever you are planning a trip. You should also be doing this whenever you are leaving the house without them (and in the summer please leave them home in the air conditioning… cars just get way too hot).

Exercise to Calm Animals when Leaving them Behind:

* Center yourself and become quiet

* Get your animals attention by calling their name

* Focus on your heart space and feel warmth and love

* Tell them you will be leaving and the reason why-very important! They may not like it but they will feel included and considered and they may even gain some understanding of the human perspective

* Explain why they need to stay home (or wherever they will be) e.g. it is too hot and you will suffer, etc.

* Tell them when you will return (pictures follow thoughts so you may picture 7 sunsets, 7 dinners, etc)

* Pick a time every day to connect with them: e.g. each morning you will think of them and send loving energy and let them know you are okay. One person sent her dog the color yellow as it was the color of a favorite robe she left with her dog when traveling.

* Make sure your thoughts and emotions are positive when you connect, because if you are worrying about them, they will feel the worry and it will be compounded as they wonder if you are okay.