A couple of days ago, Junior, one of our cats showed up with a chunk of fur missing from his otherwise adorable nose. I decided to ask Junior what happened and the conversation led me to explore how animals deal with confrontation and what we can learn from them.
Wendy: Junior, what happened to your nose?
Junior: Patches did that in a fight. (Patches is Junior’s daddy. He is somewhat feral but lives most of the time at our neighbors as an outside cat. Junior looks just like his daddy. Patches also won’t be anyone’s daddy anymore, we fixed that.)
Wendy: Tell me more.
Junior: Well I went over by the house that he stays at and I was checking out the house and wanted to get inside to meet the cats that live in the house. I was sniffing at some food that was set out and Patches didn’t like that. So he warned me (hissed at him) and I thought maybe he was just bluffing. He wasn’t. He was serious and gave me a good wack. I wrestled with him a little bit, mostly for fun but I could see he’s still stronger than me so I took off.
Wendy: Are you angry with him?
Junior: No, I just know I need to stay out of his way for awhile. Although I can’t say that I won’t try again. I’d really like to meet the cats that live in that house. The people must be pretty nice because Patches stays there and eats well. I’ll give it some time and then try again…then maybe he will let me hang out.
Wendy: Do you think he might not always be this territorial?
Junior: Right, he isn’t always like this.
Wendy: Do you dislike him because of this?
Junior: No. It doesn’t change anything. He’s just being who he is. It doesn’t affect me unless I go there and test him.
Wendy: What about Red? Sometimes Red hisses and swats at you. Does that bother you or make you angry?
Junior: No. He’s just letting me know he’s the boss here. That’s okay. He’s a pretty good guy. Sometimes we hang out together…sometimes he sets boundaries. I’m okay with that.
Wendy:Do the other cats here get into fights?
Junior: The girls all get along well with everyone. We might play attack a little but that’s just fun. It’s just letting off energy.
Wendy: Do you ever feel bad, like you’ve done something wrong or are not good enough when Red swats at you?
Junior: What? I don’t understand. If Red swats at me its just a communication. It’s not about me so it doesn’t make me feel much of anything but it does tell me to stay out of his way unless I’m up for a physical battle.
Wendy: That’s interesting. I think people react a little differently. We tend to take things more personally. We could learn a few things from you.
Junior: Yeah. I’m pretty smart. You’ve noticed that haven’t you?
Wendy: Yes, I have. Thanks for sharing with me today.
Earlier today I noticed the herd was a bit agitated…grumpy you might say. They were waiting for me to open the pasture so they could get to their beloved grass and I noticed Smokey and Mariah having an altercation that involved hind ends and hooves flying at each other. This seemed like a good opportunity to get more insight.
Wendy: Smokey, what was up with you and Mariah this morning?
Smokey: As usual she was encroaching on my space. She does that alot. Sometimes I don’t care but today we were all a bit tense. Our energy was bottled up and we needed to release it.
Wendy: So are you still upset with her?
Smokey: No. Once we got that energy out and were able to let go of more energy in the pasture all was okay.
Wendy: So once the energy is released it’s gone and you don’t hang on to it?
Smokey: That’s right. Kick, buck, run, do whatever you need to and then you can just relax and eat grass.
Wendy: Are there times when you might hang on to being upset with Mariah or one of the other horses?
Smokey: Only if they keep infringing on my space. It would need to be repetitive but once I correct it I figure it’s over.
Wendy: Thanks Smokey.
Fair is fair. I decided to give Mariah a chance to explain her side of the story.
Wendy: Today you and Smokey were throwing some pretty nasty kicks at each other. What happened?
Mariah: He’s bossy sometimes. He was hogging the gate. I wanted scratches from you like yesterday.
Wendy: But I wasn’t even out there yet.
Mariah: But I could see you and was getting excited about going out to pasture. I get excited energy and it has to go somewhere.
Wendy: So did that take care of it?
Mariah: Yes, it did. We both released and felt somewhat better. Then when you opened the gate I ran into the field and let out the rest of my pent up energy.
Wendy: Yes, I saw that. I never get tired of watching you run. You are amazing. Thank you for sharing with me today.
I must admit when someone draws a territorial line with me my first instinct is to take it personally. I have learned over the years that it isn’t personal and I can let it go. Often our first instinct is to take it on…to think we either did something wrong, or they don’t like us or some other self-defeating, unempowering thought. Holding on to it and taking it personally often leads to holding a grudge…or expecting another similar experience.
I love that animals generally don’t hold a grudge. Now I say generally, because in my 12 years communicating with the animals I do know that sometimes there are grudges. Sometimes things are taken personally but honestly, it is the exception to the rule.
Dogs never seem to hold grudges either. Sometimes King will get territorial and spastic and in Doc’s face and then…it stops…is as if nothing ever happened. They often will “kiss and make up” right afterwards. Have you ever noticed this? It’s a burst of energy and then it’s over. All is well and they are in the present moment…not hanging onto the past.
We can learn from this.
The next time someone says something rude, infringes on your space or is less than considerate with you, give them some slack.
Maybe they just need to kick, buck and run.
At any rate, don’t let it spoil your day. It’s not about you unless you make it so.
Smile and walk away.
And then if you need to, kick, buck and run to let the energy go.