FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
ABOUT THE THE WEBSITE, THE TUMBLR BLOG, ASKS & SUBMISSIONS:
Why does this website exist?
There’s so much animal media out there that’s just plain wrong, or not safe, and it’s hard to tell apart from the actually cute stuff because there’s basically no reliable information out there differentiating the two. We’re here to fix that by yelling at the bad stuff and explaining the confusing bits and pulling out the cutest, coolest, most unknown content and squeeing with you about it.
We started as a tumblr blog and expanded onto this website to make longer pieces of writing more accessible to the rest of the internet. The tumblr is still running, so come check us out there! It's where to go if you want to ask us a specific question.
Can I ask a question about my pet’s behavior on the tumblr?
Please make sure you read the rest of this FAQ before asking, in case we’ve already covered your question.
I think my pet might be sick because it’s doing something weird, is that something I can ask you about?
We’re not vets, so please call your vet rather than ask a blog to make sure your pet is in the hands of medical professionals.
I’m worried because my dog seems aggressive/dangerous. Can you help me?
We will give you advice on the situation surrounding the behavior, but that is no substitute for getting professional help from a qualified trainer immediately. Aggression is no joke - it can be managed successfully, but if you wait, it can destroy the lives of people and animals around you and get your dog euthanized if something horrible happens. It’s not worth the risk. We’ll weigh in, but only if you promise to do something more than ask the internet for advice.
I have a video of my pet doing <insert thing here>. Can I submit it?
Yes, but it needs to be productive content. You’re welcome to submit videos of interesting/unique behavior or training (sessions, or the finished product). Please include information about your pet and why you think we should publish it - like it’s pertinent to a current discussion, or you’ve just got through a hurdle in training a new behavior and you’re breaking down for people how you worked through it with your pet.
We only accept submissions of ethical content - no punishment, ‘alpha pack’ or dominance-based methods, choke chains or shock collars. (Yes, we know how to tell the difference between a choke collar and a fur-saver).
What is anthropomorphism?
The act of attributing human experience (e.g., mental state, emotions, conscious choice, logical thought) to non-human animals.
Why is anthropomorphism bad?
Here’s a longer discussion on when/if anthropomorphism is harmful.
What is anthropocentrism?
The belief (often inherent and sub-concious) that humans are the most significant species on earth; that humans and human experience is best, more important, of higher value, and more moral than that of animals; assessment of reality through a human-centric lens.
What is biophilia?
The inherent human tendency to want to connect in an empathetic manner with non-human living things.
Can animals think?
In short, yes, but not the ways we necessarily attribute to human thought. Science agrees that most animals are sentient, but very few (maaaaybe primates) are sapient.
“The ability of a living thing to feel, perceive, and experience subjectively.” (Source) This can include but is not limited to nor does not necessarily contain: emotions, self-awareness, logical and procedural reasoning, conscious thought.
In animals, the conference of ‘personhood’ to a nonhuman; accompanied by the implicit assumption of anthropocentric worldview; experiences of the non-human animal assumed to be analogous to those of humans under the same stimuli.
How do you accurately interpret an animal’s behavior?
In short, you watch for behaviors without trying to interpret what they mean. Then you learn about the normal range of behaviors for that animal and what they indicate, and then use the known history of the specific animal to draw a conclusion about what you specifically observed means. I know, right? Kinda tedious, but it’s super important.
Do animals have emotions?
We know that animals experience a lot of the same things that we do - fear, hunger, excitement, arousal - because we can show biochemical and behavioral correlations. More complex internal states, though, are sort of all over the place. Some animals definitely seem to experience them and some animals don't appear to - it's fairly dependent on the evolutionary history of the species. However, it’s not likely that animals would experience emotions in the same way that humans do. That’s why we talk about ‘animals appearing to express grief’ rather than ‘animals grieving’ - it leaves room for them to have unique experiences that are not immediately equated with human ones.
How is positive animal welfare defined?
The Five Freedoms
1. Freedom from Hunger and Thirst – by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.
2. Freedom from Discomfort – by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
3. Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease – by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
4. Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour – by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind.
5. Freedom from Fear and Distress – by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.(Source)
All of the above, as well as:
The ability for an animal to engage in it’s entire behavioral repertoire without the addition of any extra negative, self-injurious, or stereotypical behaviors.
Should I spay/neuter my pet?
This is a discussion you should have with your vet, not the internet. There's a lot on the topic that needs to be discussed. It's thought that altering an animal too early can have detrimental effects on it's growth and bone density, but animal that are not altered are at risk for complications like pyometra. Pets should, in general, be altered to prevent unintentional breeding if they're allowed outside unsupervised.
Is it better to adopt a pet than buy it from a breeder?
This is a very contention topic, and there's no straight answer. There will always be pets in shelters and rescues looking for homes, but those pets are not necessarily always the right fit for a specific person's home. People looking for animals for a specific job or even just a temperament preference may be better off going through a reputable breeder. There's pros and cons to both adoption and buying a pet that have to be considered situationally rather than on a general scale.
If I mess up my pet’s care or don’t understand their behavior, am I a bad person?
No! It's important to try to be as educated as possible about the needs of your pets, but if there's something you didn't know, that's okay - now you're aware of the issue and can improve. Your pet will not hate you for not being perfect, so just try to do the best you can.
Why does my cat leave food/toys in his water dish?
This appears to be a manifestation of a behavior that cats do in the wild - it’s called caching. Cats will bury the remains of their prey to hide their presence from other animals, and submerging things water dishes is a common leftover from that behavior now that they’re domestic. It happens with food, toys, and random household objects pretty frequently.
Is it okay to let my cat roam outdoors?
Nope. Outdoor cats are at high risk of dying early - cars, poison, predators and just general negligence often kill many outdoor cats very young. They also kill wildlife for fun and are decimating local wildlife populations all over the globe. If you feel like your cat will be deprived by not being able to go outdoors, leash training is an easy alternate option.
How do I train my cat to walk on a leash and harness?
Slowly, and with patience. Make sure the arrival of the harness heralds only good things and treats long before you put it on, and then slowly help your cat understand that putting it on is also a positive occurrence. Don't ever drag your cat on the leash if it doesn't want to move.
Why do cats think their bowl is empty when they can see the bottom?
The best explanation that I’ve seen is not that they think it’s empty, but that they can’t get to kibble not on the bottom of the bowl. Cats’ teeth were not designed to eat hard pellets that roll around - their teeth are meant for grabbing and shearing off hunks of meat. If you’ve ever watched your cat closely when it eats, you’ll see they often have trouble picking up kibble on the first try and don’t chew it. My guess is that kibble on the sides of the bowl is impossible for a lot of cats to put in their mouths, and so they act like there’s no available food.
My cat sometimes bites me gently when I pet her. It’s obviously not aggression. Why?
This is often an expression of overstimulation. The cat is enjoying the interaction, but it is becoming too much or too intense, and a gentle warning bite is their way of telling you to back off a little or pick a new spot. Cats have great control over the amount of pressure their mouth exerts, so light nips are always communicative.
My cat does [x strange thing] intermittently. Is my cat normal?
Probably, yes! Cats are the only domesticated species we keep as a pet that is a predator, and as a result a lot of their instinctual behaviors look a little odd. Many "unexplainable" things cats do come from predatory instincts and behavioral leftovers from being wild predators. However, if you're ever worried about your cat's behavior - or if it drastically changes - you should always check with your vet to be safe.
Why does my cat get the zoomies after pooping?
To this day, I don’t think anyone knows. It’s a mystery that cats alone have the answer to. (Dogs do this too).
COMMON BEHAVIOR QUESTIONS FOR DOGS:
My dog looks like he’s smiling, is he happy?
Dogs definitely do smile, but a doggy smile doesn't really look like a human smile. A dog's smile is going to be a relaxed open mouth, lolling tongue, and soft eyes. If a dog appears to be smiling 'like a human' by pulling the corners of it's mouth back and showing teeth while squinting it's eyes, that's a sign of stress. You can read more here about dog smiles and stressed "smiley" faces.
Does a wagging tail mean my dog is happy?
Not necessarily, unfortunately. In both dogs and cats, tail movement indicates internal (emotional) arousal, but doesn't say what state of mind the animal is in. A wise mentor once described a wagging tail like the accelerometer in a car - it simply tells you the engine is revving, and how hard. However, sometimes you can tell the type of arousal from the way the tail moves; a happy dog's tail will move loosely and move the butt with it, whereas a stressed or wary animal's tail may move stiffly and without moving the entire body.
How do I tell if my dog is comfortable?
A comfortable dog is going to be loose and relaxed in both it's movements and it's body posture. Dogs rarely ever stand completely still, so look for soft motion. Skin around the dog's mouth and eyes should be soft and relaxed (even during panting, the skin will still not be tightly drawn back), and the tongue should hang loosely if the mouth is open.
How do I tell if my dog is stressed?
A stressed dog will move less than a comfortable dog and the motions will be much more tight and/or stilted. A stressed dog will have tighter skin around the face and eyes, and the tongue will often either be spatulate or drawn back into the mouth.
My dog barks a lot! Why does she do that?
Dogs can bark for lots of reasons, and it's very situational. Dogs bark as a self-referential behavior indicating internal conflict (I want to get to that dog, but there's a door in the way!). This can either be excitement barking or stress barking. Dogs can also learn to use barking as a way to communicate with humans or other dogs.