Understanding Anxiety in Pets

Companion animals bring us so much comfort and happiness, and we hope that loving and caring for them will help them feel loved, safe and secure. But sometimes our pets display anxious behavior no matter how much we love and care for them. When they do, it’s important to understand why so we can help lessen or alleviate it.

Know Their Nature. Understanding an animal’s natural tendencies, past and personal nature can help you understand his/her anxiety.

While most of our pets are bred in captivity, their DNA still carries characteristics of the type of animal or breed they are in the wild, and no matter how much we love them or work to make them feel safe, that DNA can make them more prone to nervousness or anxiety.

  • Animals that are prey in the wild, such as rodents, lizards, and birds, can be naturally jumpy at noises, movement or changes to their environments.
  • If animals naturally live in groups in the wild, such as dogs or birds, then being left alone can lead to anxiety because that’s not only an unnatural state, it can leave them vulnerable to danger.
  • Some breeds of dogs and cats are naturally high-energy and may become anxious when that energy isn’t managed well.

While their DNA is part of their makeup, other factors can play into your pet’s nature as well.

  • Animals may not naturally rebound from previous trauma or stress easily, and anxiety can be part of their nature because of it.
  • No matter their breed inclination, some animals, like people, have naturally sensitive natures, making them more prone to anxious behavior.

Knowing the natural inclination of an animal’s species/breed, past or personality can help you choose a companion animal that’s less prone to anxiety or to understand that his or her anxiety isn’t caused by you.

Because lizards, birds, and rodents are prey in the wild, they can be naturally jumpy or anxious as pets. Photo by Patti Haskins.

Because lizards, birds, and rodents are prey in the wild, they can be naturally jumpy or anxious as pets. Photo by Patti Haskins.

Meet Their Needs. Aside from basic feeding and shelter, animals have physical and mental needs that, if not met, can cause anxiety or acting out. Dogs, for example, need daily exercise to regulate their energy, and they can get rambunctious or anxious when they don’t get enough exercise. Parrots need daily mental stimulation through playing with foraging toys or learning tricks as well as time out of their cages, or they can become anxious. Understanding and meeting your pet’s physical and mental needs will help prevent or lessen anxiety.

Dogs need daily exercise to help them regulate their energy, keeping anxiety and acting out at bay. Photo by CanaryZoo.com

Dogs need daily exercise to help them regulate their energy, keeping anxiety and acting out at bay. Photo by CanaryZoo.com

Help Them Holistically. Even after understanding your pet’s nature and meeting his needs, anxious behavior can occur. When you can’t counteract nature, you can do many things holistically that help lessen anxiety in your companion animal. Herbal tinctures and supplements, as well as essential oils suitable for pets, are widely available to help your pet be more calm in a way that’s safer for him/her. I’m a big fan of Rescue Remedy for Pets, as it helps calm pets instantly. Read more at

Herbal Remedies for Dogs

5 Herbs to Reduce Stress in Your Cat

Herbal Remedies for Parrots

Understanding the causes of anxiety in your pet can give you better understanding to care for him or her.

If you’d like more understanding of your companion animal’s state of mind, feel free to book a reading with pet psychic Jennafer Martin to gain even more insights into his or her individual point of view or state of mind.

Love & Loyalty in Animals

“If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude,

then animals are better off than a lot of humans.”

–James Herriot

Animals show us love by grooming and/or licking us. Photo by www.why.do

Animals show love by grooming and licking us. Photo by why.do

Animals add so much to our lives! We enjoy their companionship and protection, and they provide us with entertainment from time to time. And while their behavior can amuse us, touch us, or elude us, animals are so much more than their behaviors. Like humans, animals have personalities, souls and emotions, and among those emotions that bless our lives most are love and loyalty. Animals show us a lot of their inner emotions through their behavior: a wagging tail conveys a dog’s happiness, a continuous purr denotes a cat’s contentment, flapping wings convey a bird’s excitement, and so on. And love and loyalty are no different. Our companion animals show both in some very common behaviors, including:

  • Remaining at your side when you’re sick
  • Being silly to entertain you if you’re down
  • Posturing to protect you from potential threats
  • Licking, nuzzling or grooming you
  • Climbing in your lap or on your shoulder to comfort you
  • Running up to or climbing onto you happily when you come home or wake up
  • Sharing their toys, latest kills, or even partially digested food with you
Animals show love and loyalty staying by our sides when sick. Photo by Reddit.com

Animals show love and loyalty staying by our sides when sick. Photo courtesy of Reddit.com

I’m sure you can point to several instances where your pets displayed love or loyalty to you—or both. Sometimes these instances happen so often that we may even take them for granted. We show our love and loyalty to animals in caring for and spending time with them—and, honestly, sometimes letting them take over our beds so there’s barely any room for us to sleep. But don’t forget to tell your pets that you love them regularly. Because they live in a sensory world, they can feel and sense the energy with which you speak to them even when the words don’t compute.

Want to find out more about what your pet is thinking or feeling? Book a reading with me. 

Good Vibrations: Energy Work & Animals

Because animals live in a world of senses, they feel and respond to the energy of people, activities, words and interactions. Sensing this energy helps animals navigate life well. If they sense a predator’s presence or an impending natural disaster, they can flee. If they sense that people have good intentions, they will walk right up to them–or avoid those that don’t. Companion animals can sense our moods, like Molly the Quaker Parrot did when I had a bad day; she’d cuddle up next to me to let me know I wasn’t alone. And some dogs have been known to bark when their people are arguing to call attention to it and help break the tension.

Because animals naturally sense and respond to energy, they respond well to energy work practices such as theta healing and Reiki. These modalities help increase relaxation, reduce anxiety and pain, and even ease the transition when dying. As a Reiki practitioner since 2005, I’ve seen this non-invasive technique–that originated in Japan more than 100 years ago and is now practiced worldwide–benefit many animals, from pets to livestock to exotic animals. This simple, effective tool particularly helps animals who are rescued or adopted feel more at ease as they transition to new environments and learn to trust new caregivers.

Because they are sensory beings, animals respond well to energy work.

Because they are sensory beings, animals respond well to energy work. Photo courtesy of loveofanimals.ca.

In my own life, I’ve seen energy work benefit a cockatiel named Nacho. It wasn’t long after I’d taken guardianship of this feisty, whistling charmer from a rescue organization that we discovered he had liver failure. When antibiotics didn’t cure the issue, and the stress of multiple vet visits seemed to leave him more ragged than healthy, I faced the inevitability that Nacho would pass away soon. I decided to help his last days be as comfy as possible, full of favorite treats and peace and quiet at home. I also decided to try giving him Reiki treatments to increase his comfort.

Reiki with Nacho was simple and effective. When I put my hands up to share energy, he got very calm and seemed to enjoy the comforting Reiki energy as well as his time with me. And while I expected Nacho would pass away after a few months, I was wrong–he lived another three years. He had some low times, but he’d quickly perk up with a Reiki treatment. I truly believe that Reiki, along with his feisty nature, is what kept him alive so much longer than I’d expected.

Nacho the cockatiel responded very well to Reiki treatments.

Nacho the cockatiel responded very well to Reiki treatments.

Animals of all kinds respond well to energy work to help relax them, clear energy blocks and more. To try energy work as a tool to help your companion animal, contact one of the great organization that share Reiki with animals, including Reiki Fur Babies, Animal Reiki Source and Shelter Animal Reiki Association or schedule a reading with me, which includes Reiki as needed.

Read more about Nacho’s journey with Reiki by reading Jennafer’s article, “Reiki to the Rescue” in Pets in the City Magazine’s March 2013 issue.

Mentally Communicate with Animals

As I mentioned in a previous article, because animals live in a sensory world, it’s natural to them to send you mental images to visually communicate what they want. Aside from the energy they carry, words don’t mean much to animals, so it makes more sense for them to send you a picture of them playing outside than to send you the words, “hey, I want to go outside”.

Sending images to communicate can work in reverse, too–you can communicate with animals by mentally sending them pictures. When Tika, a love bird in my little flock, refuses to return to her cage periodically, I calmly send her mental images of her flying into her cage and receiving a treat. This method of communication has been much more effective than calling to her or chasing her around the house till she complies. (Trust me.)

Peach-front love bird Tika responds well to communication via mental image.

Peach-front love bird Tika responds well to communication via mental image.

Sending mental images can be very helpful if you’re not near your companion animal or for animals that you aren’t able to calm through touch. When I was to care for a friend’s iguana for two weeks while she was on vacation, I sent the iguana mental pictures of me feeding and gently petting him, which helped him warm up to me more quickly. And when a porpoise at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium was distressed because her calf was temporarily separated from her for a routine checkup, I was able to help calm her by sending mental pictures of her and her calf swimming together happily.

It’s not hard to communicate in pictures with the animals in your life. Try it: a few moments before you intend to spend time with your pet, send him or her a mental image of you two playing together or cuddling. Or, the next time you need to leave for an appointment or trip, send your pet images of you returning home so he or she knows it’s only temporary. This calm way to communicate can bring you and your animals closer together.

Picture That!

Most animal communication that we humans understand comes through an animal’s behavior. When a dog wags his tail, we understand that he’s excited or playful, and when a cat purrs, we know she’s content. We understand that a bird is feeling territorial or stressed if he nips when we get near his cage and that a fish may not be feeling well if she’s not eating. You get the idea. I’m sure you can point to many ways that your pet’s behavior communicates to you.

But there’s a more subtle way that animals communicate with us as well–they send us visual images or pictures to convey what’s on their minds.

Illustration by Stacey Reid

Illustration by Stacey Reid

Think back. Have you had a vision in your mind’s eye of your dog standing at the door to the backyard so you suddenly knew he wanted to go outside? Or seen a small video in your mind of your bird happily devouring a sunflower seed, letting you know he wanted a specific treat? Visions like these often come from animals to communicate what they want or need. It’s easy to dismiss them as your imagination, something I did the first few times that Pippin (a sun conure) sent me pictures of him contentedly perched on my shoulder. It took a few times of him sending that same image for me to realize that he was telling me he’d rather be with me than with in his cage. But it wasn’t my imagination–and images like this may not be yours, either. It may just be messages from an animal.

Animals live in a sensory world, so what they see, smell, hear, taste and feel is truly how they experience things. Sending visuals images is a natural way for animals to communicate, because words don’t really mean anything to animals, except for the energy with which they are said and the behavior they learn to associate with them. So instead of sending you a “hey, I want to go outside” sentence, they send pictures of them darting through an open door and cavorting in the grass.

When I’m doing readings with animals, they send me pictures, rather than words, to communicate. I asked Marley the kitten about his favorite toy, and he sent me a picture of a mouse on a string. And when I asked Ruby the dog about her past owners, she showed me a succession of pictures of her being tied up in the yard for long periods of time, so I knew she had been left alone a lot. A picture really can be worth a thousand words.

It’s not just domesticated animals that send images to communicate, either. As I was leaving a late-night fundraiser at the zoo, I stopped by the rhino enclosure and one mentally sent me a few pictures in a row of him falling asleep and then being awoken by people talking or music playing nearby. I was able to understand from the pictures he sent that all this partying was keeping him from sleep.

Animals definitely communicate in pictures! So the next time you suddenly get a picture in your mind about an animal, don’t dismiss it. Think about what the animal may be trying to communicate in a way other than words.