We are routinely told that animals are different than us. Because of this, it can be difficult for some people to understand that pets share many of our needs.
A common misconception is that animals are happy with basics like food and water, and for the rest are like children who must be controlled. This kind of thinking leads to conditions that are less than ideal and leads to problems.
To understand what’s happening is easiest with empathetic thinking.
Suppose you were locked up alone in a nice comfortable cell with light, air, and water. You’re allowed out for breakfast that comes with 15 minutes of exercise. Then it’s back in the cell for 10 hours. You have no books, no TV and no entertainment.
At night you are allowed out; however, you may only run around and talk to others for 15 minutes. After that, you are to sit totally still. You may not speak. Disobeying is punished with slaps and yelling. You sit in silence for two hours. Then it’s back to your cell for 10 hours.
Question: Are you happy?
Clearly, it would be awful. You would quickly become lonely, bored and frustrated and then depressed. And yet, these conditions are imposed by many people on their pets.
Many pet dogs get to go for a morning walk and are then left alone all day. At night, their humans are tired and cranky from working, so the dog has to sit quietly.
Dogs are very social creatures, just like us, so when they’re in isolation for huge chunks of time, and told to “sit down” and “be quiet” when there is company, they go a little bit stir crazy.
They act out by howling, chewing and begging for attention. In sad cases, dogs become depressed and they can also self-harm by biting their paws and pulling out their fur.
Clearly animals have different needs from us in many ways, but typical pet species like dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, guinea pigs and so on, cannot live without a rich social life. So if you adopt, having happy times is as important as food, water and a nice bed.