Holding a Grudge…According to Cats and Horses

by Wendy Wolfe on September 13, 2012

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.

Junior with battle wounds

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?

Red and Junior hanging out.

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.

Smokey and Mariah letting off steam

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.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeanne S. September 13, 2012 at 11:21 am

Thanks Wendy and crew! Words of wisdom that I will do my best to practice.

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Sam September 20, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Wendy, your blogs are such great lessons about nature—human and animal of all kinds—and how we work too hard for the simple things like communication. Thanks for the very helpful reminders. : )

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Jennifer Doro September 24, 2012 at 6:34 pm

I found myself in a business situation questioning my own actions…should I stay quiet, or say something. (My business directly involves animals) I was doing business with a woman, who found direct ways and passive aggressive ways to ridicule me and my equipment. In my opinion, the animals weren’t “cooperating” because their owner didn’t tell them what she expected of them, and her anxiety level was through the roof. So I, as I usually do, kept quiet and let the owner attempt to work through her problems. This went on for eight hours. The ridiculing went on for eight hours as well. In my experience, even with the “naughtiest” animal, it hasn’t ever gone over three hours. In this case, I felt as though the owner was inhibiting the animals from doing whats natural to them. So, I stayed longer in hopes that the owner could work through the issue. For about 7.5 hours, I stayed quiet and neutral. In the last half hour, I finally barked back at the woman.

So, I found myself wondering how I could’ve handled the situation better. I’ve always been told, the people who bark the loudest are usually the people who hurt the most inside. In the case of this woman, I strongly feel she was deeply hurting. As a human, I wanted to be kind and patient, but as an imperfect human I barked back at her. This sounds to me like your article. So when you say “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.” I completely agree. My only question is, at what point do you kick back?

Thank you again! Your blogs are always insightful and uplifting! 🙂

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Wendy Wolfe September 25, 2012 at 9:20 am

Hi Jennifer,

Thanks for bringing this question up.
I applaud you for noticing what was really going on here. While I don’t know all the circumstances, what might have been helpful in this situation would have been to find a way to help her see what she was creating. I appreciate that you were offering her an opportunity to figure it out…and perhaps in this case you gave her more time than she deserved. While I do think we should give people some slack, I don’t mean we should let people walk over us. Boundaries are very important…we teach people how to treat us by our actions.

If you take your cues from a good bitch…and I mean female dog ;-), when training another puppy or adult dog how to behave around her she will tolerate a certain level, then she will give warnings when boundaries are being crossed and if necessary she will snap. The difference between her and us, is that we are typically taking it personally and she just sees it as needing to communicate to the other dog what is and isn’t acceptable. Once she makes the correction, she forgets about it.

When we let things fester because we are not speaking up, eventually the frustration will need to come out either directly at some one or in some other fashion (like mindlessly eating half a bag of chips). I think our tendency to do this is based on being brought up to be nice, to want to be liked and not rock the boat. But there is a clear difference between being nice and calmly exercising our right to our personal boundaries and basic respect. What I find really interesting is that when we are clear with our boundaries, when we know what we are willing or not willing to tolerate and establish this up front, people begin to treat us differently.

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Jeanne@Ignite! September 27, 2012 at 9:50 am

Wendy,
I think the most important thing I take away from your comment is the warning growls. I think I tend to be “take it, take it, take it, SNAP!” Although I do remember one time when I tried the warning growls, only to have the other person turn on me and go for my throat! (I have also banished that person from my life after a second incident – her problem not mine)!

Great blog post!

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Bunita Marcus September 27, 2012 at 10:56 am

I find people in general tend to take anything that happens to them personally. It is partly human nature that we do this, and partly nurture, or the lack of it. But the bottom line is that practically nothing that happens to you is personal. So many people are into forgiveness because they felt they were personally attacked by the actions of those they are forgiving. But if you understand that this attack HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU–it’s usually always about the other person, and you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time–then you can free yourself and forgiveness is not necessary on your part.
This also goes for good things in your life. I compose music, and 95% of my peers think music comes from them. They get an idea, write it down, and presto–music! I laugh when I hear this. I don’t have this impression at all. I have no idea where music comes from, nor have I ever willed a note in my life. Music exists all around us, I am just a patient scribe that writes down sounds I hear. I follow the experience of the music I hear, but I make no plans–I let it lead me. And it leads me to wonderful places–nothing I could have ever predicted. And what I have learned in 45 years of writing music is that this is not a personal experience. It has nothing to do with me.
Let me illustrate with a story. The pianist Aki Takahashi was visiting me in Brooklyn. I let her sleep in my bedroom for privacy and so I could sleep near my piano in case i wanted to compose. One morning I awoke at 6am. I heard this melody in my head and wanted to play it on the piano. But I knew i would wake Aki if I did. So I just wrote it down for later. A few minutes after this, Aki comes out into the living room and asked if I was playing the piano. “No,” I said. But she insisted she had heard the piano–and sang the melody she had heard. It was the same melody that I had written down!
This has happened to me with other musicians too. We all know the effect of a song being on everyone’s mind for weeks as it travels around the world. It seems to touch people from all walks of life. Could it be that there is a stream of music that parallels human experience and history, and that occasionally composers tap into that stream? And this stream dances around our souls as we evolve to higher consciousness? I don’t know really, I’m just relating my experience and saying that this stream of music involves every sentient being and capturing it is not personal–it’s universal.
—Bunita Marcus

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Wendy Wolfe September 28, 2012 at 3:11 pm

I”m in complete agreement Bunita. Nothing is personal but it sure can seem like it sometimes.
I have also experienced downloads of information…not music but words. My understanding is that since we are all really one consciousness it’s just a matter of tuning in or being open and allowing the flow without judgment.

Thanks for sharing the story of you and Aki tuning in at the same time.

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Bunita Marcus October 2, 2012 at 7:45 am

LIKE! ;~) Bunny

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flip195 October 5, 2012 at 2:48 pm

You need to come talk to my crew lol, Sometimes I think they are going to kill each other, poor Syd get no peace from anyone

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