Animal Personalities

17 Dec

About a week ago, I got bit by a cat at work. It was one of the few times where a cat managed to get its teeth into me, and it was the strangest. I’ve been doing this for four years, and I have seen my share of bad cats, and I’ve learned a lot about the behavior to look for in a cat that is getting upset. Other than the obvious hissing, growling, swatting, I watch for the subtle tail flick, the slow movement of the ears to a flatter position, the dilated pupils. But this cat betrayed nothing.

The cat’s name is Gypsy Rose, and she had B.C. written all over her chart, our secret lingo for aggressive animals. It stands for “Be Careful.” But the cat just seemed nervous during this particular visit. So we figured we would handle her the way we do most nervous cats, we’d go slow and keep a close eye on her. Cats love to hide when they are scared or nervous, and a great restraining technique I use is to let them bury their head in the crook of my elbow. So for the entire exam, Gypsy Rose sat still with her head tucked away, secure in her feline head that she was safe and no one could see her. At the end of the exam, after the nail trim, the injections, the abdominal palpation, she brought her head out of my elbow nook, looked at my arm for a second before opening her mouth and biting me. No warning, nothing bad was happening to her. I pulled my arm back and announced to the room that I’d been bit. The veterinarian and other vet tech were incredulous. I was stunned. I thought Gypsy Rose and I were cool with each other. And if we weren’t, the least she could have done is give some sort of behavioral signal that she wasn’t. When we thoroughly checked her record, it seems she had done the same thing to a technician before, bit without warning or cause.

Here’s an unpopular opinion: some animals are straight-up jerks.

I can hear the gasps of shock that friends and family have given me when I say this. “Don’t you love animals, though?” they ask, their eyes wide with bewilderment. Of course I do. You’d be hard-pressed to find a vet tech (underpaid, overworked, smelling like wet dog) that doesn’t adore animals. But we see them every day. Hundreds and hundreds of cats and dogs. I’ve been doing this for years, so I’ve probably even crossed the thousand threshold at some point. And, yes, some animals are jerks.

For all the anthropomorphizing our culture does to animals, to the point of dressing them up, making them the stars of children’s movies, we gloss over the fact that they have a wide range of personalities as well. I think we can all agree that there are a lot of people out there who are jerks. Black, white, christian, muslim, gay, straight, blonde, brunette, bald. Whatever the case may be, jerks can be found in all of these demographics. I believe in the goodness of humanity as a whole, but working in the Upper East Side, I’ve seen my share of people who are downright nasty and selfish.

Animals can be that way too. I love getting to know an animal’s personality. Some are dull, some are curious, some are cuddlers, and some are hyperactive and easily excitable. But this doesn’t mean that they are all perfect little angels. And I’d argue that some of it is genetic. We have a number of lovely owners who had amazing pets. They then adopt a pet who is a jerk. A dog that growls and bites them, that pees on their bed in spite. A cat that claws them, even when they aren’t doing anything to bother the cat.

Of course, though, just like people, I believe animals can change for the better. Even though we have domesticated animals over the centuries, they will always be a different species than us and that much more difficult to understand. We can’t communicate with them as well as we’d like, never able to grasp what exactly they are thinking. I admire training clips I have seen where behavioralists are able to turn a cat or dog’s personality around, but a fair amount of editing goes into these shows. I’ve first-hand seen a lot of these trainings fail and the animal goes on being a jerk.

I don’t know what the solution is with these little sociopaths. I do see that even despite their bad behavior, people still adopt them into their homes and find themselves loving an animal that will not love them back, or maybe they aren’t able to show it. It’s important to not give animals carte-blanche. Cute as they may be, you still have no idea what is going on in their little heads. We have to remember that even the furriest, fluffiest little nugget might just have a dark side.


3 Responses to “Animal Personalities”

  1. vettechtalk1 February 11, 2016 at 2:54 pm #

    I love your blog! I also love this entry. I am also in the Penn Foster Vet Tech program and its great to see so many other people as interested as me in the same field. I have also created a blog and would love for you to check it out. Keep doing great work!

    • Chrissy Wilson February 16, 2016 at 9:48 pm #

      Thanks! I’ll definitely check out your blog!


  1. Week 3 – Entry 2 – Sarah's Blog - September 10, 2017

    […] Animal Personalities […]

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