The fine art of animal communication

By Rebecca Stares

Have you ever watched your pet, be it your hedgehog or your gerbil, and wondered: “What on earth are you thinking?” It happens to me all the time when the bunny is having a moment; the “bunny blitz” I call it. All rabbit guardians will know what I’m talking about; when they spontaneously bust out a ninja move, cover the room in a single hop, and settle back into grooming. Why? What possessed you to nibble on the electrical cord, make a nest in Nathaniel’s shoe, or curl up on the top of my head for a nap? There are so many questions!

Finding the answers doesn’t have to be challenging, as gaining insight into the inner workings of your pet doesn’t require you to be an animal communicator, or that you have one on retainer. It simply takes getting to you know your pet; not just as a species or breed, but also as an individual.

The first step: observation. Watching and paying attention answers the biggest questions regarding their patterns and habits, what they like and don’t like, etc. Through observation you’ll also get to know their quirks — which I have to admit is my favourite part. Taking the time to get know them teaches you how to have a meaningful and fulfilling relationship together (the art of compromise facilitated by positive rewards!) and through becoming an expert on your pet you learn enough to teach others how to engage with them; so your friends, your children, your family can also enjoy them.

When I work with Skittles, a fluffy and brown miniature lop, either solo or in teaching, I make sure she is in visual range; sometimes in the same room or on my lap, at other times I sit eye level with her hutch. I take a few deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth to ground, I allow my mind to clear and my awareness to focus on her. I notice her fur, her eyes, and the way her ears move when there’s a noise from outside. I notice as much as I can.

Taking it one step further is the art of empathy, where you put yourself in their paws and engage your imagination to wonder what it would be like to be them. I wonder things like: what would the world look like through Skittles’ eyes; how would it feel to have ears like that, or a bunny tail; and, if I were Skittles, what would I do next? Empathy — through imagination or through intuition or through animal communication — is the act of understanding from a perspective other than our own. Imagination and curiosity help break down the barriers to getting there.

With those basics, you’re ready to start some animal communication of your own. The next step is what we call “tuning in”, or deeply connecting with your pet with open lines of communication. Find a comfortable space to sit and watch, or, close your eyes and visualize your pet. I always say Skittles’ name out loud — that way she knows I’m talking specifically to her. Allow yourself to sense their energy and observe what changes. For kinaesthetic learners, you will notice changes in your body; pressure, tingling, numbness, etc. while those who are more visual will see images pertaining to the experiences of your pet. Auditory learners are more likely to hear your pet’s voice, much like telepathy. Don’t worry, this part gets easier with practice. When you feel connected, send out a salutation (just once, and don’t shout!) and observe. Then you can start asking questions. Notice the sensations, emotions, images, sounds… all of it is information from your pet that with practice you learn to decipher.

That leaves just one final question; what is the purpose to animal communication: why do I even want to know what Skittles is thinking and feeling? The most obvious is using animal communication to improve Skittles’ quality of life. It’s great for helping me meet her needs while simultaneously explaining why she can’t only eat carrots. I use it for diagnostics too when needed. Additionally, this improves our relationship; developing mutual trust and understanding. I usually get the equivalent of “bribe me” when she refuses to come out from under the couch. Lastly, animal communication provides a new perspective on empathy, which I use as a teaching tool in mindfulness and relationship building. Skills which I believe are essential. Skittles agrees.