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When Your Pet Hates You: Six Stages of Grief

I’m quite familiar with this process, being a nearly-lifelong rabbit owner, so I thought I’d help guide you all through the stages of pet-rejection grief, should you ever encounter it. I’m working from my experience with rabbits, here, but you can insert any aloof pet: other small animals, many cats, and the occasional dog. Every animal, really, is capable of giving a permanent cold shoulder to its primary caregiver. The sheer fact that DisapprovingRabbits exists, though, is a testament to the unparalleled disdain with which rabbits view their owners.

Hope and Wonder ““ You’ve just brought home a little bundle of cuteness. You watch your new pet explore its new surroundings and you marvel at the incongruity of this adorable little magical creature in your unremarkable home. You imagine petting its softest and floofiest parts and cuddling on the couch. You almost want to smack it in the face for being so ridiculously sweet. I mean, where does it get off being so cute, anyway? You look forward to sharing the next several years of your life with this bundle of joy.

Apocalypse Cat
Apocalypse Cat has seen a rabbit nail-clipping session

Rejection ““ Then it happens. Your pet scurries away from you. Flinches when you move. Grabs food out of your loving outstretched hand to go cower in the corner, frantically chewing while keeping one unblinking distrustful eye on you. Depending upon how stupid or stubborn your pet is, it will be anywhere from impossible to slightly possible to train them to stop reacting to your daily life and their basic care with abject terror. Prey animals are very hard to convince that everyone isn’t trying to murder them at all times. Oh, and situations that are legitimately frightening, like nail clipping? You’ll be so traumatized by the experience that you’ll feel like Apocalypse Cat.

Indignation ““ You won’t react well initially. You’ll be incredulous that you’re being rejected. How can your adorable pet fit so much scorn in its tiny little heart? Everything you do, from cleaning up its poop, to keeping its body and dwelling clean, to rushing it to the “exotic animal” vet at the first sign of sickness or injury “¦ it all means nothing to him? This is an animal that literally eats its own shit every day, and it thinks you’re beneath it? That you’re deserving of the stinkeye and the full force of a rabbit’s patented perma-frown? As Mercedes would say, Hell to the no.

Spite ““ It will start with verbal abuse, most likely heavy with sarcasm. “Oh yeah, I’m just so mean to you. How dare I cater to your every whim? How do you go on?” You start telling your pet, and convincing yourself, that you don’t need it. You can bring it back to the rescue any time you want! Or you’ll tell your bunny that you don’t want to pet its stupid impossibly downy fur anyway. When people come over and ooh and ahh over your unusual, delightful pet you’ll just go, “Oh, that’s Nibbles. He’s a little asshole.”

Small rabbit in a flowerpot, looking angry
But...why?

Sadness ““ Once you take to the Internet to commiserate with fellow rejectees, you’ll find just as many stories about loving rabbits that greet their owners at the door, snuggle in bed, and happily settle in for petting and massages. These anecdotes will inspire jealousy, but they will also make you think that maybe it’s your fault. Did you come on too strong? Not strong enough? Rabbits are great at holding grudges; maybe you did something during your second week together that it hasn’t forgiven you for. Not that it matters now. Your bunny has rejected you, and it will just flaunt its cuteness and velvety coat all over the goddamn place and you’ll never be anything but a spectator.

Acceptance ““ The thing is, rabbits are certifiably insane. Spend a little time with a rabbit or two during the witching hour and you’ll see enough ridiculous and funny things to make your heart explode. They’re so delightfully crazy that you can’t help but love them. One of my rabbits likes to step gingerly into the kitchen to explore; the minute he’s shooed out, he runs back to the living room carpet, does a celebratory binky and preens under the coffee table with a smug look on his little face. My two bunnies chase each other, watch TV together, hump each other’s faces, and otherwise wreak havoc in the McDoogal living room. It almost feels like they’re trying to make up for their crappy personalities by putting on a little show every night. And it leaves me feeling like maybe I’m not getting such a bad deal.

Photos: DisapprovingRabbits

29 replies on “When Your Pet Hates You: Six Stages of Grief”

My cat is really actually quite sweet. We give him loving crap because is was grumpy for a long time once he got past the adorable kitten phase. My brothers did do some less than kind things to him, but they were your stereotypical teenage hooligans. Now the cat (named Godzilla because he is a monster) shows affection on occasion. He has mellowed.

He did bite my eye once, and I did put him in the microwave, but only for a second while I hiked up my pants. I have loved that cat from day one.

So, yeah. Joking :)

I used to live with a cat who hated me. He liked me at first but he got really angry at me when I adoped my kitty. My roommate at the time was pretty much a bitch too, so she blamed everything bad he did on my little months-old kitten. He was a full-grown cat btw.

Once I went and played around with him–I can be a little goofy with cats like making them dance or silly stuff, but this is how I act with all cats. He must have been very pissed off that I even dared to swat his bottom around playfully because then he pissed all over my bed.

That cat blew. I’m so glad my kitty doesn’t have to put up with him anymore, because he also bullied her.

I’ve had three rabbits and luckily one of them was like a lap-rabbit (only my lap, her eyes would bulge crazily whenever someone else would pick her up). The second had a permanent stoner attitude of ‘yeah whatever’ and the third one didn’t realize how freakishly big she was and was afraid for everything, thumping and making sounds for everything that moved.

First class entertainment, to watch those three go around the garden. Some people say that rabbits are boring pets. I wish I could’ve introduced them to Soezie, Tazzie & Rocky, the maniac trio.

I’ve had my three bunnies for nearly six years. (Yes, I’m insane. Moving on.) While they love each other, they couldn’t care less about me unless I’m feeding them or letting them outside.

But! I had a tiny victory last month. I picked up the most senior bunny – she’s traditionally been the hugest bitch, by the way, and she licked me. On the face. I thought it was a fluke, but it’s happened several times since. I don’t know what changed, but it only took SIX years. So there’s hope.

The other two still don’t give a rip about me, though.

I have a guinea pig. I feel like that sentence should be explanation enough. He is one big jerk who only cares about food. Every time I pick him up and pet him (after chasing him around the cage for a bit), he has this alert look like I’m going to kill him at any moment. He would also rather flip his house upside down and chew on it than even look at any of the other chew toys I get him.

I’m in the spite stage right now. His new name is Jerk

This is awesome. My dog is a total bitch to me (pun kinda intended). She was my husband’s before we met, but we’ve been together almost 5 years. That’s over half her life spent with me, and the little asshole still couldn’t care less if I’m there or not.

The only time she’ll ever snuggle with me is when her dad’s not home and it’s cold out (I may or may not turn down the heat to facilitate this). It’s as though she wants to make it very clear to me that I’m the second choice.

That’s cool, though. I’m over it. Stupid dog.

I love you and this so very much. My oldest cat, Spike, is a total dickhead. I’ve had him for ten years, spent thousands of dollars (when I was a full time college student with little income. Yeah, try applying for a personal loan and telling the loan officer you need $3000 to rebuild your 7 mo-old kitten) on him, and lavished him with love and affection. My repayment? Near daily human sized shits on the pad in front of the litter box and multiple pairs of shoes and boots that he will knock off a shelf to piss on. The bastard pissed on a pair of Kimmy Choo boots that I saved up for forever. Ruined. And yes, I have taken him to the vet to ensure nothing is physically wrong with him multiple times. His diagnosis? He is just an asshole in perfect health. Husband thinks he is either completely, obsessively in love with me and acts out because an interspecies romance is out of the question OR he hates me vehemently and wants me to die. And yet, I still snuggle the shit out of him every chance I get. In short, I feel your pain, and thank you for making me feel less alone.

The Notorious B.U.N. aka Bunny Smalls is not one to be held and likes to pretend that she is alpha bun of the house (that honor goes to the boyfriend) while Mister Wilfred Whiskers will love anyone with food and then love you even more if you give him a taste.

I picked out Smalls and my bf picked out Whiskers, so I’ve often felt jealousy over why he got the lovey rabbit and I got the stand-offish one. The only consolation is that they are both brats that chew on bf’s comic boxes. And the binkies, yawns and flops!

I cracked up reading this because my cat is EXACTLY the same way. He’s a rescue cat who was abused, and I adopted him a year and a half ago. I always wish he could understand that he’s safe now and that I just want to snuggle.

I also refer to him as a little asshole when people come over. So glad to hear I’m not alone.

Bunny articles! My love for Persephone knows no bounds…

I’m the owner of a completed stand-offish, adopted 4 year old (we think)boy bunny.

He eats, he sleeps, he binkies during outdoor-time, he has intense licky love affairs with our chair cushions, but HUMANS MUST NOT TOUCH, despite the fact that we lovingly feed him, house him (in the house no less) and we WANT to cuddle him, all the time.

I’m not sure non-rabbit owners can ever truly understand the scars that owning a bunny can inflict on you heart. There is a particular brand of disdain that bunnies have for their humans.

On the other hand, only rabbit owners get to experience the extreme cuteness of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7trmLR603g8 , or the ‘flop of death’ as it’s known in our household :)

Oh this is so true, the stages. Mother Blue got a cat to cute her empty-nest syndrome, over the loud protests of Dad Blue. She remembered the kitten she had years before I was born, who was cuddly and lovable and then died.
Well. This cat has hated her from the beginning. It avoids all human contact, except when, once a day, in the morning, after being fed, she will sit on a mat and allow my mom one, perhaps two pets of her soft fur. That is all. Then she hisses and runs away.
My mom went through all the stages and has now accepted this behavior. She continues to dote on her, saying she’s a bit high-strung. There’s really nothing else to be done.

I have this problem with my cat. He weighed less than a pound when we found him. I fed him with an eyedropper because the little bastard wouldn’t use the bottle. OK, so MAYBE I sat him in the microwave for a SECOND (door open, sheesh) and MAYBE my brothers taped him into a shoebox and stapled him into a paper grocery bag and MAYBE I kept telling him that I know what his insides look like, but still. Now he’s a 19 pound lump of turd that bites you in the eye.

He is very fluffy, though.

I definitely went through this with my chinchilla. He has tons of personality and likes me well enough, but any affection is given on HIS terms, not mine. Chin scratches yes, but picking up and cuddling are strictly verboten. I was imagining carrying him around in my pocket and letting him roam the house, but it didn’t really work out that way. Like you said though, he’s so entertaining it feels worth it.

Are they altered? I know some bunnies warm up once the hormones have worn off.

I’m lucky that my bunny is very affectionate and gives me lots of kisses, but it’s a trade off because his litter skills are horrible, he relishes peeing on my bed, and he is impossible to pick up or restrain in order for nail clips.

I know bun-buns can be wacky. Only took one viewing of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” to confirm that.

No but seriously they are picky. I went the easy route and chose guinea peeegs. Not as playful, but easier to win over and generally very easy to love and keep.

Ha ha “binky”. We called it doing laps for our mini Himalayan, Sophie.

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