May 232011

One common argument as to why animals of species that have not been domesticated for thousands of years should not be kept as pets is that they are “unpredictable” and might be sweet one minute and aggressive the next.  A few days ago I read an interesting article making this argument and illustrating the premise with an anecdote:  a person was playing with her pet raccoon and having a lovely time, and then she spilled her soda and the raccoon started drinking up the liquid and when she tried to pick up the animal and take him away from the spillage, he snarled and attempted to bite her.

This interesting anecdote; however, does not at all demonstrate “unpredictability.”  In fact, it illustrates the diametric opposite: that animals (wild or domestic) will in certain circumstances behave EXACTLY as a rational person would expect them to behave—like animals.  Animals will sometimes guard resources that they value: they will use their voice, their expression, and their teeth or claws to get what they want.  Predators will sometime try to kill prey animals.  Animals will sometimes fight for dominance or social position.  Animals have moods.  Animals have hormones.  Animals are not dolls, and not angelic Disney creatures. Unless you have worked very hard to remedy such behavior, pretty much every raccoon in the world will—predictably —behave exactly as hers did.

This does NOT mean they cannot be wonderful pets and companions.  If what you want is a companion that will be perfectly benign and never do anything untoward, get a teddy bear.  Animals are slightly more complex.  They require that those who interact with them possess a modicum of sense, pay attention to their language and behavior, and be aware and respectful of their capabilities.

Animals have been behaving this way for millennia and will continue to behave this way.  Not only wild animals, ALL animals…  Even within the most domesticated species, individuals will sometimes act in accordance with their wild natures.  This does not make them unpredictable and it does not make them bad pets.  It simply makes them living, breathing individuals with teeth and claws and personalities.  And isn’t that precisely why we choose to share our lives with them?

 May 23, 2011  Posted by at 8:25 am

  3 Responses to “Unpredictable?”

  1. Animals behavior can not be predicted, I saw a Lioness adopt a fawn in Africa on a Animal Planet show? Goldens are good to all!

  2. I’ve seen Goldens act VERY aggressively. ALL animals -humans included- can, with provocation, behave in ways which are not deemed “polite”. *Gee* I am thinking of how well Casey Anthony has behaved. Animals are predictable. WE’RE the ones who act unpredicatably!

  3. I really agree with the article. Man thinks that some animals can pose danger but most do not realize that man is the most dangerous animal in the planet.

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