I have never asked an animal anything and heard a reply. They just have no way to tell us but there have been many behavioural ecologists and ethologists who have made it their life’s work to study just such things. The kind of environments certain species like, dislike or tolerate at a cost. My job as a specialist in applied ethology is to use that research to answer the question: Where and how do animals prefer and deserve to live?
If we are going to talk about vegan animals then we are unequivocally talking about animals that are, in nature, considered as prey animals. Rodents, rabbits, other small mammals, some small reptiles, and some birds. For the sake of a blog that is relevant to most I will not consider goats, sheep, cows and horses as what most people would keep as a pet, maybe that’s a blog for some other time.
Prey animals didn’t survive and thrive by sitting in the open, waiting for a predator to show up before hiding. If you look at the natural behaviour of the rat it will wait for dark to be active and move in the shadows. Rabbits tend to move through high grass to help conceal their presence and they live in environments where their coat is camouflaged, with some even having different coats for different seasons and they build burrows and live in them. Tortoises developed a different anatomy to protect itself from predators because they tend to be found in places where there are few places to hide. This is what nature selected for because that’s what helped them survive long enough to reproduce and if you think about it hard enough you will understand that these are expensive measures. I’m not talking money, I am talking food, care, time, energy. The least we can do for these animals we keep as pets is understand that feeling safe is a biological necessity for them.
We know they are safe because we wouldn’t want them getting hurt, but they are animals they don’t know. So their environment should ideally allow them to apply the same strategies they use in nature. Providing places to take cover, placing their enclosures, terrariums or cages in a quiet place away from the cat and the dog, placing a towel or linen over their housing container are just the tip of the iceberg. If you think of birds their strategy is flight and we tend to keep them in cages. Can you imagine how vulnerable that feels? Try walking around the house naked to experience how vulnerable these animals feel (unless you’re already used to walking around naked).
Essentially, I have seen vegan pets that are having a whale of a time but I have also seem others who are constantly nervous because they don’t feel safe. I hope this blog will help some of them have a better life living with humans. If you have some photos you can post of fabulous pet enclosure that are biologically and behaviourally appropriate please do. Extra points would go to anyone whose rabbit has the possibility to build a burrow.
You can support MSPCA in their work by sponsoring an animal.