Pets are surely adorable, but sometimes they just have no gods or masters. They are kings and queens of the house and that means they can do whatever they want, including practicing their natural instincts such as scratching, digging, tearing, chewing, or marking their territory on your most cherished possessions. No matter how mad you might initially be at your little monster, no object can replace your loyal friend, so you just have to accept that this is what pets do, forgive, and train them so it doesn't happen again.
Have you ever caught your beloved furball chewing up your favorite couch, hanging on a curtain, eating all the plants on the way, destroying pillows, or cleaning up the fridge? Our readers sure did! Wonder Homie created a challenge and asked people to share pictures of their pets destroying something, and Bored Pandas delivered! They have submitted both hilarious and heartbreaking photos of their naughty pets caught red-handed and we've compiled an even bigger list of the best (or the worst?) destructive pets.
Make sure to upvote the photos you like the most and tell us in the comments what your furry friends have destroyed in your house!
Assuming that all pet owners at some point have experienced or are still experiencing destructive pet behavior, Bored Panda reached out to animal behavior specialists to help you understand your animal's behavior and move towards a life where your pets are happy and your house and possessions are undamaged.
Before you take any measures to train your pet to get rid of unwanted behavior, it's important to understand why they act like that.
Certified animal behaviorist Yody Blass, the owner and director of Companion Animal Behavior in Northern Virginia, who is a pioneer in the field since 1990, told Bored Panda that there are three main reasons why pets are destructive: "Young pets who are either teething or are in need of training regarding appropriate chew items; pets who are bored; pets with anxiety issues, including separation anxiety, panic disorder, and OCD."
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We also talked to Wendy Kruger, dog behavior and training specialist and Samantha Prior, cat advisor at Wood Green, The Animals Charity in Godmanchester, that had its humble beginnings in 1924. It now has become one of the largest pet rehoming centers in Europe for the care of dogs, cats, and small pets, as well as offering dedicated support services to pet owners. They explained the roots of pets' behavior in more detail, highlighting that being "destructive" is completely natural.
"There are many different reasons why animals are destructive, rooted in their basic needs and their emotional state.
Often, it’s a totally natural behavior and is only considered ‘destructive’ because of what’s being ruined—for example, a puppy chewing a chair leg is just teething and doesn’t understand what they should or shouldn’t use their teeth on! Similarly, a cat scratching the sofa may simply be maintaining their claws or leaving an important territorial marker to give them reassurance, a scent that our noses cannot detect."
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"It’s also very common for pets to be destructive when they’re bored. An under-exercised young dog can find immense entertainment shredding a sofa cushion, and a kitten who isn’t given appropriate toys for practicing its hunting skills may explore and damage the curtains. Cats who are kept as indoor-only pets will often show these behaviors more due to frustration.
The most challenging cause of destructiveness is when dogs are distressed due to being left at home alone. Luckily, separation anxiety isn’t as common as pet owners think. Emotions that drive dogs to chew things when left alone range from boredom, frustration, and a lack of guidance from the owner about what’s appropriate to chew and what’s not, to separation anxiety and even external triggers that stimulate the behavior like passers-by or the postman."
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Because of the lack of understanding about animal behavior, people often jump to conclusions about what might be causing that unwanted behavior. There are a few common stereotypes people have and you are probably familiar with them. Have you ever had a thought that your pet might hate you sometimes and is doing those 'crimes' on purpose? Yody Blass reveals that it's not true.
"Many people jump to conclusions that their pets are just being 'bad' or misbehaving because they are 'mad' at us. An example of this is the dog that has destroyed the couch when left alone. When the family gets home, they assume the pet is mad at them for leaving him alone, without realizing that the pet was anxious and possibly panicked at being alone and did not necessarily enjoy destroying the couch," Blass says.
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Sometimes it seems that pets have unique behavioral patterns when it comes to items they prefer to destroy, but Yody Blass assures us that pets are not particularly picky and will destroy anything that's available."For the most part, pets will go after what is available to them. That is why it is so important to kitten or puppy-proof the home before bringing home a young animal, or pet-proof when bringing home any new pet. Put away breakables, cover valuable furniture, and provide a dog crate, close off rooms, or use a baby gate to prevent access to areas until you know the pet is able to handle being in the area without issues."
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Once you've caught your cat, dog, or other pet red-handed ruining your stuff, it's important to keep your cool, interrupt the behavior, and offer a fun alternative.
"I caution people often not to get angry or punish the pet after the fact. Pets need to be taught in the moment as much as possible for training to be effective, not hours later when they can't understand the connections between what happened and why you are now upset. The key is to interrupt the behavior whenever possible, and then immediately redirect the pet onto an appropriate item," says Yody Blass, who has successfully treated thousands of pet behavior problems over the past 26 years.
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The next step in correcting the unwanted behavior is actually devoting your time and effort to educate yourself and train your pet from a young age.
"It is very important to train your pet and manage the environment they are in from the very beginning whenever possible. Avoid giving a puppy or kitten too much freedom until they can handle it. Some pets are more destructive and more persistent than others. These pets may need a trainer or behavior expert early on to get ahead of the problem. Also, any pet with separation anxiety or other fear/anxiety issues should get the help of a pet behaviorist," Yody Blass advises.
There is plenty of information online about pet behavior and useful tips on how to fix it, but most importantly, you have to analyze your own pet to figure out what's best for it.
"All owners should research their pet’s basic needs, taking into consideration the age of the pet, and make some changes to ensure these needs are being more than met," Wendy Kruger and Samantha Prior at Wood Green point out.
"If you believe you are meeting your pet’s needs and the destructive behavior is still happening, it’s time to reach out and ask for help."
These days, there is no shame in asking for help and using all the tools provided to improve your own and your animal's well-being. For example, Wood Green, The Animals Charity can provide free advice to anyone who needs it.
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"Historically, destructiveness was something that prospective owners were understandably concerned about, and people would tend to try and keep the pet in an area they think prevents destruction of furniture and personal items," Wendy Kruger and Samantha Prior say. "For dogs, this used to be the kitchen; however, it’s actually one of the more expensive rooms to replace and repair the damage. Whilst it’s a good idea to minimize your pet’s access to things they may chew where reasonably possible, like picking up shoes and socks off the floor, it’s also important to provide things they can chew and play with to prevent mishaps."
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So the key to keeping your pets away from destroying your belongings is giving them alternative enjoyable items they can destroy. Yody Blass shares her experience:
"We want the pet to learn over time what is acceptable to chew on and what is not. It is important to provide chew items the pet will enjoy, as well as items that are safe, as some pets will ingest items that are not good for them. Some pets will do better with a faux fur toy that does not have any stuffing. Other pets will enjoy ripping out the stuffing, and as long as you supervise and make sure they don't ingest any of the toy (or the squeaker) they can have the empty shell to play with (hint: buy inexpensive items for this purpose)."
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Wendy Kruger and Samantha Prior give tips for proud owners of the most common pets—dogs and cats.
"For dogs, pay plenty of attention to mental stimulation, exercise, and company. When it comes to preventing destructive behavior, chewing is probably the most important and under-utilized natural activity. Everybody seems to accept that puppies need chews, but dogs of all ages need an outlet for chewing! Who can blame them for chewing a shoe if this essential basic need is not being provided for? If your dog does get hold of something they shouldn’t have, don’t punish them or snatch it away. Instead, direct their attention and energy to something more appropriate—like a long-lasting chew or their favorite toy.
When it comes to cats, a safe and secure territory is essential. Make sure they have plenty of sturdy and appropriately-positioned scratching posts or mats. For example, if the sofa is getting scratched, place a large scratching post next to it to help them transition across."
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With all that being said, correcting the unwanted behavior in pets comes down to the owner's motivation and willingness to spend time working on it, because in most cases, the destructive behavior can be solved with simple changes.
"For many species, chewing is a natural behavior and it’s generally not difficult to prevent them from destroying the ‘wrong’ things. In most cases, it can be resolved with some simple changes to the pet’s lifestyle. The most important thing is finding the motivation for the behavior and the emotion that drives it—for example, a cat needing an outlet for scratching, or a dog being bored and having nothing else to do," Wendy Kruger and Samantha Prior say.
With millions of suffering and homeless pets around the world, it's important to understand that owning a pet comes with a big responsibility and the moment you become a parent to a lovely animal, its welfare is completely is your hands.
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To balance out all the animals' documented crimes and give you hope after you possibly found a ruined piece of furniture today, here is a friendly reminder that pets can be wholesome and their role in our lives is beneficial for multiple reasons that go way beyond having a furry friend.
"Among the well-documented effects of HAI [Human-Animal Interactions] in humans of different ages, with and without special medical or mental health conditions, are benefits for: social attention, social behavior, interpersonal interactions, and mood; stress-related parameters such as cortisol, heart rate, and blood pressure; self-reported fear and anxiety; and mental and physical health, especially cardiovascular diseases," a 2012 study by Andrea Beetz, Kerstin Uvnäs-Moberg, Henri Julius, and Kurt Kotrschal in Frontiers in Psychology reveals.