Evelyn Ryan, Yourlifelifter
I am a consummate animal lover. I am also an empath, an energy receiver with an overabundance of compassion, strong loyalty, and need to care and rescue others. I have had pets since I was a child, and like Dr. Doolittle, always have felt an emotional connection to them and at times, can even communicate with them. I cannot count how many just showed up on my doorstep and walked in and never left. I even followed my animal passion and interest with an emphasis in Zoology and animal behavior in my college studies.
The loss recently of my 15 year old dog Minnie, my baby girl, and the resulting grief we continue to experience in my family has been very tough, so painful. But I noticed that reporting that loss to some people in my life who have known me and Minnie for a long time and even cared for her seemed to illicit little to no emotional response. In fact, as I reminisced, I saw that same callousness several times before. Now I have experienced the losses and sicknesses of their pets as well and needless to say, I was distraught for both my friends and their pets.
Why? Why would our emotional responses be so vastly different. Now, as a narcissistic abuse recovery expert, I could render a pretty educated guess, but I decided to research this a bit more and this is what I discovered:
Narcissists not only exploit and abuse animals like they do humans, they creatively also use them as manipulation tools to further abuse you.
What Motivates Us to Love and Bond with Our Pets
Pets are common in over 60% of homes in the United States. People in general prefer mammals and specifically dogs over cats. Dogs have been the most popular pet for a president to have during his time in the White House — 30 of the 44 presidents have had at least one dog in the West Wing and every President over the past 100 years except the most recent has had at least one dog. Others prefer larger pets or even exotic ones. Our pet preferences are as diverse as as we are and are driven, generally, by our age, religion, marital status, family size, home ownership status, financial, physical, and emotional health (e.g. some people are not physically able to have pets or a certain pet), our upbringing, cultural impacts, and even our personalities.
The benefits our pets’ unconditional love, companionship, loyalty provide to our emotional and physical health have been documented too many times to mention. We in turn mutually provide those back to them. It is that mutual trust and loyalty that bonds us in the same way we are bonded in human relationships. Our beloved animals mirror back to us unconditionally the love we give to them. They rely on us like we them to care for us with no strings attached. In fact, some claim that animal lovers possess many of the qualities that make them the best relationship partners.
So while the types of pets we are attracted to differ, what bonds us to them and keeps us loyal to them do not. Being loyal requires not only the ability to commit in word or thought (e.g. invalidated promise) but the ability to act on and demonstrate the commitment promised (e.g. validate the promise).
We, when we acquire a pet, know we can deliver on the trust and loyalty we know reliably the pet will deliver to us. We know we are committed to each other in good times and bad, in sickness and health when our ability to act on that commitment of loyalty are challenged the most. When we do, we bond, trust, rely on and love each other. We make each other’s lives better. How many stories do we read about animals that return to their homes after being lost miles away and being gone for weeks and months. They know where home is.
Beware of Narcissists Around Your Pets
Narcissists exploit pets in the same way they exploit humans. Narcissists are not choosy about whom or what they exploit. Remember, they are wired for abuse and betrayal. They are not wired for committed mutually respectful relationships of any kind.
Narcissists are energy vampires who cannot generate their own energy and target anyone and anything vulnerable that they can exploit. In fact they target and are attracted to empaths who frequently are animal lovers. Our loyal yet vulnerable companions like us can provide long-lasting supply for them. Now, the narcissist’s parasitic exploitation of pets may manifest differently but the motives are the same: to benefit at the pet’s expense without earning that benefit. So why, then, would their treatment of them be any less abusive or exploitive?
Doesn’t the fact that we own a pet indicate we love it? Isn’t that generally expected especially if you are family man or woman with a spouse who is a compassionate animal lover? This may seem reasonable on the surface except for one important fact: narcissists lack the compassion that enables humans to love and to be loyal. And both are needed in all healthy mutually beneficial relationships. Dr. George K. Simon, a preeminent expert on manipulative aggressive personalities and author of the best sellers In Sheep’s Clothing, Character Disturbance, and The Judas Syndrome confirms that those with covert aggressive personalities like pathological narcissists lack the capacity to love because they lack empathy and the warning signs of such empathy deficits are in part in the attitudes they display toward obligation. Narcissists simply detest putting out effort that might, even, in part, benefit someone or something else.
The parts of the narcissistic brain, nevertheless, that plot and scheme work just fine so they have no issue using pets like humans to create an illusion of normalcy. That is until the camouflage slips and we see their true intent and the extent of their depravity in animal cruelty, puppy mills, dog and cock fighting, killing an animal when it is no longer of use, abandoning them, and neglecting their medical needs. They are so creative in their malevolence as to go so far to use the pets we love, just like their own children, as manipulation and gaslighting tools to facilitate their exploitation of us. So beware of narcissists around your pets in the same way you should around your children.
What Signs of Pet Abuse or Neglect Should We Look for
Dr. Stephanie A. Sarkis warns us in “Beware of Narcissists Around Your Pet” to watch for the following common but not so obvious ways narcissists abuse and neglect pets you love to further abuse and exploit you.
Note that many of these apply to your own children as well.
- They use the pet as a manipulation tactic to prevent you from leaving.
- They try to alienate you from your pet and get it to “love them more” to punish you, isolate, you and invalidate you. e.g. triangulation
- They demonize or adulate the pet and even discard it, neglect it or worse, kill it to elicit a response or behavior from you they seek.
- They lack tolerance for the animal’s slip ups.
- They physically abuse or torture the pet. I read a case of a narcissist using an animal he kept caged for sex and another where an aging chronically suffering animal was deliberately kept alive rather than compassionately euthanizing it.
- They sadistically taunt, tease or sabotage your pet and set it up to behave badly so they can laugh at it or get you to align with the narcissist and not the pet. e.g. gaslighting
- They “accidentally” let your pet escape so you focus your complete attention and adulation on the narcissist.
- They criticize how you care for your pet and do not adhere to your rules regarding your pet to emotionally abuse and invalidate you e.g, gaslight you.
- They will lie and tell you they miss the animal to manipulate their way back into your life. e.g. hoover back in.
- They will seek custody or visitation rights of the pet you love, to win and make you lose and to use it to character assassinate you by saying they had to rescue the animal because you were the one abusing the animal or are not competent to care for it.
- They create fake or real emergencies with the pet to get you to come home or stay home. e.g. gaslight you
What Can We Do to Keep Our Pets Safe
Our pets will benefit from the same protective measures that humans benefit from and deserve.
First and foremost, if you witness or suspect any case of physical abuse or neglect towards an animal, immediately remove the animal from the scene, seek veterinary care, and report it to animal control.
Second, if a narcissist is using and abusing a pet to further manipulate, abuse, isolate, and overpower you, then for your and your pet’s sakes, seek immediate help to leave the toxic environment and get to a safe place for you both. Seek help from reputable narcissistic abuse recovery sources. If you are ever in danger or suspect danger, contact 911 or your local policy emergency immediately.
- Minimize your TIME with them;
- Maximize the DISTANCE between you and them; and
- Put SHIELDING or a barrier between you and them.
Assertively saying no and walking away to a safe place allow you to do all three, easily and effectively.
For more information on how to deal with toxic people read this article.
Lastly, do not ever leave a pet you love in the care or custody of someone you know or suspect is a narcissist or anyone for that matter who is not able to provide the care your pet needs and is worthy of. If you are not able to care for your pet, leave it in the safe and reliable care of a trusted friend or relative or reputable foster care or adoption agency until you are better able to care for your beloved pet who deserves the same unconditional loyalty, love, compassion it provides to you.