What animals teach us

Do you often look at your hamster and wonder why he stores food in his cheek pouches, or watch an army of ants carrying tiny crumbs away from a biscuit your little brother dropped on the kitchen floor?

Animals do things because to them it’s perfectly natural. If we look a little deeper, we’ll notice that the things animals do can teach us some valuable life lessons. An animal’s survival, especially in the wild, depends on his ability to find food, shelter and stay safe. Even our pets can teach us – about unconditional love and commitment.

Dogs

One of the best things about having a dog is having someone to love and having that someone love you back! Does your dog follow you around? Or wag his tail when you get home from school? Your dog loves you no matter what! His love is unconditional.

If you’ve seen the movie Hachiko, you’ll know about the Akita, a Japanese breed of dog, who waited every evening at the station for his master to come home – even after the man had passed away. He was an exceptionally loyal dog.

What can we learn from dogs?

Be loyal to those you love. The word ‘loyalty’ means supporting someone completely and being faithful to them no matter what. You should love those close to you unconditionally – this means they don’t have to act a certain way or do something to get your love.

Cats

Have you ever wondered how your cat seems to know just where you are? She will come up to you and rub her body against your legs, or if your dad is watching TV, she’ll snuggle up in his neck, or sit on the kitchen counter while your mom makes dinner.

Most cats love attention and become pretty good at getting it from their humans! A cat will wait patiently for you to stroke her, or if she wants to play, she’ll make sure you get the message that it’s time to bring out the toys. As hunters, cats will stalk their prey, waiting quietly until it’s the right moment to pounce. In the wild, the female lionesses know how important it is to catch prey for their pride – their survival depends on it. They’ll keep trying until they make the kill, so their families can eat.

What can we learn from cats?

Keep trying. Be persistent and put every effort into working for your goal. You may not succeed every time, but keep at it and don’t give up!

Aquarium fish

If you add a new fish to your aquarium, you’ll probably wonder why every time you try to find him in the tank, he doesn’t seem to be around. That’s because he’s hiding away. He finds shelter behind rocks and plants in the tank. This behaviour is natural. The tank is a new environment for the fish, and he’s pretty scared. Once he gets used to the new surroundings, he’ll come out of hiding and start to enjoy his new home.

What can we learn from aquarium fish?

It’s okay to be scared sometimes. We all feel frightened when things around us change. Change is scary and it’s tough being the new kid on the block! Perhaps you’ve moved to a new school or house, or changes at home are making you feel unhappy. It’s okay to approach your parents or a teacher at school about your feelings. Talking about difficult feelings with a trusted adult can help you make sense of them and help you to feel better.

Hamsters

Hamsters are nocturnal. This means that while you’re at school, playing sport or doing your homework in the afternoons, your hamster is sleeping. But while you sleep at night, your hamster is very busy in his cage. He eats, drinks and runs on his exercise wheel. In the wild, a hamster travels far distances at night to find food. He uses the pouches in his cheeks to store food as he searches for more. The pouch will fill and stretch, making the hamster’s head look double its normal size! Hamsters have a natural instinct to find and store food. That’s why your pet hamster will take food from his food dish and hide it somewhere in his cage.

What can we learn from hamsters?

Be more patient. It would be exhausting for hamsters in the wild to find food and then constantly have to rush back to the burrow to drop it off. The pouch provides a good solution – hands-free transport and plenty of time saved. The hamster also needs to be patient before he can go home and enjoy his meal. Patience is something we can all have more of! If you save up your monthly pocket money, you can buy something really special – you just need to be patient and disciplined as you wait until you’ve saved enough.

Meerkats

Meerkats live in large family groups in burrows dug deep into the soil. They spend their days playing, grooming one another and keeping watch for predators. A large part of their day is also spent foraging for food. As omnivores, meerkats eat a number of plants and insects.

One tasty treat on the meerkat menu is the scorpion! Some scorpions have venom so deadly they can kill a human being – and they have a pair of very nasty pinchers too. While the adults have some immunity to the venom, the meerkat youngsters have to learn how to catch a scorpion without getting stung or pinched! An experienced meerkat scorpion-hunter is so fast that he’ll quickly bite off a scorpion’s head before he can sting. To teach the pups how to safely catch a scorpion, the adults first let them get used to handling a dead scorpion. As they improve, the adults will remove a live scorpion’s stinger before giving it to the pups. The pups get in a lot of practice before the adults will let them try with a scorpion whose stinger is intact!

What can we learn from meerkats?

Never stop learning. Learn as much as you can about the world around you. Skills you learn now you will take with you right into adulthood. Why not ask your mom or dad to show you a new skill this weekend? Perhaps you can make a bird feeder for the garden, or ask your mom to show you how to bake and ice cupcakes.

Dung beetles

If you visit the bushveld during the summer months, you’ll definitely see dung beetles out and about. Dung beetles help keep the planet clean by dealing with scat (droppings) left behind by herbivores and omnivores. Dung beetles are classified according to what they do with poo – either rolling, tunnelling or dwelling inside the dung ball.

Dung beetles can smell fresh dung from a long way off. They use their legs to roll dung and dig holes. Dung balls are used either as a place for the females to lay their eggs or as food for the adult beetles. A dung beetle can carry a ball of dung that weighs 50 times his own body weight.

What can we learn from dung beetles?

Everyone is important. You may be small, young or not very strong, but you can do an important job – just like the dung beetle! Endurance means doing something well, even if it is difficult or we feel tired. We push on and do our best to the end.

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