If a dog yawns, and he’s not tired, then what is he? What do you do with a cat who’s purring, but not happy?
These might sound like riddles, but they’re important questions for pet owners! Pets give us clues about how they’re feeling, if they want to interact with us, and if they are sick. Understanding your pet’s language will keep you both safe, and will tell you when they need to see a veterinarian.
Pets and humans experience similar feelings, like joy, love, fear, anger and nervousness. Animals use their eyes, ears, tail, fur, mouth, body position, and vocalizations to communicate how they feel.
For instance, a dog who is “bowing” (with his arms and head stretched to the floor and his backend in the air) with a high, fast wagging tail and his tongue showing is happy and in a good mood. He’d probably like to play! But a pooch licking his lips, yawning and showing the whites of his eyes is stressed and doesn’t want to interact. Same for a dog whose ears are back, fur is standing, and tail is stiff. Respecting a dog’s signs can keep you safe from a bite.
When it comes to cats, let’s go back to the purring question. Cats purr when they’re happy, but also when they feel ill (in this case, take note of any symptoms they’re showing like not eating or hiding more than usual, or if they seem huddled in pain, and call your veterinarian). If a cat’s ears are up, her eyes are relaxed, and she’s slow-blinking, she’s feeling friendly and calm. When cats are nervous or angry, ears flatten, tails swish back and forth, and eyes may be big and wide.
Small critters have their own signs, too. Guinea pigs squeak when they’re excited, while they may chatter their teeth if they’re mad. Rabbits thump the floor with their back feet if they feel threatened or bothered, but flop over on their side when they’re content.
No matter what kind of pet you have, they’re communicating with you all the time!
Check out the video below for more information about reading dog body language.