If you’re anything like me, your household pet is like a member of the family. Most of us have a soft spot for our pets. When they’re hurt we feel their pain. When they’re sick we get worried sick about what might be wrong. A difficult part of owning a pet is that since we can’t verbally communicate (aside from some commands and accolades) we aren’t able to always read how they’re feeling.
Fortunately, much work has been done when it comes to understanding the nonverbal languages that our animal companions speak. Reading body language and understand your dog’s bark and cat’s meow can help you be a better pet owner and a better companion to your dog or cat. In this article, we’ll let you in on some little known facts about what the body language of your pet means.
Do you speak dog?
Our canine companions tend to let us know how they’re feeling. When they’re scared they lower their tail and cower. When they’re happy they attach us while licks. However, there are many misconceptions about the body language of dogs. Here are some important ones every dog owner should know:
- Yawning. As humans, we yawn when we’re tired. Dogs also share this trait. But if you own one you’ve probably noticed them yawning much more frequently than we do. This is because they also yawn when they’re unsure of a situation, if they’re around someone new, and if they’re trying to diffuse tension.
- Whale eye. This is phenomenon occurs when your dog tilts her head and stares out of the corner of her eye, exposing the whites of her eyes. This can be mistaken for a “cute puppy” look, but it normally means they are afraid.
- Face-licking. As humans we tend to see face-licking as a sign of affection. In dogs, however, it is more likely a friendly sign of appeasement. It is usually seen in puppies and if it carries on into adulthood it can be problematic if your dog frequently licks other dogs’ faces who might not appreciate the gesture.
- Tail position. Horizontal can mean the dog is alert. Facing upwards can mean dominance and aggression. Tail down can mean the dog isn’t feeling well or is sad. Tail tucked can mean fear and aggression.
What’s your cat thinking?
Cats tend to be a bit more subtle in their communication than dogs (with the exception of when they’re hungry and meowing incessantly). However, if you pay attention you can still get a glimpse into how your cat is feeling. There are three main indicators you should notice when trying to read your cat: the tail, eyes, and ears.
- Tail. A cat’s tail will tell you a lot about their mood. A tail standing up and wagging means a cat is happy. However, a straight up, rigid tail can mean a cat who is aggressive. Similarly, a cat who is thumping their tail or waiving it with force can also be trying to show dominance and aggression.
- Eyes. Cat’s eyes are very intense and expressive. Dilated pupils and a focused look can mean the cat is surprised or scared, but can also mean it is hunting something. Relaxed pupils, blinking eyes, or closed eyes, however all mean that the cat feels comfortable and not threatened.
- Ears. Ears pointing up are somewhat ambiguous; it can mean playfulness or attentiveness. Ears pointing back, however, are a sign of fear and aggression.