Are You Misinterpreting what Your Pet is Saying?

Since animals can not talk and tell us what they are really thinking we often misinterpret their actions. Did you know that when a cat rubs its head on your leg that it is sending you a message? There are special scent glands around a cat’s mouth and on each side of its head, just below and in front of its ears. Cats mark their close companions with these glands as a friendly gesture.

Are you aware that although panting is the way a dog cools off it is also the way a dog says “I’m ready to play” or “I’m frightened” or “I’m in pain.”

Dogs, cats, and birds can be extremely jealous creatures that becomes highly upset when they have to share their owner with a spouse, child, or another family pet. These animals may become so jealous that they have temper tantrums where they either bite the owner or the person or pet competing for the owner’s attention; they may even attempt to destroy some item in the house. These animals are not psychotic but merely jealous.

Another often misinterpreted signal is a dog urinating at someone’s feet. Most people would conclude that this happens because the dog is excited or frightened when actually it is and act of friendly submission. So rather than being upset with the dog give the dog more love and attention.

Some cats when being tickled on their stomach may suddenly claw at their owner and run off. No, the cat is not neurotic; being on its back sometimes triggers a defensive-aggressive reflex which seems to surprise the cat as much as it does the owner. A cat who suddenly won’t use its litter box is not misbehaving for no reason. Such behavior is usually a sign of some emotional disturbance which may be set off by some change in the household i.e. a new child, new pet, or some remodeling. The cat may merely be signaling its desire for some love and assurance. Not using the litter box may also be a sign of a urinary tract disease so if the problem persists, a visit to your veterinarian would certainly be in order.

When a cat brings to you some item and drops it at your feet it may mean the cat wants to play fetch. Most people think only dogs enjoy retrieving and ignore a cat’s invitation to play.

Cats that are in heat may cry out. Owners unacquainted with a cat’s heat period interpret this howling as a sign that the cat is in pain. When an owner yells at a dog to stop barking, to the dog it sounds like the owner is barking back. Although the yelling may momentarily stop the dog’s barking by getting his or her attention the barking will soon begin again. The yelling actually encourages further barking by serving as an attention giving reward rather than as a punishment.

If you consider how easy it is for us to misinterpret the words and actions of other human beings who can verbally communicate you can begin to appreciate the ease with which can misunderstand the behavior of our mute animal companions. If you are having a serious behavioral problem with your pet your veterinarian may be able to help. If your veterinarian is unable to solve the problem he or she can refer you to a professional who is a specialist in clinical animal behavior.

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