Animal Behavior Essentials: What You Need to Know

Animal Behavior Essentials: What You Need to Know

Have you ever looked at your pet and wished you understood what they were thinking? Well, you can! Okay, you can’t read their mind, but you can read their bodies. Pets communicate their feelings to you more than you may think.

Read on to discover the essentials of animal behavior. 

Cat Behavior: What You Need to Know 

Cats have a bad reputation for sticking to themselves and not letting their humans know what they are feeling. However, cats are very expressive. They just may not be as obvious about it as dogs typically are. Here are a few ways you can tell how your feline friend is feeling. 

The Tail Tells All 

You can almost always get a good read on your cat’s feelings based on the positioning of its tail. When their tail is pointed up or slightly curved, they likely feel comfortable and at ease. If their tail is wagging vehemently, your furry companion is probably feeling threatened or playful. 

Cats Like to Talk to Their Humans 

Cats are not always the most vocal household pet, but you better listen when they are. They vocalize to try and communicate hunger, danger, or just to say hi. 

Read Their Facial Expressions 

Cats use their faces to communicate. If they welcome you home by bumping their head against you, they are glad to have you back. If their ears are cocked back, they may be scared or angry. It takes observation of their facial cues and surroundings to truly determine their emotions. 

Purring Does Not Always Mean What You Think it Means

Yes, purring often means that your cat is happy and enjoying life. However, sometimes it can mean that they are feeling sick or in some kind of pain. So, if something seems off, contact a veterinarian to be safe. 

Dog Behavior: What You Need to Know 

Dogs and humans have been best friends for many years, giving us plenty of knowledge of how they work and like to communicate with us. However, they are not always easier to read than their feline counterparts. Here is what you should know.

The Tail Tells All 

Like cats, a dog’s tail can tell you pretty much everything you need to know. When they are happy, their tail wags back and forth like they are about to take off. When they are sad or scared, their tail tucks between their legs. Lastly, their tail sticks straight out when threatened and on high alert. 

They Show Signs of Stress

Dogs can become overstimulated just like humans. When this happens, they typically yawn, look in strange directions, or excessively lick their lips. If you notice this, get your dog to a calm environment and give them some space. 

Bowing = Playful 

If you have owned a dog or been around one for any period, you probably had no issues figuring out that bowing means they want to play with you. If your dog looks at you, pushes its chest to the floor, and leaves its wagging tail high in the air, that means it’s go-time, and you should find a tennis ball ASAP. 

Mounting Might Not Be What You Think 

You have probably seen a dog grab onto a leg and hump. This is natural and does not always have a sexual meaning. Dogs often use this to express dominance, relieve pent-up stress, or grab people’s attention. 

How to Handle Different Signs 

Now that you have a better idea of how to read your furry friend’s emotions, it’s time to learn what you should do with this new knowledge. 


If you notice that your dog or cat is showing aggression, this may not mean they are mad. They could be expressing pain and need immediate medical attention. 


If you determine that your pet is showing signs of sickness or injury, it is time to put your pet insurance to good use and call your local vet for an appointment. Be sure to get them to the ER right away if the injury is bad enough. 


If your dog or cat comes to you and looks like they want to play, take the time to play with them. This shows your love, strengthens your bond and provides both of you with joy and fulfillment. A win-win for everyone. 


If you are at a park, outdoor restaurant, or on a walk with your dog, pay attention when they get tired. If your canine companion is panting, it may be time to get some water and head back home. 


Lastly, keep tabs on when they eat and when they let you know they are hungry. Overfeeding is an easy mistake to make. It is important to feed all pets an appropriate amount of food, even when they give you those sweet puppy eyes in between meals. 

The Bottom Line 

Dogs and cats are very good at communicating their needs to their owners through body language and behavior. It is up to the owners to be attentive and know what all of their signs could mean. Now that you have a good idea of how they communicate their needs, pay attention to your furry family member and make sure they feel heard and understood. 

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