February 2012

Translating Your Petís Body Language

Have you ever wondered what your pet is thinking? Is it hungry? Angry? Happy? Around the world, animal experts and average pet owners alike have theories about animal communication.
 
It may be clear to you that your dog’s tail wags when he or she is excited, but here are some other body language signals as observed by the Mendocino Coast Humane Society in California:
  • A tail curled under, along with a head and rear lowered with an arched back may mean that your dog is worried.
  • An open mouth with tail down and weight flat on feet can indicate that he or she is relaxed.
  • A confident dog will have his or her ears forward while a submissive dog, or one who is feeling meek, will often have its ears flat or back.
Cats are often independent creatures, and like the Sphinx of Egypt, they emit an aura of mystery. The Animal Health Clinic of Funkstown, in Maryland, offers some guidelines for understanding your feline friend:
  • While purring is usually something a cat does when happy, the experts in Funkstown believe that cats sometimes purr when in fear.
  •  A twitching tail can indicate that your cat is excited over something (such as a bird or squirrel), but it can also signal territorial arousal.
  • Leg rubbing is part of a natural marking behavior, and your cat will attempt to cover you in his or her pheromones (from glands found on the face), so you and your environment will have a comforting scent.
Rabbits may seem like pretty passive creatures, but the folks at the Wisconsin Humane Society believe that these furry friends have a more complex communication system than we may think. Here are some of their observations:
  • Gnashing of the teeth signals that the rabbit is completely relaxed, often occurring during petting.
  • Thumping or tapping of the feet may indicate that the rabbit is fearful or excited. In the wild, thumping is used in burrows to announce danger to other rabbits.
No matter what type of pet you have, whether a guinea pig or a goldfish, you probably recognize certain signals and body language movements. Although every animal has a different personality, current research indicates that there is perhaps a universal set of signals that certain animals use to communicate with each other and their human companions. For more science and fascinating facts about the communication abilities of everything from mosquitoes to elephants, visit The Animal Communication Project’s website at http://acp.eugraph.com/#.