The Body Language of Animals

Most people don’t claim to be able to hold a conversation with their pets. The pet might understand a few basic commands, but a complex conversation is out of the question. Their body language, on the other hand, tells much about what the pet is feeling.

Cats may seem inscrutable, but they actually tell quite a lot by their body language. Of course, everyone knows that a cat purrs when she’s happy and contented. Also, it’s well known that a fearful cat’s hair will stand on end as she arches her back.

What you might not know is that when a cat is feeling fearful, defensive, or nervous, other body language behaviors happen as well. Her ears might twitch or flatten against her head. Her eyes will dilate. If she is merely upset about something, she will whip her tail around frantically.

If you stare at your cat, you can expect a certain type of body language in return. She will stop moving altogether. Then, she will alternately look at you and away. However, if and only if your cat trusts you completely, she will go to sleep with you in the room.

She might even greet you by curling her tail around your legs. If she rubs against your legs, though, she probably wants something. She is trying to tell you by body language that she needs to be fed or needs her litter box to be changed, for example.

If your cat is confident and/or aggressive, she will narrow her pupils to slits. Her ears will stand up. Her rear will push up and her tail will go low. She will walk sideways to appear larger. This body language is reserved mostly for other animals.

Most dogs will prefer to be in a submissive relationship with their owner, or master. To show this through body language, they will lie on their back and show their belly. This is active submission. In passive submission, they come eagerly toward the master with their tail wagging loosely.

Beware, though, if the dog is staring at you and his tail is wagging stiffly. His bark will not be a friendly one. This body language means that the dog feels dominant and aggressive in the situation.

If he lifts his lips and shows his teeth, he’s not necessarily going to bite you. He may just be trying to scare you off by showing by his body language what could happen if you don’t back off. If you want to avoid this, approach the dog with your palms up. This shows the dog trust. If you approach with palms down, your body language is showing dominance, and you could be in trouble.

Other animals, maybe all animals, show some form of body language. Rabbits can get angry and show it by hissing. They will drum with their feet if they are feeling scared. To use body language to let you know that they are hungry, they will go so far as pushing their bowls around with their noses.

A lot can be learned about animals by being aware of their body language. You can stay safe around the animals you come across. More importantly, you can learn to better care of the animals you know.