Understanding animal communication: What is your pet trying to tell you?

Ever wondered what your pet is thinking? We’re no Dr Dolittle, but there are a few ways in which you can better understand what your pet(s) are trying to communicate. Carry on reading to find out more about what different behaviours and sounds mean. 

Dogs

Barking – Owners can tell a lot about what their dog is trying to communicate by the frequency, duration and pitch of its bark. A high-pitched bark, for instance, usually means the dog is excited – however, it can also indicate fear so take non-verbal signals into consideration to help you decipher if your pet is OK! 

Wagging tail – Just in case you forgot the nursery rhyme, the dog with the waggly tail is usually the one everyone wants! That’s because a wagging tail almost always indicates a happy dog. 

Hidden tail – Dogs often tuck their tail away to communicate fear, submission or stress.

Panting – Light panting is pretty common in dogs and might happen when they are breathing particularly heavily on a walk. This is nothing to worry about. However, if your dog is heavily panting, it may be dehydrated or overheating. Call a vet if it comes on suddenly as it might be a sign of other medical issues. 

Growling – If your dog is growling it means something is making them agitated or scared. It can also indicate that your dog is in pain, so if the growling persists then it’s a good idea to get them checked out by a vet. 

Singing – While your dog probably isn’t belting out an Adele anthem (if so, call Simon Cowell immediately…), singing is a sign of happiness. Your dog may sound like they’re singing when they’re happy to see you, for example. 

Cats 

Meowing – One of our favourite cat facts is that they partially developed the ability to meow to communicate with humans – so it’s only polite we try and listen! A short meow is usually the equivalent of a ‘hello!’, while an extended meow is usually a call for food and/or attention. 

If your cat is being out-of-character levels of vocal, then they might be trying to tell you something isn’t right. Consider booking a vet appointment in this scenario for peace of mind. 

Hissing – If your cat is hissing then they are indicating that there is something in their environment that they aren’t happy about! Don’t approach your cat when they’re hissing as they could bite or scratch you as a defence mechanism.

Blinking slowly – This is a sign of trust and affection!

‘Making cookies’ – Ever noticed your cat kneading like a tiny little Nigella Lawson? Great! Not only is it adorable but it also means they are comfortable in their current environment. 

Rabbits

Grunting – If your rabbit feels like you are invading its space (e.g. cleaning its cage out) it may grunt at you. 

Whimpering – This one is self-explanatory and means your fluffy friend feels anxious. 

Binkying – Ever seen your rabbit jump into the air with a sudden enthusiasm? This is known as a binky and is a sign of joy and excitement. 

Nose nudges – Your rabbit probably wants feeding and/or your attention!

Thumping – If you’ve ever seen Bambi, then you know that thumping is a warning sign of danger. Check on your rabbit(s) if you hear this in case there is a fox nearby!

Hamsters 

Clicking – Despite being almost non-verbal, hamsters sometimes make a clicking noise which you might be able to hear if you are in close enough range. This means they are content!

Squeaking – If your hamster is squeaking, they likely want some attention. Alternatively, it can be a sign that your pet is in pain so use your best judgement and be weary of this. 

Hissing – This indicates fear. 

We hope you found this blog a helpful reminder of how complex our pets are! Overall, it is important to remind clients that they know their pet(s) better than anyone else at the end of the day and should always seek veterinary advice if they are concerned. 

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