Understanding Cat and Dog Behaviour

Cat and Dog behaviours 3

Do you know what your dog is trying to tell you?

Having a dog or cat in your life can be a life changing experience. Here’s how you can make your experience with a dog or cat a truly “pawsitive” one. 

It is not difficult to communicate with a cat or dog and to understand what their behaviour means. 

Understanding Behaviour

Most people are familiar with and recognise the common signs of anxiety and fear in cats and dogs. For example, when a cat is anxious/afraid, it will hiss, arch its back and thrash its tail. When a dog is anxious/afraid, it will cower, tuck its tail or even show its teeth and growl.

There are less commonly known behaviours that cats and dogs have to signal their feelings. For example:

   Cat  Dog 
 Signs of fear, anxiety and stress

• Crouched and leaning away

Tail tucked tight or tip may move slightly
Wide-eyed staring, with pupils dilated
Ears and whiskers pulled back or flattened
Frozen and tense
Lips pulled back
Growling or hissing
Trying to escape or hide 
Hair raised on back

• Tail down but not tucked tight

• Refusing treats or turning away when touched
• Avoiding eye contact
• Fidgeting
• Hesitant
• Lip-licking
• Whale-eyes (showing whites of eyes)
• Paw-lifting
• Tense body or freezing
• Ears back
• Body hunched or crouched
• Trying to escape or hide
• Trembling
• Hair raised on back
• Eyes wide and staring
• Flattened ears
• Panting

When a cat or dog is showing you signs of stress, anxiety or fear, do not force it to interact with you. Shouting at or scolding the cat or dog for “bad behaviour” at this point will make things worse. Stay calm, back away and wait for the cat or dog to approach you if it wants.

Changes in Emotional State

Cat and Dog behaviours 1
Is your cat reacting in a way that is not normal? It may be ill or is feeling some discomfort.

Do bear in mind that an animal’s emotional state can change depending on the situation. For example, a normally good-natured dog may become tense when its usual routine is disrupted. Similarly, a calm cat may become overly-excited during mealtimes, because it has learnt to expect food at a certain time, or express frustration when mealtime is delayed. 

Cats and dogs that are ill or experiencing discomfort or pain may act out as well. So if a friendly animal starts to react in ways that are not normal, it may signal an illness or injury. Do be patient when dealing with animals that are sick or in pain. 

Do not punish them for acting out in unusual ways. Instead, consider seeking veterinary treatment as behavioural changes may indicate health issues.

Every Animal is Different 
Cat and Dog behaviours 2Cat and Dog behaviours 4
Cat or dog, every animal has its own fears or triggers. Learn to take note of them to ensure a happy pet.

One of the most important things to bear in mind when it comes to dealing with a cat or dog is that every animal has preferences and may react to situations differently. For example, some cats and dogs love being picked up and cuddled while others may hate it. If a cat or dog struggles or shies away from being picked up, it is best to respect its wishes. Do bear in mind that in general, most cats and dogs do not like being confined in a hug or handled roughly.

Also, every cat and dog has different fears or triggers. Some are, for example, perfectly fine with a vacuum cleaner, but others may find it a terrifying experience. If your cat or dog shows you that it is afraid, you will need to take note of, and be sensitive to its fears. 

Force-free and positive reinforcement-type training is highly recommended to help your pet overcome its fears. Scolding or punishing a dog when it is afraid will only make things worse.

When dealing with someone else’s pet or a stray cat or dog, it is still a good idea to be alert and sensitive to its behavioural cues. If it clearly wants to be left alone, do not approach or chase it. Always ask for permission before touching someone else’s pet.

Co-Existing with Stray Animals
When it comes to our strays, do remember that we share our spaces with them, and that it is possible to co-exist peacefully. Stray animals, especially dogs, seldom approach humans and it is unlikely for them to attack for no reason.

If you see a stray cat or dog, it is best to leave it alone. Do not wave your arms or throw anything in its direction as this can be seen as threatening. Stay calm, do not make eye contact, and move away from it slowly. 

Sometimes, a friendly stray cat may come forward and do a roll-over or rub its face on your legs: that is a sign of affection. If you do not like it, slowly move away.

Learning More

To learn more about the ins and outs of responsible pet ownership and animal welfare follow @AnimalBuzzSG or visit the Animal & Veterinary Service webpage here

Thinking about getting a pet? Here are five key considerations before you bring one into your home.

A happy pet is a healthy pet. Find out how vaccination is essential to animal health, preventing diseases that are transmissible to humans and improving overall public health.

Capture your pet’s day-to-day actions like a pro. Learn how to photograph your animal companion like a pro.

Make a date with us for the next digital edition of Pets’ Day Out, right in the comfort of your home! Our Animal Welfare Group partners will showcase some loveable animals looking for ‘fur-ever’ homes. You can also ask our vet from the Animal & Veterinary Service questions you have about your pet during the chat-live segment.

Remember to tune in to our AnimalBuzzSG  Facebook page on XXXX. Head to AnimalBuzzSG  to find out more and participate in the e-Pets’ Day Out giveaway.

Visit NParksSG, our refreshed YouTube Channel that serves as a one-stop repository for close to 300 video resources. It also provides you a platform for existing and future digital outreach including DIY gardening and related crafts, virtual tours of our green spaces, and livestream events. 

If you are heading to our green spaces, do the right thing and be socially responsible. Maintain a safe distance from other park goers and keep to not more than five persons in a group. Always wear a mask except when you are engaged in strenuous exercise or when consuming food, drink or medication.

Do check out the visitorship levels of our parks using our safe distancing portal before you head down and avoid the ones with high visitorship.

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