Cat and Dog Body Language Can Tell You A Lot!

Spunky and Fearless, Spunky Murder Mysteries Hi there, Ms. Spunky here. Did you know dogs are great interpreters of human body language? That’s because we study you very carefully. Well, I shouldn’t speak for the cats, but humans have always fascinated me. How can I put it…humans are better than a flying stick, and more special than a bouncing ball! Now, I wouldn’t say all humans are better than a lamb chop, but they all are certainly a very special breed.

Did you know that dogs and cats also have their own body language? We are always showing you when we are happy, scared or angry. If you are observant, you can decipher what we are trying to tell you by our body language and the sounds we make.

Come. Sit. This great doggie sage will gladly teach you.

If I am pleased, my body is usually relaxed and my head is slightly raised. Sometimes, I let my tongue hang out a little. My tail slowly wags or thumps the floor. You might see this when you pet me in that sweet spot right above my tail.

If I’m scared or nervous (which is not often), then my tail is probably tucked between my legs. My ears will be back or flat on my head. I may even be panting or licking my lips. If I am agitated and do not want to attract more attention, then I may try to reduce my size by lowering my body to the ground. Some dogs roll over and show their belly. On a personal note: If your doggie presents his stomach to another dog, stop calling him a sissy! Your pup is smart and knows when he is supposed to be submissive. It really doesn’t matter the size, some little guys are very aggressive and your big boy does not want to get bit!

But if a dog is extremely frightened or is pushed to anger, then a lip is raised and teeth exposed. A growl is likely. Of course, I would never do that unless I am protecting someone I love — including myself. If you ever see the hair on my neck and back bristling, my tail straight up, my eyes wide and fixated on you, then you better beware. I mean business! Back off!

Of course, I never ever growl at my human. Mom teaches every four-legged-youngster to relinquish food, treats, and toys on her command. She is the alpha after all.

For your protection, if you are confronted by an unknown agitated dog in such a state, quickly avert your eyes. Do not try to stare him down. That is a direct challenge in dog world and you must be able to back it up. Do not run — you can’t outrun an angry dog. Although it will take great courage, I recommend you stand very still, keep your hands at your side and avert your eyes downward. Your behavior is now saying, “Hey, pal, I am no threat. Just pass me by.”

If the dog is too agitated to read you correctly and still jumps you, then fall down, cover your head and curl into a tight ball. Play dead as best you can. I hope that you never ever need to use that piece of information.

Fearless just sauntered in, so I will let him take over the discussion about cats.

Dogs are much easier to read then us cats. Why? Cats are far more adept at keeping you humans guessing at what we are thinking. But, here are a few basics:

First, a swishing tail on a cat is NOT the same as a wagging dog. If my tail is swishing, it means I am thinking about attacking. Ever see a cat stalking a bird? The body may be perfectly still, but that tail is moving. My advice is this. If you’re a stranger and my tail is swishing, stay clear and let me settle down. Of course, if you’re my personal human, then you know whether or not my swishing is part of my play pattern, my safe, but feisty side, or if I’m getting ready to pounce on one of my housemates.

A happy cat has ears that are pointing forward, a relaxed body, a high tail, and eyes that are either open or, if really relaxed, half closed.

If a cat’s tail is down, then the cat is probably scared or threatened. You can be certain of this if her body is also low to the ground, her ears are flat on her head or sideways, and whiskers are flattened against her face.

A defensive or angry kitty will have ears flattened, an arched back, and a tail straight up and bushed out — like you might have seen in an old Halloween movie. Plus, the cat will probably hiss or growl. Do not mess with her. Slowly back away or make a wide path around her. Trying to grab or touch that cat will get you claw swiped in a hurry.

Spunky and I want to thank you for taking the time to understand some of our ways of communicating with humans. These were just some basics.

We’d love to hear what your best buddy’s body language is telling you.

Hey, want to go for a walk with us?


Who are Spunky and Fearless? 

Spunky is a 12-year-old terrier mutt and the protagonist of the Spunky Murder Mystery series, a series of cozy mysteries for dog and cat lovers, written by author Holly Lewitas. Fearless is Spunky’s first cat buddy, and is a long-legged, big, tiger striped tabby that also appears in the Spunky Murder Mysteries. Series titles include The Nose KnowsThe Nose Sees All, and An Army of Noses.

Photo: Spunky and Fearless

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