Oct 07, 2021

Seven Things Your Pet is Trying to Tell You

By Joyce Venezia Suss

This month’s column has been written on behalf of cats and dogs who truly love you, but have some special requests they can’t verbalize.

Pets don’t speak our complicated human language, and they don’t understand everything you say to them. Their woofs and meows sometimes signal the need to get fed or go outside, but there’s more nonverbal communication you need to know.

“My big, sad eyes don’t mean I feel guilty about that puddle on the floor.”

Pets don’t feel remorse or guilt, even though you think they do. If the cat urinates outside the litter box or the dog has gnawed on a chair leg, you might say “What did you do?” in an upset tone of voice – or worse, shout. Truthfully, it’s more likely their reaction is nervousness or stress. 

A lot of people think those pet-shaming social media posts are funny. But those woeful looks are probably confusion. The damaged chair leg could be the result of a bored or nervous dog. That puddle on the floor could be a sign of a urinary tract infection – or the litter box needs some serious scooping.

“You confuse me sometimes.”

Maybe you’re happy when your dog jumps up to kiss you, but you admonish him when he jumps on visitors. Cats need to scratch, and you think it’s cute she uses her scratching post, but get upset when she’s scratching your sofa. These differences are not obvious to pets, so it’s up to you to make it clear what is acceptable behavior. Use treats as rewards for good behavior. Punishment is never an option, nor is declawing a cat.

“Please play with me!” or “Please leave me alone!”

All pets – especially dogs – need some lively activity to remain happy and stimulated, especially if they are home alone all day. Pets like socializing with the people they love. On the flip side, if your pet is curled up in his bed and soundly sleeping after a busy day, that’s not the time to wake him up for a game of fetch. Dogs and cats need much more sleep time than humans.

Also, if your dog is whining or your cat is frantically clawing on the closet door, check the weather forecast. Pets hear thunder much earlier than human ears.

“We are definitely not party animals.”

Human gatherings can be loud, with music and lots of voices. There are all those human legs to dodge, and people trying to show affection by petting – or worse, picking up your pet. Some dogs are more social than others, but eventually, all dogs will find a quiet place to hide. And many felines will hide as soon as they hear the doorbell.

“If I’m acting weird, please pay attention.”

Pets are like babies – they can’t tell you where it hurts. When you see unusual behaviors like crouching, drooping ears or limping, make an appointment with your vet. If your pet’s breath starts smelling awful, that may be a sign of tooth decay. Also, make sure your pet has an annual veterinary checkup that includes vaccines and pet medications for worms, fleas and ticks. Remember to bring a stool sample to be tested.

“Slow down! Don’t rush me!”

On behalf of dogs who instinctively search to find new scents and locate the perfect spot to mark their territory, please don’t rush the outdoor dog-walking process. Put on a slicker or boots if it’s raining, and don’t keep tugging at the leash.

“I love you! Here’s my butt!”

Don’t be offended if your dog or cat turns around and shows off their butt – sometimes right in your face. It’s actually a sincere compliment to you as a pet owner. It means they trust you so much that they don’t have to see your face, and they don’t view you as a threat. Cats and dogs also socialize with other pets by rubbing their scent on each other, so exchanging odors with humans is quite the compliment.