For many people, keeping pets is one of the greatest joys in life. Though it can be a lot of fun and very rewarding, it’s also a big responsibility and your pet’s health and happiness must be taken very seriously.
So how can you tell how your pet is feeling? Here are some top tips from the RSPCA Companion Animal Department.
Just like you, your pet can experience a range of emotions including happiness, anxiety, fearfulness and anger. It’s important to understand which emotions your pet is feeling so that you can take any action necessary to make sure they are happy and healthy.
Your pet’s body language can give you signals about how they are feeling. All animals are individuals and will all have differences in their behaviour, so it is important to spend time watching them in order to learn what is normal behaviour for them.
Be observant: pets won’t always make it obvious to you how they are feeling, for example, a cat who is worried or in pain might spend a lot of time hiding away. Similarly, as animals come in many shapes and sizes it can be more difficult to read their body language and to tell how they’re feeling. For example, dogs with really short tails may not be able to lower them to signal that they’re feeling worried.
Click on the following guides to help you recognise important body language signals and get to know how your cat or dog is feeling:
Concerned about your pet’s behaviour?
Sometimes our pets can start behaving oddly. They may suddenly become quiet, or want to hide, or they may be off their food or not interested in walks or fuss. They may even behave in a way that we, as humans, might think of as funny or amusing, such as dogs chasing their tails, (see recent research by the Royal Veterinary College) but this could be an indication that your pet has an underlying disorder.
If your pet’s behaviour changes, it could mean they are distressed, bored, ill or injured so it’s important to be aware of any differences. To spot any changes it is important to spend time watching and interacting with them and learning about how they usually behave. Some other signs that your pet may be suffering include high levels of grooming, change in their feeding or toileting habits, sleeping in a hunched position, aggression or avoiding people, or change in energy or activity levels, for example becoming uninterested in playing when they usually can’t get enough.
If you have any concerns about your pet's behaviour and how they are feeling always speak to your vet first and if necessary they can refer you to a clinical animal behaviourist.
For further information about finding a vet and/or clinical animal behaviourist visit the RSPCA website at:
This article has been provided by the RSPCA Companion Animal Department, who were a judge on the Happy Healthy Pet 'Playful Pets' competition.