Understanding Your Pet's Body Language and Vocalisations

Understanding Your Pet's Body Language and Vocalisations

Understanding your pet's behaviour is crucial for building a strong and positive relationship with your furry friend. Just as we do, our pets have unique ways of communicating their needs and feelings. Whether it's barking, meowing, tail wagging and purring, pets have a language of their own that we as pet parents will need to interpret. In this article, we will explore how you can understand your pet's behaviour and what they might be trying to tell you.

Body language

Your pet’s body language can be the biggest indicator of how they’re feeling, and differs between cats and dogs.


Your dog will use their tail to express how they’re feeling, for example, if their tail is wagging quickly and their body is relaxed, it's a sign that they are happy and excited, the faster they wag their tails, the more excited they are. However, contrary to popular belief, a wagging tail doesn’t always mean that your dog is happy, if your dog is wagging their tail slowly, they might be feeling cautious or hesitant. Did you know that the direction that their tails wag, is also an indication of how they’re feeling? When wagging their tails to the right, or in a spinning circular motion, they’re conveying happy, positive emotions, when wagging their tails to the left, they’re conveying negative emotions. If your dog’s tail is tucked between their legs, that could indicate that they’re feeling scared or stressed. 

Their ears can also be an indicator of how they’re feeling. When their ears are facing forwards or standing up, it can indicate that they are feeling alert or curious about something. When their ears are bent behind their heads, it can mean that they’re feeling sad. When their ears are flat against their heads is a show of aggression or fear. 

Another indicator of how your dog may be feeling is their eyes. When their eyes are showing the “whites” it can mean that they are feeling stressed or feeling anxious. Dogs will also avoid eye contact with you when they’re feeling unsettled, uncomfortable or stressed. Finally, if your dog’s eyes are wide open it means that they’re feeling playful, as opposed to their eyes being narrow which indicates aggression. 


Like dogs, your cats can also indicate how they’re feeling through their body language. 

Firstly, let’s take a look at their ears, if your cat's ears are flattened or arched back, this can indicate that they are feeling threatened or scared. If their ears are facing forwards, it can mean that they are feeling calm or friendly. If your cat’s ears are stood up high, it indicates that they’re feeling alert. 

Their eyes are another big indicator of how your cat is feeling. The best feeling for any cat parent is knowing that your cat loves you, they can express this by slowly blinking their eyes at you, this can also indicate that they are feeling comfortable and happy. Dilated and large pupils indicate that your cat is feeling stimulated, this can either be due to playfulness, anger, excitement, or even fear, depending on the context of the situation your cat is in. Narrow pupils can be an indication of aggression or fear, like dilated pupils, it is dependent on the context of the situation as well. 

Cats, like dogs, can also convey how they’re feeling through their tails. When your cat’s tail quivers or “vibrates” it can mean that they’re comfortable or happy, which means that they’ll be friendly to approach, and you might find them rubbing up against you. A tail that is perked upwards and “flicking” can mean that your cat is agitated, and should be left alone. Finally, like dogs, cats also tuck their tails between their legs when they feel anxious or scared. 

Let’s take a look at their full body language next. A cat with an arched back and “puffed up” fur and tail and standing facing sideways, can mean that they’re frightened and trying to make themselves look “big”. If your cat is crouched down, they may be feeling cornered and afraid, and getting ready to jump up and escape. If your cat is laying down while stretching themselves out, exposing their bellies, they’re feeling friendly and trusting towards you, but this does not mean it’s an invitation to pet their bellies! A neutral, natural posture can mean that your cat is feeling friendly. 

Paying attention to your pet's body language can help you respond appropriately and create a calm and comfortable environment for them.


Pets use different types of vocalisations to communicate with their paw-rents. Between meows, howls, growls and barks, we’ll explore the various ways your pets will “speak” to you. 


Dogs will either bark to alert their paw-rents to potential danger or to express excitement or frustration. High pitched whining can indicate that your dog wants something, either they want to go to the toilet, want attention or food, which can go hand in hand with context. Dogs can also whine when they’re feeling scared, anxious or in pain. If your dog is whining excessively, and cries when touching a specific area of their body, it would be best to take them to a vet. Howling is a form of attention seeking, or as an indication of their presence, which sometimes can be triggered as a response to other dogs in the vicinity howling too. While growling is often indicative of aggression or fear, sometimes dogs can growl while playing too, the difference can be dependent on their body language, for example, whether their tails are wagging or down. 


Cats use meowing to communicate a variety of things, like asking for food, attention, or simply to say hello, and only meow towards humans in their attempt to communicate. Whilst we all know that cats use purring to communicate that they’re happy or feeling pleasure, sometimes cats can purr when they’re in pain. Like dogs, if you notice that your cat cries or yowls when you touch a specific area, it would be best to have them seen by a vet. Like dogs, cats can growl when they’re feeling scared or aggressive, it means “back off”. Like growling, hissing is the most obvious sign of aggression, cats will hiss when they’re feeling angry or scared. Sometimes, when feeling excited, cats will “chirp”, but sometimes this can also be an indication of frustration, like when they can’t reach a toy, or when they see something outside that they want to chase, but can’t. 

Understanding the different types of sounds your pet makes and the context in which they make them can help you respond to their needs effectively.


In conclusion, understanding these aspects of your pet's behaviour is key to building a strong and positive relationship with them. By observing their body language and vocalisations you can gain valuable insights into their needs and feelings. With time, you can create a loving and fulfilling bond with your furry friend that will last a lifetime.

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