SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Experts in animal behavior are asking people adopting dogs or cats to pay attention to your pet’s body language, believing it will help more animals from shelters find their forever homes.
“Cats communicate a lot with their tails as well,” Best Friends Animal Society Community Engagement Manager Patrick Theobald said while holding a cat in his hands. “You can see that Edmond is kind of waving his tail around a little bit, which indicates that he is a little bit agitated. He’s a little bit on edge.”
Theobald says if a cat’s tail is thrashing back and forth, it means it’s overstimulated.
“The fact that he’s kind of swishing his tail means that he could decide that he’s done being petted at any moment,” Theobald said.
However, for a social cat, the tail can also indicate the opposite feeling.
“A lot of the time when a cat is feeling very friendly and outgoing, they’ll do what we call a hello flag, which is when their tail is sticking straight up above their back with a little crook at the end of it,” Theobald said
Purring for cats doesn’t always mean happiness, he says they can do this when injured.
“It’s possible that purring could be more of a self-soothing behavior rather than just showing that they’re happy to other people,” Theobald said
For dogs, like cats, it’s all in the tail. Theobald worked with a dog named Kodiak to share all those cues. After all, Friday, Oct. 6 is National Body Language Day.
“A dog who’s happy and relaxed will generally have really loose body language, sort of a wide wagging tail sometimes,” said Theobald. “If the dog’s tail is straight up and wagging that can mean they’re kind of excited or agitated. And if their tail is tucked between their legs and wagging, that means they’re probably a little bit scared and defensive.”
For a dog who’s feeling sad, quality time is the best way to make them happy.
“Dogs have a lot of emotions and they’re usually pretty good at expressing them, but the number one way that you can perk up your dog is just spending time with them,” he said. “Dogs are pack animals. They love their families. And the thing that they want most in the world is time with the people they love the most.”
According to data from Best Friends Animal Society, more than 1,000 animals are killed in shelters every day, and experts say understanding your pet’s body language can lead to more successful adoptions, which will help overcrowded shelters nationwide.