They color our lives and often become members of the family and love us unconditionally. What are we talking about? Cats and dogs of course! They say you’re usually fonder of one species over the other – but there’s certainly one thing that they have in common; they’re both equally strange and hilarious, much to the amusement of their owners.
Before animals were first domesticated, there were a number of behaviors that were observed by scientists and animal watchers alike. For example, cats were often a solo act, hunting alone for tasty prey, with some adaptations precisely for catching food which they haven’t lost, even in modern days! Dogs, on the other hand, are basically domesticated wolves, hence they’re more social. But we bet that you’ll be surprised at some of the findings behind our list, so stay with us to see if we answer some of the questions you’ve had about your pet!
“For Entrée, I’ll Have the Grass.”
Dogs just have an affinity for grass. Now now, get your mind out of the Mary-jane gutter! When dogs aren’t rolling around on the stuff, they’re gobbling it down! We know dogs are carnivorous, and often aren’t going to pass up on a steak. So why have you caught your pup chewing on grass? A lot of dog owners say that it’s to treat an upset stomach, but scientists say dogs don’t quite have the mental capacity to treat themselves in such an advanced way. Other reasons which have been commonly suggested include: to improve digestion or even fulfilling the need for fiber in their diet. A study actually reported on a miniature poodle that ate grass and then vomited every day for 7 years. It was then placed on a high-fiber diet, and its owner reported that the dog stopped with the grass altogether. Or, simply, your dog just likes the taste and mouth-feel of grass. “Will that be the Bentgrass or the Kentucky Bluegrass, sir?”
But, while we’re on the topic, there is actually a link to their pre-modern lifestyle and diet. Dogs were scavengers and had to eat whatever sustenance they could find. This could be why they’ll gobble up anything you put in front of them (or don’t put in front of them – they’ll find a way to eat it regardless of if it’s for them or not). Seeing as the grass was so plentiful, it’s likely dogs would’ve developed a taste for it along the way. For your pup too, it’s actually a pretty good way to deliver some fiber and minerals! Cats too actually eat grass, but for quite a different reason.
The Mighty Yawn
Biiiig stretch, open that mouth wide and let out that yawn you’ve been stifling for the past 20 minutes. Whilst it’s often a sign of boredom or tiredness in humans (but really, it’s to take more oxygen in!), this is not the case for these furry friends! When a dog yawns, they may as well be throwing a peace sign at the same time. Sounds bizarre, but you definitely just had a mental picture; it’s actually a dog’s way of showing friendship! So next time you yawn, do it in front of your dog. Expect a lick in the face or two afterward. You’re welcome.
Over the years of dog evolution, this behavior has evolved from physiological roots to become a form of communication. This has its own place in the social pack behaviors – in a pack, it’s all about who’s the alpha… or the top dog…ahem. Hierarchy and who’s at the top of the food chain dictates the structure of the pack, and helps with communication and survival, particularly in the wild. But if your dog yawns, just give them a yawn back; make peace, and go and share that bowl of pasta together, a la Lady and the Tramp.
Cats love to climb and be up as high as possible, and they don’t care if that means ruining your screen door in the process or getting fur all over the kitchen counters. They prefer to be able to see their whole territory from up high, but it’s also in their instincts to climb for avoiding predators.
Plus, not only does climbing give cats a great advantage point over their territory, but it also increases the area of their territory. Just think of your cat getting up on the bookshelf and thinking to itself, “Everything the light touches is my kingdom.”
Shake, Shake, Shake!
If you’ve ever owned a dog, you’ll know to keep out of the line of fire if they’ve just had a bath! The unwanted shower that ensues is well, exactly that – unwanted. But there’s a reason for this; it’s all in fur preservation! The behavior of shaking its coat evolved to keep man’s best friend nice and warm! Fur needs to be dry to keep the animal warm, the reason being the fur can’t trap air and keep heat in when it’s wet.
Shaking as vigorously as they do might seem a bit excessive but trust us, or trust your dog – it’s a necessary action for survival. Sure, in modern times dogs are unlikely to get hypothermia when wet in freezing temperatures, but this adaptation has remained over the course of time. Getting dry quick was crucial in years gone by – especially to survive the winter months. Dogs are not alone in this behavior – other mammals, including mice and bears, shake to get dry as well!
Can Someone Give that Cat a Nail File?
Every cat owner has had those days when they come home from a long day at work and find that your favorite chair has been turned into a scratching pole. Not to mention the carpet, the drapes, anything you hold dear to you…But it’s a perfectly natural behavior for cats! Scratching helps to file their nails down, removing the dead outer layers to keep them stay clean, sharp and healthy.
Scratching too is a form of territorialism; it’s a way for them to say “hey, this is my house”. Cats as animals are a solo-act as we discovered earlier and are extremely territorial. They are used to living alone and especially don’t invite visitors over for playtime. Did you know that cat paws have scent glands? So wherever they scratch there is a faint smell that other cats detect, and it lets them know whose territory it is! You don’t want to get on the wrong side of those claws, so be warned!
The Butt Sniff
One of the grosser dog behaviors, from our perspective, is when they smell each other’s butts. But view it from the dog’s perspective and it isn’t quite so nasty since they’re basically just introducing themselves to each other. On either side of the dog’s butt are glands that secrete a variety of chemicals.
These glands tell the sniffer about the gender and reproductive status of the dog, plus things about its diet, health, and emotional state. Dogs can smell 10,000 to 100,000 times better than humans, so they communicate using these chemical signals (aka smells). Dogs actually have an organ in their nose exclusively for smelling chemical communication.
Lick It Up
Lick it up! Liiiick it up! Up! Okay, we had our KISS moment, we’re good now. But yes, cats love to give a lick. Cats will affectionately give a lick, or even a love bite, for their owner’s attention. Usually, they want something (obviously; they’re smart enough to know if they annoy you enough, you’ll either play with them or feed them), but sometimes it could be because you’re su-purr tasty! Maybe you spilled some milk on your sweater, or you have crumbs on your jacketses (yes LOTR fans that one was for you), or, your cat likes the taste of your skin after a run. Mmm sodium!
We didn’t think we’d say this, but there’s another reason cats might give you a lick; because they’re showing you some lurrrve! Cats often give each other an affectionate lick and might even want a lick in return! Licking often means that the cat is content and is perhaps even keeping clean! There are always a number of explanations for their licking behavior, so keep an eye out on the context of when your cat pokes its cute little tongue out to figure out the reason behind it!
Now, this might look like a pro-wrestling match, but really what these dogs are doing is more like WWE. It looks like one dog is about to take a chunk out of the other’s muzzle, but don’t be alarmed; it’s not something to freak out about! This is one of the many learned social behaviors in the dog world, which has been passed down from their wolf ancestors. The dog’s here are just really, hanging out. The act of grasping the muzzle of another dog has to do with social relationships between dogs. The dog who is being grabbed by the other is insecure, and just kinda, ‘confirming’ that he’s the other dog’s ‘pup’ – in a way, it’s kind of how wolves would show their rank and status in the pack; the alpha would muzzle grasp the others to show their authority.
This sort of behavior is common between dogs who are familiar with one another, as a friendly assertion of their friendship or interaction. But there are also cases where insecure dogs look to their owners to do this. So, if you’ve ever seen your pup approach you puffing its nose, you can actually gently grab their muzzle, this will let them know that you’ll take care of them! This almost prehistoric notion of protection from the bigger, alpha dog (or person!) is a social behavior which is long ingrained in the mentality of dogs; something which hasn’t, amazingly, been lost with time!
Fancy a Biscuit?
Kneading is a common behavior associated with our domesticated cat friends, where they’ll push in and out with their front paws, alternating between the left and the right. Cat-people call it ‘making biscuits.’ It’s cute, except when it scratches your furniture, and/or you. But again, the question we’re asking is why?! Most scientists think this is a neotenic behavior, meaning it’s a leftover from kittenhood. When kittens are being nursed, the kitten will knead the mother’s teat to help to get the milk flowing for them to suckle. But it seems this behavior just didn’t stop when cats matured!
If we compare this domestic cat behavior to that of their wild counterparts, it seems that they just don’t do it. Scientists have hypothesized that kneading goes back to a time where cats would pat foliage down to sleep on, just like how a dog might circle. But we’ll get to that in a couple of slides!
Chewbacca’s Got Competition!
Chewing and destroying is the dog’s equivalent of a cat scratching. We know how annoying it can be to find cushion feathers strewn across your apartment, mixed with saliva which practically acts as a glue. Yuck! But if your puppy is chewing and being destructive, there are other causes for this behavior. When they are young, pups teethe just like human babies do; it helps to relieve the growing pains before they get their adult teeth! When adults chew, it is the equivalent of a dentist’s checkup – it keeps their teeth clean, and also keeps their jaw muscles strong. But if you find that your pup only chews when you’re away from the house, this could be because they’ve got separation anxiety. Just tell the boss that your pup is teething and you know, you have to be there for emotional support. Mmkay?
There are also a number of psychological factors which contribute to a dog’s need to chew on fabric or your furniture. Sometimes, when pups have been separated from their moms too early, they need to lick and chew, as they would suckle on their mom’s teat. But there’s also the probability that your dog is hungry and is basically saying “feed me pls.” Their undomesticated brothers too like to chew on things too – be they bones or sticks or a human leg etc. (kidding not kidding). It’s important to have plenty of toys and chewable items at the ready for your dog to help relieve boredom and anxiety and to keep them stimulated, especially if you’re not at home!
Help Yourself to Some Vomit
So we all know that mama birds to regurgitate their food and then feed it to their little ones, but what about dogs? Sometimes, mother dogs will puke up their meal near their puppies. No, she didn’t eat some bad mince, she’s actually just helping to keep them strong and healthy! Sure, the puppies could grab some puppy food from their food bowl, but this is just one of those evolutionary traits that just didn’t want to go.
In the wild, wolf cubs weren’t strong enough or fast enough to hunt their own food, so it was up to their parents to help to keep them fed so that they would grow. Whilst it might be kinda gross, it’s practical, so don’t get in the way of nature! After all, mother knows best, right?
Cats Go Meow
The meow of course! In school, your teacher taught you that the dog goes woof, and the cat goes meow! But you, like us, before we did a little research, probably have no idea what it actually means. Cat-owners, this is your forte. So don’t start rolling your eyes that this is useless information for you just yet! Meowing is like barking in the sense it is a form of communication. Like barks, meows mean different things, largely owing to context. It can also vary between respective cats. But, we bet you didn’t know that cats only meow to humans!
While kittens can meow to their mothers when they’re feeling well, anything, be it hungry, scared or cold, adult cats don’t actually meow to one another. Cats prefer to communicate in slightly different ways, such as hissing, growling and marking their scent. So if you hear your cat meowing, this is most likely due to the fact that they want something. It could be for a ‘hi mom, how are you’ or an ‘I’m hungry’ or a ‘love me, I want a rub.’ Next time you hear that adorable meowing, pay close attention to distinguish what meow you’re being addressed with.
Back to Felines
While we were off in the doggy world, we almost forgot about the other half of our list! Cats aren’t nearly as energetic or expressive with their tails. But it is again one of the tell-tale signs. A high tail upon seeing a person is a greeting. Go on, bend down and give kitty a little rub. We’re willing to bet they’ll love it. You might even get a purr or a leg rub!
A rub or a head-butt from your cat is a way of marking you with their scent. But if you were just walking in the street and a strange cat comes up to you and rubs against you, they’re just trying to figure you out! Basically really indiscreet spies. No shame whatsoever. The nerve! Whilst this behavior occurs among the species, there’s probably a more common that you’ve experienced, which is...
Don’t Underestimate the Wag!
So this tail wagging is not something to be taken lightly; the more you read, the more you realize you don’t know. So dog owners, take heed; you need to brush up on your canine literature. The tail’s position is almost like an emotional meter; if it’s hanging around the middle, it means they’re relaxed. If it’s higher and on end, it means the dog is on alert, ready to pounce. That rigid, vertical tail is a ‘no-go’ sign.
The one way you don’t want to see your dog’s tail is lowered, between its legs. It shows that your puppy is scared, anxious, or feeling quite submissive. The extreme position is a sign of fear, almost a “please, don’t hurt me.” But just like how there are different accents and dialects to human language, they are also prevalent in tail wagging. For example, Beagles and Greyhounds have strikingly different tail default positions. So you’re going to need to pay close attention next time.
We don’t know about you guys, but one of our staff members has a cat that’s certainly been found in some peculiar places! You may have seen the movie There’s Something About Mary… for cats it’s There’s Something About… Boxes. From a litter of kittens to the largest felines on the planet, there’s just something cozy about squeezing their bodies into cardboard boxes, of any size. You’d think if you were apartment hunting, you’d go for a nice spacious 2 bedroom with a bathroom and – oh wait, not if you live in NYC! Anyway, for cats, often the box of choice is a 10x10 inch one they can barely squeeze their bodies into! It seems for the domestic kind, cardboard boxes provide the equivalent of the muzzle grasp for dogs; providing a safe, enclosed, tightly fitting space. Apparently, it’s a stress reliever. Who knew!
While cats like squeezing into tight spaces they like to sit comfortably and observe. In this way, they hide from not only their prey but their predators; and being within a box certainly mimics this feeling! Well, that’s what we’ve come up with! There’s definitely some merit to this though; Stephen Zawistowski, science advisor from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals shed light on the fact that “cats like boxes because they are cryptic animals; they like to hide, and a box gives them a place of safety and security.” Being inside a box, cats feel they can’t be taken by surprise, but can also surprise their prey! Not to mention the fact that cats are huge sleepy heads; most felines sleep for almost 20 hours a day!
Tuna With a Side of… Grass?
You let your cat outside (they scratch their way through the screen door to get outside), they take in some rays and then laze about on the grass, nibbling away. Next thing you know they’re puking up breakfast – an insult to the chef tbh. Cats don’t have the enzyme to digest plants, though sometimes they can sneak in a vitamin or two from ingesting even a small amount. But if they’re just going to throw it up, why bother eating in the first place? Seems pre-pawsterous to us. No, really.
Studies point to the fact that cats eat grass to purposely throw up; it aids them in bringing up indigestible material that gets caught in the digestive tract. That includes bones, fur and… (if you’re a bird-lover, look away) feathers of their prey. Maybe even the occasional piece of furniture or cushion-stuffing. While your cat may not eat live animals now, you don’t just get rid of behavior which has evolved with natural selection over the past million years. Seems like grass will stick around for a while in the feline diet!
Just Getting Comfy, Dawg
Lights are going out in five minutes. You use the bathroom, brush your teeth and get a glass of water ready on your nightstand. As you finish the last few pages of a novel, you call to your dog that it’s almost ‘lights out.’ Your dog jumps up on the bed, but before they get comfortable, they circle a few times on the spot, before finally collapsing in a heap. But why the circling? Well, let’s throw it back to when dogs roamed freely in the wild; that’s where we’ll find our answer.
It makes sense that at the end of the day, a dog would want a nice comfy place to set up camp for the night. To make the ground sleep-worthy (because plush beds weren’t a thing back then), a dog would use its paws to soften the ground beneath it. Particularly in a grassland setting, tall blades would need to be patted down to be comfortable to settle down on. As well as creating a nice comfortable bed, it’s likely that this scared off any insects and reptiles which could potentially harm a dog’s young! It’s all starting to make sense now huh?
Not a care in the world with an itch to scratch, that single patch of artificial grass on the patio looks absolutely delightful – said no dog ever. So why do dogs insist on rolling around? Well, scientists have found there’s a link to their wolf ancestors. Wolves would roll around in an odor which they found particularly intriguing or new as a way of bringing it back to the pack for further investigation. Detective Paws at your service.
When the proud wolf brings back his findings to the pack, it was common for the pack to sniff the scent and follow it back to where it originated. Sometimes a dog might have found an interesting smell and wants to bring it to you to sniff, simply because you’re part of its “pack.” Naw. While this could be cute (or it could be gross, because interesting doesn’t necessarily mean it smells like roses), there are actually a number of other reasons that dogs roll around!
The Need to…Knead
So sure, domestic kittens knead for milk. But, as we found, wild cats don’t. So what’s the difference between me and you – oh wait, sorry we lapsed into a bit of Dre. The difference between the domestics and their wild cats is down to the fact that domestication changed a fair few cat behaviors.
The most likely reason for this behavior is held onto after kittenhood, is due to the fact that humans artificially selected the most sociable and least aggressive cats to inter-breed. So the traits of these domestic cats are in fact more similar to those of kittens than of fully grown wild cats. Where the wild ones are solo acts, house cats crave closeness and safety. So the kneading may also be a display of trust and the sense of security they feel with you. Adorable.
A lick a Day Keeps the…Shower Away?
A cute little lick from that baby pink tongue is damn adorable – until one lick becomes 10, and you get that sandpaper tongue feel. Think about it, those tongues have evolved over time to help get meat off bones, so why is kitty licking you so much? Well, most cat owners will know, this is the way that cats keep clean!
Cats are extremely hygienic and self-cleaning; for that reason, they’re probably why they're easier to look after than dogs. Not to mention the no-shaking factor. Pretty neat. This is all owing to their barbed, sandpaper-like tongue! Cats will groom other cats, most usually cats that belong to their family. So this is where it gets cutesy; your cat is probably licking you because they believe you’re part of her family.
To the Left, to the Left: the Head Tilt
Now let’s do a quick test; put on the highest pitch of your voice you can and say “here boy/girl” to your pet dog. There it is! The head tilt! If that doesn’t work; any strange noise will probably do the trick! Now that you’ve got the response; what does it actually mean? Well, we’re glad you asked! Experts say that it has to do with empathy. Dogs have evolved and adapted to understand humans better than most animals, reading our body language, facial expressions and even the way we speak. That’s why dogs are (usually) so easy to train. When dogs tilt their heads, it’s probably because they’re trying to figure out what we’re saying based on the familiar parts of our language/body language that we’ve used around them. Smart huh!
As well as trying to figure us out, it’s also been shown in studies that your dog might be trying to adjust their pinnae, or outer ears to work out where the sound is coming from. So when you decided to whistle a strange tune or make a loud noise, Doug from Up! would be saying “what is that noise? Is that noise from my human? I love you human”. But whilst there are real reasons for why dogs tilt their heads, can we just appreciate the fact that it’s one of the most adorable things ever!?
Perhaps one of the most irritating behaviors, particularly at night, is the bark. Unlike their wolf-cousins, domesticated dogs bark much much more! So what’s the big deal then? Don’t worry, we’ll tell you why so that you don’t go running down to the animal shelter to trade your dog for…a cat. Meow.
It doesn’t take much to figure out that barking is a form of communication. Barks can have different meanings – the tone, pitch, and volume of the bark all indicate different things. When your dog barks at a stranger and the hairs on its back stand up, usually it’s going into protective mode. Basically your own personal bodyguard. But will probably only attack with slobbery kisses. But it’s different when they’re alone or when they’re playing, which is a softer, more Yelp-like bark. It seems that this barking behavior is related to the fact dogs became domesticated animals. When dogs were bred as pets, they were also bred to be less aggressive, and less for hunting purposes. Unlike when a cat's meow, barking is indeed more telling.
I’ll Lick Your Face!
You may find it adorable, charming even, or you find it full of slobber and disgusting. Regardless of how you feel, your dog is going to persist with the licking! It’s even been documented that some wolves have in fact licked the faces of humans. Yikes! But why do dogs like to give a good face lick? Well, they’re just saying Hi friend! Dogs lick their humans to demonstrate that they see you as a friend and are non-violent and non-aggressive towards you. Ah dogs, so peaceable and lovable! Go on, get nice and close, prepare for the lick!
If you want your dog to stop, close your eyes, turn your head and yawn. To dogs, this shows that yes, you will be friends with them. A friendship test of sorts, really. Whilst you might be wiping the saliva from your cheeks and hairline with disgust, just be aware that the germs on a dog’s tongue are just as bad as the germs exchanged when you kiss other humans!
Rolling over for a dog is usually a submissive behavior; by exposing their bellies, they are also exposing their vulnerable side to stop aggressive behavior. But during play-time, it means something totally different! Researchers watched a large test group of dogs play (what a job…sign me up!) and after close analysis, found that dogs weren’t actually being submissive at all.
When a dog rolls over, this is nothing more than an invitation to play some more! Often, dogs will roll over onto their backs to avoid being bitten during play, but sometimes they want to get their bodies into a position which is easier to give their buddy a play bite. But despite common belief, your dog isn’t giving in and saying “ok, time out friend”, they’re saying “THIS. IS. SO. MUCH. FUN.” In some cases where the playfight is mismatched (we’ve seen Chihuahua’s take on Great Danes), the bigger dog will roll over to give their little partner a fairer fight! D’aww.
Hearing your cat purr is exactly like when your dog stops barking; heavenly. Naw we’re just kidding, we love our doggies too! But when a cat purrs, it's not only super adorable but also comforting, in the same way, that cuddling up makes you all warm and fuzzy. But seeing as purring has its place in a number of situations, it hasn’t been explicitly deemed as a form of communication. Cats purr when they’re cozying up to their owner, but also when they’re in pain, or even giving birth to a litter! It is a largely emotional behavior, but there are a number of reasons why this is so!
Research has shown that purring could potentially be a form of self-medication. The low frequency of a purr puts it in a range where it aids the building of bone density. Seems that there’s a purr-sibility that purring can heal, but also maintain healthy bones! Where a $2 massage chair in the mall might just feel a little too intense on the joints, if you snuggle up with your cat and take in those good vibrations, you might just have enough to become a member of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch! (ok that was a terrible joke. Dad, we hope you’re proud).
I Love You So!
If you’ve had kids, you’ll remember when they were toddlers and would excitedly run to the door to greet you. Fast forward 10-15 years and they don’t want to know you. For dogs however, this never changes; dogs don’t seem to tire of seeing their owners! Makes sense why people get a dog before they have kids!
Seriously though, how good is it coming home to your dog? But the question is; why do they get so excited EVERY TIME? Well, scientists had a little look into the doggy brain, and found that there was a direct link between the smell of familiar humans and rewards, more so than any other smell!
Get it Off!
Sure, your dog may indeed be rolling around in a new scent to bring to you, its owner. But it also might be trying to get rid of something it doesn’t like. Maybe you sprayed it with a flea repellent or oil to help its coat – but that doesn’t mean that they’re going to like it! If something smells too strong, or they don’t like the feeling of it, your dog is going to go for a roll in the grass to get it off! If you don’t want your feelings hurt, next time try bathing them in an odorless formula. Yep, look at us, saving human-doggy relationships one at a time.
Now we’ve covered off two reasons for why a dog likes to roll around in the grass – or on your favorite shag carpet. The third one is perhaps one that makes a lot of sense; your dog just has an itch to scratch! If the itching persists and your dog just can’t get enough of rolling around, it might be worthwhile going on a trip to your local vet. Seeing as there are a few reasons for dogs wanting to roll in the grass, keep an eye on it and you’ll soon figure out which one makes the most sense! Again, you’re welcome.
A Waggin’ Good Time
If there are two defining features that dogs are known for it’s these; being playful and adorable, as well as wagging their tails, almost aggressively! A tail wag is widely accepted to mean a dog is happy and pleased to meet you, but there are actually more specific tail wags to look out for because there is more to them than meets the eye. According to scientific analysis, tests show that a slow tail wag means a dog is uncertain. So if you’re approached by a stranger who is somewhat familiar but the dog can’t place who they are, they will slowly wag their tail until your body language tells them they’re ‘ok.’ Loyal down to their very core. Gotta love dogs.
On the other side of the tail wag, if the speed picks up and it’s more energetic, this means something totally different. Most likely it means the dog is happy and excited. But there is much more to note; aside from speed and position, as well as which side is more dominant. Studies show there are a number of understood patterns in canine-tail movement, for example, a fast wag which moves the whole body, is a friendly “I’m not challenging you” or an “I’m pleased.” This matches the concept of the happy wag! Following a study by neuroscientist Giorgio Vallortigara at the University of Trieste in Italy, which tested 30 domesticated pets against four stimuli: their owner, an unfamiliar person, a cat, and an unfamiliar dominant dog. The results were quite intriguing; while when they saw their owners, there was a vigorous, right-bias to the tails, whereas when they saw the cat it was again to the right, but more slowly and with more deliberate movement. Who would’ve thought!
Are you Flehmen Serious?!
Chances are you’ve seen a cat with an almost menacing expression on their face; this could be that you’ve experienced “Flehmen.” No, this has nothing to do with phlegm; probably for the best. If you see your cat opening their jaws wide, with their lips drawn back; they might look kinda peeved or like they just tasted something gross, there’s probably a scientific reason for it.
The Flehmen response is actually related to the olfactory senses. Whoops, big word alert; olfactory refers to the sense of smell. What looks like an uncomfortable expression, is a cat’s way of smelling without their nose. They draw air over the vomeronasal organ, or Jacobson’s organ, which helps to smell scents which are not airborne and can be smelt with the nose. The organ is useful in chemical communication; for example, detecting pheromones, as well as potentially helping to hunt and track prey. Pretty advanced, huh! This behavior is not specific to cats though, and is found across groups of amphibians, reptiles and other mammals such as tigers and horses!
Got the Pants?
Surely you’ve heard the saying ‘women don’t sweat, they glisten.’ Well, dogs don’t sweat, they pant! If you’ve ever seen a dog look like they’re about to have a stroke because they’re panting so hard, never fear – it’s likely they’re just cooling down! While a dog might have its jaws wide open, its massive tongue hanging to the side, and its heart racing a million miles an hour, this activity of panting actually evaporates their saliva, which stops them from overheating, as they only have sweat glands on their paws. So, this is the most efficient and effective way for a dog to get rid of as much heat as possible in a short amount of time.
All mammals will pant, particularly when they’re overheated or have exerted themselves a little too much. But if you’re a responsible pet owner, you’ll know to make sure there’s fresh water available when they’re panting, because they’re losing a lot of water!
Chewing and destruction
Chewing is one of the most annoying things dogs do, but it can have a variety of reasons. For puppies, it can relieve any pain they have from their incoming adult teeth. For adults, it keeps their teeth clean and jaws strong. But if your pup only chews when you’re not home, she might be having separation anxiety.
If your dog likes to lick and chew fabrics, she might have been weaned from mom too early. But there’s also the chance that your dog is chewing things because she’s hungry and wants more food. Wild dogs love to chew on bones for fun, stimulation, and to relieve anxiety, so it’s important to provide your pet dog with things to chew on.
Side to Side
We touched on this briefly, but there are indeed studies which show that tail bearing makes a difference in the message they’re communicating. If you notice a dog’s tail wagging slightly to the right, it means there’s something exciting or something that’s piquing their interest. Most likely this is reward-related; if they see their owner, then it’s going to be a hard right. To the left, however, shows something a little different; this can reveal uncertainty or confusion.
It can also reveal the wish to avoid something; for example, a more dominant, menacing dog. As in the study by Vallortigara, it seems quite convincing that a right tail wag shows calmness and contentedness, whereas a left tail wag is kinda suspicious. The middle you ask? Well, we’re not quite sure, but if we find out, we’ll be sure to get back to you.
But that’s my favorite…
So while you might be tearing your hair out at the fact Mr. Darcy has scratched your favorite photo frame again, sometimes you just gotta let them live! Or hide everything or lock the doors. You know, small measures. But scratching has other benefits for your cat as it helps to stretch and strengthen their back and shoulder muscles. Sometimes they just aren’t getting the spot with the scratching post, hence why they go for other objects. We, humans, love a good stretch, so why deny your cat that feeling?!
Just like how we go for a run, or go to the gym (or comfort eat or be a couch potato) to relieve stress, scratching is a way that cats let go of unwanted anxiousness. Cats will often scratch when they’re stressed out, frustrated, or even excited. But if your cat is driving you mad and ruining all your furniture, perhaps try a larger scratching post – you’ll be thanking us. We accept cheque, credit card, and PayPal.
I Swear the Catnip isn’t Mine, Officer!
Roxy Music said love is the drug, but to cats, this just ain’t so. We’re talking about catnip here folks. Crazy for catnip, cats can’t get enough of the stuff, rubbing themselves over it and even ingesting it! Going loco for catnip is actually in response to the chemical compound nepetalactone. This ‘kitty crack’ is actually detected by the Jacobson’s organ which we mentioned earlier, and then binds to the organ. It’s thought that the compound resembles a chemical which is found in cat urine, which could be the reason for the crazed response!
For plants, this compound helps to ward off insects, but for cats, it does the exact opposite. Because of the similarity to a cat’s pheromones, the vomeronasal organ communicates with the brain, alerting it to the fact that there are lots of pheromones around.
Not Again Oscar!
So you’ve had Oscar for a year, and he’s been pretty well behaved for the most part, except for tearing up the lawn and taking your favorite back massager and burying it in a new spot every day. Whilst this might be kinda (read: very) annoying, you better buckle up, because this behavior isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. In the wild, dogs know, as scavengers, that food is like a treasure. So whilst the food bowl is a neverending supply of chow, the buried ‘gold’ is more for a rainy day. One can never have enough snacks, right? Mmm…snacks…
In times pre-dating the domestic dog, their wild ancestors would often bury food so that they could return to it later. It could be a case of not being too full or heavy after a meal, so as to ensure they were always ready to run, or able to defend themselves, or just to have a supply in case they went without hunting for a few days. Where do you think the saying doggy-bag comes from? Exactly. The way we like to think of it (or are forced to think of it), is that once you get a dog, basically everything you own is theirs, and the garden is their refrigerator, and not, we repeat not your garden.
If you’ve seen Shrek, you’ll remember when Donkey followed Shrek onto his property and basically right into his house. Just replace Shrek with yourself, and Donkey with a pet dog, and it’s basically the same thing. Dogs will follow you EVERYWHERE. Privacy is not something that they understand, period. And yes, they will follow you into the bathroom. I mean hey, if you run out of toilet paper, you could probably train your dog to fetch a roll. That would be sweeeeet.
What’s to blame for this pack mentality? Ancestry of course. Being a part of the pack, this is just a show of loyalty! Or, it’s a case of curiosity killed the – oh wait, wrong pet. Regardless, there’s no doubt your dog, like a clingy boyfriend or girlfriend, wants to know what you’re doing at any time of the day – even if that includes your trips to the bathroom. But there is a point where this following around business can get a little problematic. Sometimes there are underlying issues; it could mean that your dog’s a little insecure, or that they’re taking the bodyguard position a little too seriously. Over time, if these issues haven’t been addressed, they can progressively worsen; so keep an eye on your pup!
You’ve probably sat at your desk and thought; I wonder what kitty is up to – then awoken from your daydream and realized that if you had a cat-cam at home, you’d find them sleeping soundly. Well, there’s a reason behind why they sleep so much. The common conception is that it goes back to their lives as hunters. Eight lives, to be precise.
To be part of the hunt is to not know sleep. Sleeping a lot conserves those deeply stored reserves that they’ll use later. Cats, particularly wild ones, are most active at dawn and at dusk, so this is when they need to use that stored energy. For much of the 12 hours during the day, cats are in light sleep, so that if they need to awaken quickly, it’s easy to do so. But while they nap a lot, they are efficient ones, which can lure them into a deeper sleep. Brilliant, isn’t it?
An Unexpected Visitor
So there are some days when you’ve had THE longest day; a day that your boss just wasn’t cool, your internet was down and you dropped your lunch between the gap on the subway in the morning. Then you come home, and there’s just something not right about how your cat is looking at you. Naturally, you say “what do you have for me Mr. Bigglesworth?” (if you’re Dr. Evil that is). Your cat, looking extremely smug and proud, struts off, to bring back a dead rodent. Just lovely. As its owner, you should smother your cat in affection. Yeah, no. Whilst your kitty thinks they’ve done a great thing by bringing back dinner, or a present, they’ve left you with the problem of how to dispose of the dead rat. Which leads to the question “why is there a rat in my house?”
But like a lot of behaviors we’ve discussed, there are reasons for this hunting behavior. When they’re kittens, wild cat mothers teach their younglings how to hunt by returning with prey. Not only does this save the mother and her teats by getting the kittens used to meat instead of her milk, but also provides them with a real-life skill for survival in the wild. So when your cat brings you an uninvited guest, she’s probably trying to tempt you into joining the hunt. Your response is likely to be: “it’s a damn jungle out there already, I don’t need a rodent problem too.” Same. But this isn’t exclusive to female cats; male cats too hunt their prey and bring them back to a safe place where it won’t be stolen or eaten. Makes sense. Hence why there’s a lock on our staff fridge; it’s just not safe.