Cats and dogs: How to understand pet noises and behavior

Animal communication, it is a very diverse topic and not at all cut and dry. Humans have a verbal language that if we were tied to a tree and unable to move we could still communicate and be understood. Dog and Cats on the other hand use body language in conjunction verbal language.

Let’s begin with Cats. We all know the wonderful sound of a contented relaxed cat; they purr as they sit it in our laps and we pet them. Or the cute little mew of a kitten telling us they are hungry or want attention. Then there is the awful yowl of a cat in pain, stress or threatened, you know the sound that makes your blood run cold.

Cats do not have the complex emotion that humans do, but they do have the basic emotions of fear, anger, and distress. They can vocalize these to some extent, but they also use body language to express their emotions. A sound along with the body language is what helps us as humans understand them better. A cat who is rubbing on your leg and mewing may want attention or food. A cat who is hissing and has his tail all puffed up when you come close may feel threatened or want to be left alone.

“Your Guide to Cats and Kittens”, a Pedigree Pet foods book shows that cats actually learned to vocalize more by imitating their mother when they are young. It is shown that this process continues through out a cat’s life by owners who talk often to their cats. The cats actually seem to talk back.

So it seems that your cat can be more than just a good ear you may get some advice back. Be careful to listen and watch though, we wouldn’t want you getting the wrong message.

Dogs are a very different species, Man’s best friend why? Is it because they understand what we are saying to them? Do they understand English? I don’t think so, but they do understand our emotions. Being a Trainer has taught me so much about our four legged friends and how they communicate with us. Yes they do have a language of their own both verbal and through body language.

Dogs do not have the abstract thought necessary to understand the English language, but they can be conditioned to certain words. Tone and inflection are very important when communicating to your dog. This will transfer the message as a whine or growl or other basic dogie sound. When your dog is baking just to bark and you begin to yell at him, he will think you are barking along with him and all is good. A short low “no” and then very obvious ignoring is a better answer.

Dogs make five basic sounds as outlined in “The Dogs Mind”, by Bruce Fogle. Infantile sounds, such as cries, whimpers and whines, Warning sounds, barking and growling, Eliciting sounds the howl, Withdrawal sounds include yelping and pleasure sounds such as moaning.

Verbal communication was a trait that was encouraged in the domestication of dogs. Our pet dogs today are verbalizing much more than their wolf ancestors and even feral dogs.

Sound communication used in dogs has the advantage of communication without leaving a scent trail and can carry for long distances. A dogs bark can mean many different things from a warning, to a let me in bark, to a let’s play bark. A lot of dog owners begin to recognize the different barks as their dogs grow.

Verbal cues along with Body language sum up the whole package in communication of canines. You must pay attention to facial expressions, tail position, ear position and general body stance to fully understand the whole message.

Dog and Cat communication through noises and behavior is very complex. I encourage anyone who is interested in this topic to investigate more. It is truly a fascinating world.

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