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2nd Dec, 2021

Worcestershire owners urged to understand their pets during RSPCA's 'Adoptober' month

PET OWNERS across Worcestershire are being urged to understand how their cats, dogs or rabbits are feeling as part of the RSPCA’s latest campaign.

Last year the charity rehoused 351 pets in the county and is offering advice in conjunction with ‘Adoptober’ which runs between now and the end of the month.

Knowing how pets are feeling helps ensure they stay happy and healthy.

Dr Sam Gaines, head of the companion animals team at the RSPCA, said: “There has been a boom in pet ownership during the pandemic and whilst it’s great to see so many pets becoming a real source of comfort during the last year, it’s important we remember our mental health can impact on our pets.

“We need to make sure we consider their mental health and know how they are feeling.

“From changes in their behaviour to their body language, our pets can give us insight into their mental wellbeing and it’s important that as pet owners we know how to spot these signs and act on them.”

Also for Adoptober, the charity wants people to ‘Adopt Don’t Shop’, shining a light on the animals which have been rescued by the RSPCA and are now looking for ‘furever’ homes.

Sam added: “This Adoptober we’re urging anyone thinking of getting a pet to consider adopting rather than buying an animal.

Anyone who is thinking of getting a pet should do their research and check they have the time, money and lifestyle to care for an animal for its whole life.”

Here are changes you may see in your pets –

Dogs

As dog owners go back to offices, the charity is concerned that some dogs may struggle to adapt to being left alone for short periods. One of the major reasons that dogs are relinquished is due to behaviour problems and research suggests that 85% of dogs may be affected by separation related behaviours – which is why it’s important to be able to spot the signs if your dog is unhappy.

Body language of a worried or unhappy dog:

They are standing but their body posture and head position is low. Tail is tucked under, ears are back and the dog is yawning.

Dog is lying down and avoiding eye contact or turning their head away from you and lip licking with their ears back.

They are sitting with their head lowered, ears back, tail tucked away, not making eye contact, yawning, or raising a front paw.

Dog is standing with a stiffened body posture, weight forward, ears are up, hair raised, eyes looking at you with pupils dark and enlarged. Their tail is also up and stiff and they may wrinkle their nose.

They are lying down and cowering, their ears are flat, and their teeth are showing with their tail down between their legs.

Body language of a happy dog:

Dog has a relaxed body posture, smooth hair, mouth open and relaxed, their ears are in a natural position, with a wagging tail.

Dog is inviting play with bottom raised, smooth hair, high wagging tail, their eyes are normal shape and their ears are in a natural position. They may also be barking excitedly.

 

Cats

Most cats like routine and a disruption to this routine, like us returning to work and being absent from home,  may leave some feeling stressed or anxious. Fighting for resources with other cats, a change to their food or litter, a house move, or a new pet, are all factors which could lead to your cat becoming distressed. A cat’s body language is much more subtle and so it is important to regularly observe your cat, understand what is normal behaviour for them and when that behaviour might be different so you know how they’re feeling.

Body language of a worried or unhappy cat:

They are in a crouched position, muscles are tense, body is held tightly, their tail is tucked tightly into their body, and the ears are slightly swivelled sideways. Their head is slightly lowered and tucked into the body, pupils are dilated, and mild tension shows in their face.

Cat is lying down, body is flattened, ears are flattened to the head, their pupils are dilated, and the tail is held tightly into the body.

Cat is lying down, body is flattened, ears are flattened to the head and drawn back, body is slightly rolled over to one side, pupils are dilated, mouth is open and tense, and their teeth are showing.

They are standing and their back is arched, with their body held sideways and their hair is raised. Their posture will be tense, with the front paw slightly lifted off the ground (ready to swipe if needed), ears are lowered and pointing out to the side, mouth is open and tense, their teeth are showing, and the tail is tensed.#

Body language of a happy cat:

Cat is standing with a relaxed body posture, their ears are in a natural position, and tail is held upright with the tip of the tail curved, eyes are normal shape, mouth is closed.

Cat is lying down, belly is exposed, body posture is relaxed, body is stretched out, ears are in natural position, eyes may be partly closed, mouth is closed.

Rabbits

Rabbits can often be a misunderstood pet because people assume that they are simple to care for. Rabbits are complex, social animals who can become distressed when they don’t have another rabbit friend, or the space they need to exercise and plenty of enrichment. Like cats, their body language can be subtle so it is good to get to know how your rabbits normally behave so that you can recognise when there are changes.

 

Body language of a worried or unhappy rabbit:

They are in a crouched position, their muscles are tense and their head is held flat to the ground, ears wide apart and flattened against the back, with pupils dilated.

Rabbit turns and moves away flicking the back feet. Ears may be held against the back.

Rabbit is sitting up on back legs with front paws raised displaying boxing behaviour. Their ears are pointed upwards and facing outwards. The rabbit may also be growling.

They are standing with their body tensed and their back legs thumping on the ground. Tail raised, ears pointing upwards and slightly turned outwards, facial muscles are tense and pupils dilated.

Rabbit is standing tense with body down and weight towards the back, head tilted upwards, mouth open and teeth visible. Ears are held back and lowered, tail raised and pupils dilated.

Body language of a happy rabbit:

Rabbit is lying down, with a relaxed body posture and legs tucked under the body.

Rabbit is lying down with a fully extended, relaxed body. Back legs are stretched out behind the body and the front paws are pointing forward.

Rabbit jumps into the air with all four paws off the ground and twists in mid-air before landing (known as a binky)

• Go to rspca.org.uk/Adoptober for more on Adoptober and those thinking of rehoming a pet from the RSPCA can visit rspca.org.uk/findapet to see those currently available.

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