Category Archives: body language of cats

What Does an Animal Shelter Volunteer Do?

By Julia Williams

If you love animals, becoming a volunteer at your local shelter is definitely something you should consider. You will be making a difference not only to the animals that reside there, but to the shelter and to your community. Words can’t adequately describe the rewarding feeling you get from helping these beautiful four-legged souls that are without a family to love and care for them.

Since most shelters operate on shoestring budgets, volunteers are an essential part of their daily operations. Although there is no central data reporting agency for animal shelters, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) estimates that 6-8 million dogs and cats end up in America’s shelters every year. That, my friends, is a lot of animals who desperately need some TLC.

There are a variety of tasks assigned to volunteers; some include working with the animals, some do not. You can walk dogs, socialize cats, clean cages, help with feeding, watering and grooming, do adoption counseling or administrative tasks. Some volunteers choose more than one “job” so they can contribute wherever help is needed most. Shelters also need foster parents to care for animals in their home – you can read more about that here.

Most shelters ask for a two hour commitment every week. That said, they usually won’t turn you down if you have a sincere desire to help but only have a few hours every month. They do, however, expect volunteers to honor whatever time commitment they’ve made. They need to know you’ll be there when you say you will, and if your life is in flux, it’s unfair to the shelter and the animals to make promises you can’t keep.

Getting started as an animal shelter volunteer is easy. You fill out an application, and typically attend a “new volunteer” orientation. Shelters use this orientation to familiarize volunteers with their operations, and to make sure this new relationship starts off right. It’s similar to starting a new job, except you don’t get paid, at least not with currency you can spend. Shelter volunteers get paid with emotional dollars they can put in their personal bank of pride and self-appreciation.

I’ve volunteered at three different shelters throughout my life. My first was at age 17 (the minimum age requirement varies, but is usually between 16 and 18). I signed up as a dog walker, because I felt bad that the dogs had to be cooped up in kennels all day long. The excitement and happiness the dogs exuded when I approached with leash in hand was palpable. They all clamored to be chosen to get out in the fresh air for some exercise.

Those dog walks were always enjoyable, but I’ll never forget one in particular. There was a dog at the shelter I knew quite well, since she had belonged to a friend. I took her out to the large open field and decided to unleash her, because I was certain she wouldn’t run away. The moment I unleashed her, she took off like a rocket across the field. Soon she was just a tiny speck, and as I stood there with the leash, I contemplated how to explain this to the shelter staff. I was certain my dog walking days were over. Much to my relief, Trixie reached the end of the field, then turned around and raced back to me.

At another shelter I was a cat socializer (sometimes called a cat cuddler). The primary duty was to give the shelter cats some much-needed love and attention. I cared about all the cats I interacted with, but sometimes I’d feel a special connection to one of them. Paige was a cat I considered a “lifer.” She’d been at this no-kill shelter for at least a year, and I didn’t think she’d ever get adopted because she had a bit of a split personality. I’m good at reading the body language of cats, and most give you clear signals when they want you to stop petting them. Not Paige. One minute she loved the attention and the next, she’d claw my hand to bits. I could never tell when she was about to go psycho on me. But as it turns out, even a cat like Paige can get adopted if the right person comes along. I’ll always remember the day I came in to find Paige gone. I dreaded asking, for fear she had been put down for some reason. But no – Paige had found her forever home!

Volunteering at a shelter is something I highly recommend for all animal lovers. If you’re like me, it may make you sad (and mad) to see so many beautiful animals without a loving home. Yet it will also fill your heart with happiness to know that you are enriching their lives as they wait to find a family of their own.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

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Is it Possible to Read Your Pet’s Mind?

By Linda Cole

Pet psychics believe the average owner can read their pet’s mind if they really want to. Animal Planet ran a series called the Pet Psychic that was popular for awhile. I watched each episode wanting to believe Sonya Fitzpatrick’s claim that she could read animal’s minds. I guess I was one of the skeptics and yes, I have tried to communicate telepathically with my pets. But is it as farfetched as it sounds? Is it possible to read your pet’s mind with the right knowledge and practice?

I would love to know what my dogs and cats are thinking. It’s possible that the times I tried to talk with one of my pets they just didn’t have anything to say to me. After all, I have times when I don’t feel like talking. Maybe our pets don’t talk to us because we are skeptical about having an ability to read a pet’s mind. I suppose it’s possible pets could refuse to establish telepathic communications with us because we have to hear it to believe it and they figure it’s just a waste of their time. Whatever the case may be, pet psychics do believe all of us have the power to read our pet’s mind, but we have to truly believe before it can happen.

If you want to try to read your pet’s mind, find a quiet place where you can concentrate with your pet in front of you. Even though you may not be able to read their mind, it’s a fun exercise to experiment with and you and your pet can spend some quality time together – and that’s never a bad thing.

Pet psychics pretty much all agree that there are steps we need to follow to open up the mind to all that’s possible. It’s important to clear out all the clutter in our head so telepathic communications can take place. I was once told by a friend of mine who is a pet psychic that animals are more tuned into our thoughts than we are to theirs. We just aren’t very good at listening for their call. That may be true, but I don’t necessarily agree that we can’t hear them because we aren’t listening.

If you’d like to try reading your pet’s mind, begin by believing in yourself and your psychic abilities. This is how my pet psychic friend instructed me. The human mind is complex, and we don’t use all of our brain power. Who knows what’s lurking in the shadows of our minds just waiting to be discovered.

Begin by thinking of your pet as being on the same level as you. Don’t assume that just because they aren’t like us they don’t have something to say we might understand. Before trying to read your pet’s mind, meditate for a good 15 minutes to focus your mind. Meditation is a great way to reduce stress, so it’s something good to do regardless. Sit back, relax and let your mind take you to a place that’s peaceful.

When you’re ready to start, sit with your pet in front of you and notice their expressions, their body language and their reactions. This is supposed to help you focus into your pet’s thoughts. If you do hear what they are thinking, it can be in thoughts, feelings or pictures that are projected from them to you. At this point you should only ask simple questions and expect a simple answer in return. If it turns out you do discover you can read your pet’s mind, keep going on a daily basis for best results. Don’t forget to tell them goodbye when you are ending the conversation so they know you are finished talking.

I have to admit, I’m a skeptic even though I personally know a pet psychic. We were coworkers for a time in the same company. I do think she believes she can read a pet’s mind. Maybe there are folks who have an acute sensitivity to pets most of us don’t have or they are just better at taking their minds to a place we can’t. Whatever the case may be, I have tried many times to read my pets’ minds and have never been successful. Some people may be able to read a pet’s mind, but I’m not one of them. Maybe one day one of my sessions will pay off. Nevertheless, I don’t need to have a conversation with my pets to understand them, and they know by how I treat them that they are respected and loved – and that’s good enough for me!

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

How to Read the Body Language of Cats

By Julia Williams

We’ve discussed the body language of dogs many times on this blog, and it’s a popular topic on other websites and in print. Responsible dog owners know how important it is to learn to “read” the various signals of their canine companion, and to act accordingly. Not much is said about the body language of cats, but understanding a feline’s nonverbal communication is equally important – especially if you don’t want to be bitten or scratched. A cat’s body language can also tell you things about their health and how they feel.

I’ve heard people say that their cat “just attacked them without warning.” While this may be true in some cases, I’m convinced that most of the time the cat gave ample warning it wanted to be left alone. However, if you aren’t familiar with the body language of cats, you can easily misread their nonverbal signals, which might make it seem like your normally friendly cat suddenly went psycho on you.

Although a cat may hiss and growl when it wants you to stop petting them and leave them alone, they may also use tail twitching. This can be confusing to those who think a cat’s swishing tail is similar to the wagging tail of a happy dog. It is the exact opposite; moreover, you can use the speed of the twitching tail to gauge just how ticked off the cat is with your behavior. If they are only mildly annoyed, their tail will swish slowly back and forth, like a pendulum. As they get more irritated with you, the speed and ferocity of their tail movement increases until it is eventually thrashing like an out-of-control whip. If it has progressed to this “whip” stage, a wise human will immediately leave the cat alone, because a bite or scratch is imminent.

To further complicate matters, a cat will sometimes use slow tail twitching to signal that they’re feeling playful. Thus, it can be difficult for even the most astute cat whisperer to distinguish between the annoyed slow twitch and the playful slow twitch. One difference worth noting is that the “I’m ready to play” tail twitch typically occurs when the cat is not in contact with you, such as when they are lying on their side or sitting on the floor, away from you.

Cats also use their tail to communicate other emotions. When a cat’s tail is standing straight up, it means they are happy to see you, they feel safe, and all is well in their world. When their tail is upright and quivering, they are ecstatic. A puffed up tail that resembles a bottle brush indicates a fearful, defensive and emotionally charged cat. It’s usually accompanied by an arched back and fur that’s standing up – the message here is “I want to appear much bigger than I actually am.” Cats will also assume this posture when preparing to “play fight” with another cat. They will face each other and “puff up” before one launches himself sideways onto the other, signaling the start of their roughhousing.

Cats show possessiveness with flattened ears, laid-back whiskers, a lowered tail and slightly crouched body position. You’ll see this posture when your cat or kitten has a toy (especially one with feathers or fur, which resembles prey) and you try to take it away from them. Cats display interest in something by tilting their ears forward to hear better, directing their whiskers forward, and widening their eyes.

Staring directly at a cat is interpreted as aggression. And if they stare straight at you or another cat, this is meant as a challenge. A cat who exhibits a “bug eyed” look is frightened. Cats also communicate with their eyes by blinking, which is said to be a form of greeting and an indication that they like you. There is a “blinking experiment” you can try with your cat, wherein you sit with them when they are relaxed and then slowly open and close your eyes. Many times, the cat will do it along with you. When I heard about this my initial reaction was “Yeah, right.” But I tried it with my cats and was surprised to learn that they actually will blink back at me. Of course, felines being the independent creatures they are, they don’t do it all of the time.

A confident and content cat will hold their head high and assume an upright posture. A cat who lowers her head and turns it sideways to avoid eye contact indicates lack of interest or passiveness. When a cat feels relaxed in her surroundings, she will lie on her side or back and show you her belly. Unless the cat trusts you completely, they won’t assume this posture in your presence.

Learning how to read the body language of your cat can tell you a great deal about how they are feeling. Their tail, ears, eyes, whiskers and legs are all trying to communicate with you – don’t you want to know what they are saying?

Read more articles by Julia Williams

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.