The RSPCA is highlighting the importance of our pets’ mental wellbeing following an increase in pet ownership since the pandemic began.
This month marks ‘Adoptober’, when the charity urges people to ‘Adopt Don’t Shop’ and shines a light on the rescue animals looking for forever homes in RSPCA care.
The past year has seen a huge surge in pet ownership and the RSPCA rehomed 28,740 animals in 2020, with 714 rehomed in East Sussex.
From this figure, it’s now more important than ever for people to make sure they understand how their pets are feeling.
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 that we remember that our mental health can impact on that of our pets and 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.
“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.”
The RSPCA has released the following information about body language of our pets –
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.
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.
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. A cat’s body language is much more subtle and so it is important to regularly observe your cat to know when something is out of character. 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.
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 company and space to exercise. Like cats, their body language can be subtle.
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.
For more information about Adoptober, visit the www.rspca.org.uk/Adoptober