Published: 09:00, 07 October 2021
| Updated: 14:36, 08 October 2021
The RSPCA is urging owners to understand the importance of their pets’ mental wellbeing following a surge in animal ownership since the pandemic began.
Last year the charity rehomed 1,136 animals in Kent and it is now highlighting the importance of understanding our pet’s behaviour and body language this Adoptober.
Adoptober, is a time when the RSPCA urges people to adopt, not shop, and shines a light on the rescue animals looking for forever homes in their care.
The past year has seen a huge surge in pet ownership and the RSPCA rehomed 28,740 animals throughout 2020.
With the number of pets in the UK rising it’s now more important than ever for people to make sure they understand how their pets are feeling so they keep their pets happy and healthy.
Dr Sam Gaines, from the charity, 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.”
As dog owners go back to offices, the charity is concerned that some dogs may struggle to adapt to being left alone.
One of the major reasons that dogs are given up is due to behaviour problems and research suggests that 85% of dogs may be affected by separation-related behaviours.
This is why it's important to be able to spot the signs if your dog is unhappy.
If your dog is unhappy or worried you may notice them standing up but their body posture and head position will be lowered.
Their tail may also be tucked under their body and their ears will be back, the dog will also be yawning.
If your dog is lying down and avoiding eye contact or turning their head away from you and lip licking with their ears back this will also mean they are anxious.
A dog standing with a stiffened body posture, their weight forward, ears up, hair raised and their eyes looking at you with pupils dark and enlarged is also unhappy.
If a dog is lying down and cowering, their ears flat and their teeth showing with their tail down between their legs, this shows they are anxious.
However, if your dog is happy you will notice a completely different set of behaviours.
Your dog will have a relaxed body posture, smooth hair, their mouth open and their ears in a natural position and of course a wagging tail.
A happy dog will invite you to play with their bottom raised and a high wagging tail, their eyes will be a normal shape and they may also bark excitedly.
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 that 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.
If your cat is unhappy or worried you may notice them in a crouched position, muscles tense, body held tightly, their tail tucked tightly into their body and their ears slightly swivelled sideways.
A cat that has its head slightly lowered and tucked into its body with its pupils dilated may also be unhappy.
If your cat is lying down, their body flattened, ears flat to their head and drawn back, their body slightly rolled over to one side, pupils dilated, mouth open and tense and their teeth showing will also mean they are stressed.
A cat standing with their back arched and hair is raised is also showing they are anxious.
However, if your cat is happy they will stand with a relaxed body posture, their ears in a natural position, their tail held upright with the tip curved and their mouth closed.
If a cat is lying down, belly exposed, body posture relaxed, stretched out and their eyes partly closed this also means they are comfortable.
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.
If your rabbit is unhappy or worried they may be in a crouched position, their muscles tense and their head held flat to the ground, ears wide apart and flattened against their back with their pupils dilated.
A rabbit will turn and move away flicking their back feet if they are unhappy, their ears may be held against their back as well.
Rabbits sitting up on their back legs with their front paws raised displaying boxing behaviour are also upset, a rabbit may also growl.
If your rabbit is standing with their body tensed and their back legs thumping on the ground, tail raised, ears pointing upwards and slightly turned outwards, their facial muscles tense and pupils dilated, this means they are stressed.
However, if your rabbit is happy they will be lying down, with a relaxed body posture and legs tucked under their body.
If their body is fully extended, their back legs stretched out behind their body and their front paws pointing forward this means they are relaxed.
When your rabbit jumps into the air with all four paws off the ground and twists in mid-air before landing this also means they are content, this is known as a binky.
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.”
To help the RSPCA continue rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming animals in desperate need of care please visit their website or call the donation line on 0300 123 8181.