Animals Life

The Hidden Meanings Behind Your Pet’s Most Unusual Behavior

The Hidden Meanings Behind Your Pet’s Most Unusual Behavior November 14, 2023Leave a comment

Unraveling the mysteries of your pet's behavior can be both fascinating and heartwarming. From circling before sleep to head tilting, each quirky action holds a deeper meaning. Discover why your dog howls at you, why cats love cardboard boxes, and the surprising reasons behind your pet's unique gestures.

Eating Tissue Paper

IMAGE BY: Twitter/@konnichiwhore

If your dog regularly eats tissue or toilet paper or anything else that isn't food, it could be a sign that they're suffering from a compulsive disorder called pica. It's worth watching out for this behavior and taking them to a vet if it gets serious.

Whimpering While Asleep

IMAGE BY: Flickr/Kory Seay

If your dog whimpers or kicks while they're asleep, don't panic. This is just a sign that they're dreaming normally. They're probably not having a nightmare, and it's not a good idea to wake them up as they'll end up being disoriented and could bite you out of surprise.

Chewing Their Feet

IMAGE BY: Flickr/agirlnamednee

If your dog is chewing their feet, it could be a sign that they have a food sensitivity that's manifesting in an unusual way. There are plenty of food options available for dogs with weak tummies, and it's worth investigating these before you have to clean up after some unfortunate bowel movements.

Sneezing While Playing

IMAGE BY: Flickr/Eric Sonstroem

Don't worry, your dog isn't allergic to themselves. Sneezing while playing is basically a dog's way of expressing their happiness and excitement. It's totally normal behavior, and it means you're doing a good job caring for your pet.

Eating Grass

IMAGE BY: Flickr/wht_wolf9653

You might assume that if your dog is eating grass, there must be something wrong with their stomach. This isn't the case; it's perfectly natural doggy behavior. That said, it could indicate that your dog is bored, so it might be best to play fetch for a while if it worries you.

Pacing in a Circle Before Sitting

IMAGE BY: Flickr/mrRobot

Your dog's ancient ancestors were wolves, who would pad down the ground before curling up and going to sleep at night. This is baked into your dog, so a little gentle pacing before they sit is perfectly natural. If, on the other hand, your dog is pacing endlessly without sitting down, it could be a sign of anxiety or stress, and you should keep an eye on their other movements to see if there's something you can do to help.

Rolling in the Grass

IMAGE BY: Flickr/Tony Atler

A dog will roll around for fun, and also to fix their smell. If you've just groomed your dog, don't be surprised if they undo your good work, because to them, you've just made them smell terrible. Dogs would rather be covered in mud and dirt; that's just the way they like to be.

Puppy Dog Eyes

IMAGE BY: Flickr/smerikal

If your dog gives you a big, sad look, it doesn't necessarily mean that they're hoping for a treat. So-called puppy dog eyes are a way of dogs expressing their love, not just for begging (although let's be fair, it could definitely also be begging).

Looking at You Before Acting

IMAGE BY: Flickr/Caninest

If your dog seems nervous and wants to get your approval before taking an action, don't worry too much. This doesn't mean that your dog is overly shy or anxious, it simply means that they love and trust you, and they want your approval as pack leader.


IMAGE BY: Flickr/Lisa Tripp

A dog can squint for many reasons, but while this behavior often looks a bit suspicious to humans (especially those who watch a lot of "The Simpsons"), it's often just a cry for attention. Go give your dog a cuddle if you see them narrowing their eyes - but this also doesn't mean that staring is a problem...

Intense Staring

IMAGE BY: Flickr/tajai

While a dog may give a stranger an intense stare if they're feeling threatened, they'll also stare at people that they trust. You dog could be watching you carefully out of interest in what you're doing, or they could just be very eager to get some attention. Take this as a sign that you should go see what your dog is doing and maybe give them some affection.

Rising Bark

IMAGE BY: Flickr/Aine

If your dog's bark sounds low at first before rising in pitch at the end, it's an indication that they want playtime. This kind of cry is basically a call to action, and it indicates that you really ought to take them for a walk in the park.

Howling at Nothing

IMAGE BY: Flickr/Tammy Lo

Howling at thin air can be a sign of something wrong (such as sickness or pain), but often it simply means that your puny human ears are missing out. Dogs can hear much better than humans, so anything from a train whistle or the hum of a piece of electronics can cause them to respond with a howl. If your dog is howling at nothing, but doesn't seem distressed, they might have a good reason that you just can't hear.

Licking Humans

IMAGE BY: Flickr/Holly Williams

If a dog licks you, it's because you're in charge. You're the alpha of the pack, and the dog is showing you affection and subservience. Thank the dog for this behavior, and try to distract them, rather than getting angry that your new shirt is covered in slobber.

Sleeping in Your Bed

IMAGE BY: Flickr/Alan Levine

Why does your dog ignore its own comfy basket in favor of messing up your bed? It's because your bed smells like you, and your dog loves that smell because they love you. This is why it's common to find your dog snuggled up in your bed when you come home for the day - they've had to wait around for hours, and they miss you, so they're enjoying your smell.

Leaning on Humans

IMAGE BY: Flickr/Canine to Five

If a dog leans on you, it's because they want attention. This is easier to figure out with bigger dogs thanks to their added weight, but if even a tiny little dog comes up and puts their weight on you, it's a sign that you need to play with them.


IMAGE BY: Flickr/James Cohen

Don't be too mad at a dog if they're humping everything in sight. Dogs show this behavior for lots of reasons, including simply being excited, so it's not just about wanting to make little dog babies with anyone or anything that comes past.

Eating Feces

IMAGE BY: Flickr/Scott 97006

Yes, sometimes your dog will eat their own droppings. No, it's not something to worry about. Sometimes dogs simply like the taste, while at other times they could show subservience by eating the leavings of a more senior dog in the pack. But there is a solution - add a little pineapple to your dog's diet, and they'll no longer like the smell of their fecal matter.

Excessive Tail Chasing

IMAGE BY: Wikipedia

We all know that dogs love to chase their tails, but it's less well known that this can be a sign that something's wrong. A little tail chasing is nice and healthy, but if this behavior is excessive, it could be a sign that your dog is developing obsessive compulsive tendencies, and might need to see a vet.

Chewing Wood and Cardboard

IMAGE BY: Flickr/m01229

Why would a dog want to chew wood or card? Because it's fun! Dogs love to chew, and for the same reason that humans enjoy chewing gum, dogs get a kick out of crunching wood even if it's not particularly nutritional. Just be warned, as splinters are never fun, no matter where in your dog's digestive system they end up.

The Head Tilt

IMAGE BY: Pixabay/jeremy8

The doggy head tilt is very famous behavior, and people typically assume it means that your dog is trying to think of something. In reality, this is helpful for taking in as much sound as possible, so it means that your dog is listening intently to something (and may be about to bolt after a nearby squirrel).

Ignoring the Food Bowl


Does your dog refuse to eat from their bowl, instead carrying their food away to another room to eat? This isn't a negative sign, it's simply another instinct that's left over from your dog's wolfy past. Your dog is trying to keep their food safe, and no matter how comfortable they may be in your home, they're always going to be a bit on edge while eating.

Lip Licking

IMAGE BY: Flickr/Amy Thibodeau

A moderate amount of lip licking - especially during meals - is no big deal. But lots of lip licking is a sign of stress in dogs. Keep an eye on this behavior and take them to a vet if you get worried.

Exposing Their Belly

IMAGE BY: Flickr/Darron Birgenheier

If your dog is showing off their belly, they probably want a scratch, or to be loved. This is a sign that your dog could do with some affection, so maybe spend some time playing with them.


IMAGE BY: Flickr/A_Peach

If a dog is crouched or hunched over, they're scared. They're trying to make themselves as small as possible to avoid being spotted. Give your dog some reassuring cuddles, and try removing them from whatever environment is making them anxious.

Getting In Boxes


Whose cat doesn’t like to get in boxes? They sleep in them. They hide in them. They play in them. Some cats even stuff themselves into boxes far too small for them! The reason that cats love boxes so much is that boxes evoke their predator side. They can hide and observe their prey (or your toes).

Bringing You Their Toys


When your dog brings you their toys it might be because they want to play with you. However, sometimes, this happens when the pet wants to give you a gift and show you how much they love you. It is a good idea to praise your dog when they do this so they will show you love and invite you to play more often.

Showing You Their Belly


Both cats and dogs are willing to roll over and show you their belly. When a dog lays on its back and shows you its belly, it’s a sign of trust. Cats are more likely to show you their belly while stretching, but just like dogs, it means they know that they can trust you.

Shaking Their Head


It’s so cute when dogs shake their heads and their ears flop back and forth! Dogs do this to get anything out of their ears that shouldn’t be there. It is also an effective way to rid of any irritation or itching the dog may feel. It is far safer than using claws to scratch the tender ears.

Making a Mad Dash


Some pet parents call it the zoomies. When your dog or cat just takes off running in what seems like a mad dash to wherever their feet take them. To you, it may appear to have no rhyme or reason, but your pet is experiencing an energy burst and getting exercise, which is a great thing.



Like humans, cats and dogs can always use a good stretch. From time to time you will see your pet stretch its legs or back. Did you know that sometimes it can also be a sign of endearment? If your dog stretches when they see you after a while apart, it means that they are glad to see you!



Dogs pant as a natural cooling mechanism. Unlike humans, dogs have limited sweat glands, mainly in their paw pads, so they release excess heat by panting. This process allows moisture on their tongues and respiratory tract to evaporate, regulating body temperature. Panting is vital for preventing overheating, especially during physical activity or in warm environments.



Howling is much more than barking. Your dog’s whole body changes position and is part of a howl. This isn’t a random bark. This is a distinct form of communication. It is your dog’s way of saying they are lonely or calling their pack back to them. It can even be a mating call.

Laying on Your Stuff


Cats are the most common culprits, but dogs do it, too. Laying on your stuff- from clothes to books to computers, pets lay on your things to be closer to you. It also usually works to make them the center of your attention. This is why it is so hard to use a computer with a cat around.

Licking Your Face


When a dog licks your face, you can assume that they are happy to see you. This is a greeting that lets you know that they come in peace and are friendly. This is a dog who is ready to be your friend or they already are!



A dog might yawn because it is tired. Another reason is that it is showing passive behavior in a group situation. In other words, if a dog is hanging out and feeling comfortable, they might yawn to show everyone how relaxed they feel. So, if your dog yawns around others, you can bet they are feeling safe and laid back.

Rolling On The Grass


If your dog likes to play outside, you have no doubt seen them roll around in the grass. Dogs do this to pick up scents. Rolling in the grass gives the dog the scent of the area they are playing in. This is believed to be an instinctual behavior for dogs.

Showing Their Teeth


When a dog or cat shows their teeth it is definitely a sign of aggression. Not so fast, though! Some aggression can be just a part of the play. Don’t be too worried if your dog shows its teeth during a game of tug of war or while playing fetch.

Head Tilting


Dogs tilting their heads make the cutest photos, especially when their ears are perked up and attentive. The true meaning behind this pose is a desire to understand you better. They are showing you their facial expression and adjusting their ears to hear you better.

Catnip Craze


It’s no secret that cats love catnip. Whether sniffing it, eating it, or rolling around it, they have a very definite reaction to this little herb. The chemical in catnip is called nepetalactone and it makes cats go nuts running around, playing, and usually sleeping afterward.

Shaking When Wet


Animals can help themselves dry off faster by rapidly shaking all over. It shakes their coat, helping to shed the larger droplets of water. If you have ever bathed a dog, you know how this works. Cats shake off to get dry too, or to remove any other unwanted substance from their fur.



Would it surprise you to know that cats don’t meow to communicate with other cats? Cats make all sorts of noises to communicate with other cats like hissing, purring, and growling, but when they meow it is to communicate with humans. Many researchers believe that cats are trying to emulate human speech patterns and noises when they are meowing. 

Tail Wagging


Tail wagging is not the same for dogs as it is for cats. When cats wag their tails it is usually an indicator that they are unhappy. With dogs, the opposite is usually true. Dogs wag their tails when they are happy or excited.

Rolling Onto Their Back


When two dogs are play fighting (or even fighting for real) one dog may roll onto its back to show subservience. This is kind of like giving up or crying uncle. Hopefully, you only see this happen when dogs are genuinely playing. If this happens too often, you may have a case of doggy bullying.

Chewing Up Everything


The thing about puppies and kittens is that they are babies. Like other babies, they have teeth that are coming in and they want to chew on everything. Since they are also developing super strong jaws, this means that teething can be destructive. Better get them a toy to chew on!

Staring Into Your Eyes


Does your pet take “puppy dog eyes’ to a whole new level? It turns out that these sweet and oh-so-cute looks that pets give have a wonderful meaning. When your pet stares deep into your eyes it is a sign that they love you.

Cats Scratching Everything


Cats scratch to maintain healthy claws by removing the outer layer, marking territory with scent glands in their paws, and stretching their muscles. It's a natural behavior that helps them communicate, exercise, and keep their claws functional. Providing appropriate scratching posts can redirect this behavior and protect furniture.

Following You Around


Puppies and kittens imprint on their owners. This means that they see their owners as parents. They are following you around expecting love and attention- as well as a treat now and again. They also have a keen interest in discovering what you are doing.

Flicking Their Ears


Both dogs and cats have very sensitive ears. Sometimes they flick them because they feel touched or blown on. Animals also flick their ears when they hear an unusual sound or are trying to hear a noise clearer. They will also turn their ears in the direction they perceive a sound to be coming from.

Leaning On You


Dogs lean on their owners as a sign of affection, trust, and a desire for closeness. It's a way for them to feel secure and bonded. Leaning provides comfort, and dogs often seek physical contact to strengthen the emotional connection with their owners, reinforcing the sense of safety and support.

Sitting On You


When your dog sits on you they are offering you their protection. They might sit on your feet or sit with their feet touching you. This is how they let you know they have your back. It is very much part of a dog's nature to want to protect their pack and the people that they love.

Raised Hackles


Raised hackles on a cat or dog means that they are upset. They do this when they are super aware of the possibility of danger. In this way, they are using their fur to puff up and make themselves seem as large and fierce as possible to any would-be predators.

Kneading You


Cats kneading seems so sweet and innocent unless they get too excited and the claws come out. Why do cats knead on you? Researchers have different ideas, but most think it is a cat's way of showing affection back to you for caring for them.



If your pet is pacing around the house your first guess should be that they are wanting to take a bathroom break outside. They may also be bored or want to run off some excess energy. If your pet is pacing around, you should try to figure out the cause and address it.



Cats jump to get away from you while dogs jump so they can get to you. Cats jump to get to a higher space away from everyone. Dogs jump up on you as a greeting and often jump when playing as well.

Nibbling On You


Cats may nibble as a form of communication or to show affection. It can be an instinctive behavior from kittenhood, associated with nursing. Nibbling might also be a sign of contentment, akin to grooming. However, if it becomes too aggressive, it could indicate overstimulation, and providing toys or distractions can help redirect this behavior.

Smelling the Air


Dogs have an extraordinary sense of smell, and sniffing the air helps them gather information about their environment. They can detect scents, identify specific odors, and even track trails. Smelling the air is a way for dogs to explore and understand their surroundings, communicate with other animals, and gather valuable information about potential threats or interesting stimuli.

Squinting their Eyes


Dogs and cats may narrow their eyes as a sign of contentment or trust. It's often referred to as "soft eyes" and indicates a relaxed state. Additionally, squinting can be a response to bright light or a defensive mechanism, conveying submission or calmness in social interactions. This behavior fosters positive communication between the animals and their owners.

Head Butting


Head butting is a common affectionate behavior in pets. Cats and dogs may gently bump their heads against you as a sign of love, trust, or seeking attention. It's a way for them to mark you with their scent glands, displaying a strong bond and reinforcing their connection with you through physical contact.



Dogs can exhibit a "smile" as a non-aggressive expression of happiness or submission. This often involves a relaxed open mouth, sometimes with a wagging tail. It signals contentment and a positive emotional state. Dogs may smile in response to positive interactions, such as playtime or being greeted by their owners, showcasing their friendly disposition.