You know when your dog whines at the door that they need a potty break, and you know that your cat is telling you dinner time has arrived when they start yowling in the kitchen. However, many behaviors your pet exhibits are simply perplexing. Our team at LaGrange Veterinary Hospital wants to help explain these confusing behaviors, so you can better understand your four-legged friend.

Why does my dog smell everyone’s crotch?

Dogs don’t have social media accounts, and they use their nose to get the information they want about other dogs and people they encounter. They get this information from sweat glands called apocrine glands, which are highly concentrated in a dog’s genitals and anus, and they are the reason why dogs sniff each other’s hind ends in greeting. Humans also have these glands in their armpits and genitals, which explains your dog’s proclivity for sniffing crotches. Apocrine glands secrete pheromones, which tell your dog details such as the person’s age, sex, and mood. When your dog sniffs someone’s crotch, they aren’t being rude, but simply learning more about their new friend, although this behavior can be awkward. You can teach your dog to sit when people approach, and have the new arrival offer their fist for your dog to smell. This still provides some information for your curious pooch, and can avoid an embarrassing situation.

Why does my cat knock items off the table?

Cats use their paws to explore objects in their environment. As the paw-patted object moves, their stalking instinct is triggered, and when the object falls, they experience the final escape rush. Cats also are great at finding ways to attract your attention, and when you react to their behavior, they will repeat the action, so you notice them. To avoid damage to expensive items, provide appropriate toys for your cat, and rotate these toys frequently, to keep them from becoming bored. Also, exercise your cat using laser pointers and wand toys for 15 to 20 minutes twice per day, to ensure they are mentally and physically stimulated.

Why does my dog scoot their hind end across the carpet?

In addition to steam cleaning your carpet, you will need to schedule a veterinary appointment if your dog is scooting, because this behavior indicates a problem that needs a veterinary professional’s assessment. Issues that cause this behavior include:

  • Clogged anal sacs — This is the most common reason dogs scoot. Two small pockets are located on either side of your dog’s anus, which contain a foul smelling liquid that is usually expressed when they defecate. This liquid provides information to other dogs who encounter your dog’s fecal material. These glands have a tendency to become blocked, especially in small-breed and overweight dogs. If your dog’s anal sacs are blocked, a veterinary professional can express them to relieve your dog’s discomfort. In some cases, infection and abscessation can occur, requiring antibiotic treatment, and possibly surgical correction.
  • Tapeworms — Your dog can get tapeworms by ingesting an infected flea. After maturing in the stomach, tapeworms are expelled in your dog’s feces, resulting in irritation and itching around their anus. If your dog has tapeworms, you will likely observe rice-like worm segments in their feces. Your dog will need treatment with an appropriate deworming medication.

Why does my cat head butt?

Cats have scent glands all over their body, including their face and head. They use these scent glands mainly for bonding and socializing, to mark people and territory as safe and familiar. You may notice that after head butting you, they repeat the behavior on furniture, walls, and other pets. With this action, also known as bunting, they are creating a colony scent, ensuring their environment and those residing there are comforting and accepted.

Why does my dog’s leg twitch when I scratch their belly?

Most dogs enjoy a good belly scratch, and you know you’ve found their sweet spot when their hind leg starts twitching. This response is known as the scratch reflex. Nerves under the skin in this area relay a message to your dog’s leg via the spinal cord to activate the response. This action is meant to protect your dog’s vulnerable belly from irritating parasites, such as mosquitoes and fleas.

Why does my cat use their paws to knead?

Cats frequently knead on soft surfaces, your lap, and other pets when they are content. Reasons behind this behavior include:

  • Nursing — Kneading may be a leftover behavior from kittenhood. When kittens nurse, they are receiving nourishment and comfort from their mothers. Adult cats who are similarly happy and content may reflexively demonstrate this action.
  • Comfort — Cats often knead to show pleasure at being petted. They may also knead your lap as a way to bond and socialize.
  • Resting place — Kneading may be a leftover behavior from your cat’s wild ancestors, who had to knead tall grass, to create a comfortable resting place. 
  • Marking territory — Cats have scent glands in their paws, and kneading deposits their scent, marking the territory for other animals.

Knowing the explanations behind your pet’s peculiar conduct will help you understand them a little better. However, if your pet is exhibiting concerning behavior, do not hesitate to contact our team at LaGrange Veterinary Hospital, so we can determine if they need veterinary attention.