Dogs and cats are considered predatory species, meaning that they have strong instincts to prey on other lesser species. These instincts include aggressive behaviors by nature to catch and eat prey as well as to defend themselves. Although domestic dogs and cats have been “tamed” so to speak, they still have many of those instinctual defense mechanisms which, if faced with a life-threatening and/or painful situation, may cause them to lash out aggressively, potentially causing harm to their rescuer(s).
You need to know how to recognize aggressive signs in dogs and cats. These species have recognizable behaviors that one can identify before approaching the animal. Do not think that your own pet will never bite you. Even the cuddliest, fuzziest, and sweetest animal can bite if it feels threatened.
The most important thing to remember when approaching an injured or ill animal is to approach with caution. When an animal is injured or ill it may be scared and in pain. Their first reaction to a predator is usually to scramble to get away, or to bite or scratch to protect itself.
Cats and dogs communicate through body language. When using body language to interpret the message an animal is trying to get across, it is important to consider both the context and the animal’s individual personality. While certain physical cues commonly appear in both cats and dogs, those cues don’t always mean the same things, and it’s important to know the differences to better understand the cat or dog.
Here are a few examples of behaviors that may communicate dramatically different things between dogs and cats.
Tail held high:
When a cat holds its tail high, it can signal that they are friendly and relaxed. The higher the cat’s tail, the more confident they may be. However, if their tail is raised high with the fur erect and puffed out, it usually indicates alarm or even be a sign of aggression. When a dog holds his tail high, on the other hand, it often signals high arousal and the possibility of aggressive behavior. A dog that is agitated may also flick their tail back and forth vigorously. A dog is more likely to carry his tail in a neutral position, extended out behind him, when they are relaxed.
Friendly dogs wag their tail loosely back and forth at medium height. When a cat’s tail begins to wag back and forth, an unfriendly encounter might occur.
Relaxed cats have closed mouths; relaxed dogs may have a closed or partially open mouth. The more tense a dog is, the more tightly closed their mouth may become, although a very stressed dog may pant heavily or yawn.
Ears up for greeting:
A cat who is confident greeting people will normally hold their ears forward and alert. If their ears move backward or twitch, it may indicate uncertainty. By contrast, one sign of a friendly dog is that the dog’s ears move back just slightly. A submissive dog will move their ears back even further as an appeasement gesture. Dogs with erectly pricked ears may be ready to stand their ground against another animal if necessary, however this behavior is specific to the individual dog.
Turning to the side:
Both dogs and cats turn their bodies to the side when attempting to shut off a potential threat. A dog may do this in order to show that he means no harm, while a cat may be trying to appear larger and more threatening to their opponent.
Lying belly up:
A dog is likely to lie on their back as a submissive greeting behavior or as a way to get their belly rubbed by someone. A cat, on the other hand, will lie on their back in self-defense; this position allows them to have all four paws, with claws drawn, ready to react to any threat. A cat will sometimes lie on their back for people they feel comfortable with however very few cats enjoy having their belly rubbed and may respond aggressively.