Why do dogs wag their tails? Why do cats purr? As a pet owner, there have probably been thousands of times where you've turned to an internet search engine to help you answer a question about your pets. Whether you’re wanting to learn some fun facts about your pet Labrador Retriever, or you’re wondering what your dog can or cannot eat, it’s a great way to while away hours of entertainment while learning all of life's most important (and sometimes unimportant-but-fun-to-know-anyway) questions.
But, it got us thinking. What are the most common queries pet owners are searching for? So, we decided to sniff them out: from pets to dogs to cats, here are the top most searched for queries — and the answers to all of them, of course.
Why do pets…?
Like being petted?
Simple answer: it feels nice! Longer answer? Just as humans enjoy affection from those they are close too, so do pets. Petting can help pets to feel safe, loved and relaxed. Petting is also usually associated with your pet being praised in some way — an ear scratch here, a "Good Boy" there — which, naturally, they will respond to positively.
It’s also well known that petting can have beneficial effects for both pets and humans, and as well as helping your pet to feel calm and safe, it can be a great way to bond with your pet.
Of course, while most dogs and cats love a good petting, not all pets like to be petted. It’s important to remember that each pet is different and will have their own individual likes and dislikes, and to take cues from your pet's body language and behaviour before going in.
Hate the vet?
Just like we humans may fear going to the dentist, pets may associate going to the vets as a negative thing — after all, it’s not always a happy event and can be stressful, depending on the situation. Of course, we never want our pets to feel unhappy or anxious, and the good news is that it is possible to make a trip to the vets a little easier (for both you, and your pet) through positive reinforcement and prevention.
Creating a calming environment on the way there, rewarding your pet’s good behaviour, distracting them with a favourite toy or even using a calming pheromone are just some ways to help eliminate vet anxiety. You can also speak to your vet for further advice and support.
From the loud noises to the unexpected bright lights, most pet owners know well the stress that can come about around fireworks season. Pets perceive the world differently to the way we do, so while we know those noises and lights are relatively harmless, for our pets, it can be very unsettling and even signify danger.
While it will probably never be a pleasant experience for your pets, luckily there are some preventative measures you can take to ensure your pets stay as stress-free as possible — check out our blog post for our top tips on how to keep your pets safe during fireworks season.
Make us happy?
As well as providing us with love, companionship, and simply being darn right cute to look at, pets actually have a beneficial effect on your wellbeing. It’s true — from helping to lower blood pressure and stress levels to aiding relaxation, it's been proven that pets do really make us feel happy. In fact, a recent study also found that owning a pet increases your chances of being happier overall, with over half of participants revealing they never felt lonely when they had their furry friend around.
Follow you to the bathroom?
Pets: the word ‘privacy’ really isn’t in their dictionary, is it? Most pet owners will know it’s a hard task to visit the bathroom unattended, but why do pets do it? There are a few theories, but according to some pet behaviourist experts it could to do with pack mentality. Yep, cute (and weird) as it is, what your dog may be doing is displaying his loyalty and bond to you, while protecting you and his territory.
Of course, it could also be down to your dog wanting to be near you, or simple curiosity. This theory of ‘pack mentality’ also doesn’t explain why cats might follow you to the bathroom. One theory for cats is that it's mostly territorial: after all, your home is your cat’s territory — which includes your bathroom — and they want to know what you’re up to!
Why do cats…?
Contrary to what you may think, cats don’t just purr because they are happy — in fact, cats can purr for many different reasons, from feeling happy and content to help heal an injury! We recently delved into all the reasons why your cat might be purring in our blog post, Why do cats purr?, so take a read and see if you can decipher what your cat's purring about!
‘Kneading’ — you might not have heard the term before, but if you’ve spent any time around a feline you’ve surely seen it in action! But why do cats knead?
Actually, this is a question which has many theories, but largely, it's instinctive. Beginning in early kittenhood, a kitten will knead its mother to stimulate the production of milk, and this may continue through to adulthood. Don't worry though, a cat kneading you doesn't necessarily mean they're trying to milk you; a compelling theory suggests that cats knead simply because it feels good, and releases a flow of happy and relaxing hormones.
As kittens, cats experience feelings of contentment while kneading their mother which they can replicate as adults by pawing at our laps or on another soft surface. So, if you have a cat knead on you, consider yourself one lucky cat parent!
There are a few more theories, check out our blog post 'Why cats feel the need to knead' for more answers on this moggy mystery.
Is this the equivalent of a kiss from your kitty? Actually, in a way, yes. It is a sign of affection, and according to some pet experts your cat is doing this because they like you — in fact, it's one of the ways that cats show affection to one another.
It's an act that begins in early kittenhood, when mothers would lick their kittens to groom them or to create a bond. It’s a good thing and normal for cats to do, so next time it happens make sure to embrace that scratchy kiss!
Sleep so much?
Cats can sleep for anywhere between 12 to 16 hours a day, even longer for kittens and senior cats, or indoor-only cats (who have a little extra time on their paws). But exactly why cats sleep so much is due to evolution. Yep, even the most pampered of domestic pusses have innate hunting behaviours, so to conserve their energy cats naturally spend the rest of their time resting or sleeping.
It's also worth keeping in mind that cats are crepuscular (meaning they’re most active during the twilight of dusk and dawn), so we humans often miss seeing them at their most active. Cats and their sleeping habits are a fascinating subject which we’ve fully delved into in our blog post, Why do cats sleep so much?
We’ve all been there: you buy your precious mogg the most luxurious cat bed on the kitty market, and where do they choose to snooze? In the box it came in, of course. It can be downright hilarious, but why are cats fascinated with boxes?
Like so many other feline behaviours, this one has got experts clawing at their heads, but one compelling theory is that cats enjoy the confined, enclosed space that a box provides. According to experts, cats instinctively enjoy boxes because they are a safe space, and provide a stress-free shelter where they are less likely to be bothered or snuck up on.
Why do dogs…?
Like cat owners, dog owners have too been wondering why their dog seems particularly fond of licking humans. In fact, licking is a fairly common trait that most, but not all, dogs will do, and the reasons for why do vary, from being a means to communicate (evolutionarily speaking, wolves would lick their mothers for attention or for feeding) to it being a surefire way to gain their owner’s attention.
Another simple explanation could be that a dog licking you is often received positively by us humans — after all, who can say they don't squeal with delight when a cute dog fusses over them? — which means dogs may associate licking with a positive reaction.
Many pet owners believe that if their dog is eating grass, it must be because of illness or stomach upset, but that isn’t always the case. According to the Blue Cross, dogs may eat grass simply for the fact that it tastes nice! Yes, we don’t get it either, but it turns out fresh, crisp grass can be pretty enticing for your pooch.
Of course, this isn’t the only reason, and dogs may also eat grass out of boredom, which can be addressed by creating a more enriching environment for your dog using toys, food puzzles and play.
While this is normal behaviour, if your dog is not eating their usual food or is vomiting (or otherwise showing signs of illness), you should consult your vet immediately.
Hearing their dog howl can be an unsettling and worrying noise for pet owners, so it's no wonder this is one of the many terms pet owners are searching for.
Originally, howling was a way for wolves to communicate with their pack or to warn away other animals from the pack’s territory. Nowadays, of course, our dogs no longer need to do that (although try telling that to your postman!) but dogs may still howl to communicate, either in response to another dog’s howl or another high-pitched noise (such as music or fireworks). Usually, your dog will stop his howling once the source of the noise has also stopped.
As well as communication, howling can be a sign that your pet is anxious or in pain. If you notice these, and any other signs your dog may be in distress, do consult your vet as soon as possible.
Barking is a completely normal and natural thing for dogs to do, and as well as being a way to communicate with us, many dog owners will already know that dogs bark in response to others noises too, such as the ring of a doorbell (or of the postman approaching!). Dogs may also bark out of fear, or to protect their territory.
While these are normal reactions, sometimes barking can signify a behavioural problem, or be problematic for your neighbours. The RSPCA have some great tips on how to address this, and when you may need to consult a vet or animal behaviourist.
Wag their tails?
Much like the age-old question, ‘why do cats purr?’, dogs can wag their tails for a number of different reasons — not just to show happiness, as you may have thought. Tail wagging instinctively begins at around three to four weeks, and as well as showing happiness or excitement, a tail wag can also be a sign of nervousness or fear.
The position of your dogs tail (and of course, their current environment) can help you to ascertain what it is that's making your dog's tail wag. For example a low, gentle tail wag could mean your dog is feeling curious, whereas a big tail wag (and bum wiggle) usually means happiness!
And did you know that tail wags can vary from breed to breed? It’s true! Take a look at some of the neighbourhood dogs next time you’re at the park and you’ll notice the difference in wags, depending on the breed and size of the dog!
You can find lots more answers to common pet-related questions on our blog, so be sure to have a sniff around.
Or, come and join the conversation over on our Community Forum — the perfect place to connect with likeminded people and share advice and support on all things house sitting, pets, travel, and more.