April 1, 2024


Why Does My Pet Do That?

by Countrycare Veterinary Professional

Have you ever wondered, “Why does my pet do that?” Well, our Patient Care Coordinator, Becky, has some great answers to your questions.

Why do cats knead?

Did you know that your cat may have been “making biscuits” for its entire life? Kittens knead their mother when nursing to stimulate milk production. Kneading later in life may help to release the same feel-good hormones that occurred during nursing. Kneading also helps to release tension and promote relaxation.

Wild cats knead the grass to create a comfortable resting place. The same is true for our domestic divas who may knead the soft bedding before lying down. Cats may knead their favorite people to show affection. Kneading their favorite bedding, places or people leaves scent markings from the glands in the feet.

Other slang terms for kneading include making bread, working the dough, happy paws, and mashing potatoes.

Why do cats purr?

While most people think that a purring cat is a happy cat, it turns out that cats use purrs to signify a variety of emotional states, not just happiness. A cat can also purr as a coping mechanism for stress, to solicit food or attention, and to communicate with other cats. A cat that is purring at a veterinary hospital may be very stressed and scared and could be purring to self-soothe or to communicate appeasement.

Cats may purr to make their humans happy and healthy. Scientists have reported that a cat’s purr can reduce blood pressure and stress levels in humans and that the frequency of a cat’s purr — between 25 and 150 hertz — can facilitate bone density and healing.

Did you know? Big cats that roar, like lions, tigers, and jaguars don’t purr. The only exception is the Cheetah.

Why is my dog mounting/humping?

Mounting behavior is a natural, instinctive behavior that occurs in puppies 3-6 weeks of age, most commonly during play. Both male and female puppies may mount each other.

Mounting can also occur when adult dogs play with another dog or person. Mounting behavior can be one way of conveying social status in dogs.

In unneutered male dogs, mounting behavior is influenced by testosterone, but don’t assume the behavior will stop once your dog has been neutered. While neutering will reduce the mounting behavior by approximately 50%, not all humping behavior is sexual.

Humping can occur when dogs are excited, such as during play or after greeting another dog. Some dogs may perform this behavior when they see their favorite dog friend or person.

Sometimes dogs hump to get their pet parent’s or another person’s attention. It is difficult for most people to ignore a dog when he is mounting their leg! If the person is sitting on the ground, the dog may mount them from the side or on their back.

Why is my dog “smiling”?

Dogs smile by lifting their upper lip to reveal the front teeth often with a closed mouth. This smiling is usually accompanied by other greeting behaviors, like approaching, wagging, or even whining.  Smiling is an appeasement and greeting behavior that seems to be directed only at people. Dogs don’t smile at other dogs.

Smiling is a form of active submission and may be accompanied by other submissive behaviors such as curling their body down, laying the ears against the head, or rolling on their side. Smiley dogs will often wag their tails in a wide sweeping or circular motion and approach you with a curled body.

Because dogs may show their teeth for several reasons, it is important to evaluate other cues to know how your furry friend is feeling. If she is jumping around with her mouth open and tongue lolling, she may smile because she is enjoying playtime with her favorite human or she is excited to go for a walk. However, if she is nervous about a strange human approaching or avoiding punishment for chewing on your new shoes, her smile may mean something entirely different.


Becky, countrycare animal complexBecky is the Patient Care Coordinator at Countrycare Animal Complex and has been serving pets and their people here for over 18 years. As a Certified Fear Free Veterinary Professional, she educates our staff on making our patients as comfortable as possible while they are here. Becky practices what she preaches with her 17 pets (not including fish) at home.