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How do animals speak to us?

Although animals do not speak human language, they can tell us quite accurately what is on their minds. They are excellent at using their species-specific 'body language' and any good owner should understand these signals clearly.

Dogs mainly use gestures and facial expressions and basically it is always about his attitude. The way a dog stands reveals the most. It can speak to us either with its whole body or with its individual parts. When everything is normal, the dog is relaxed, the body is not held in tension and all the paws are on the ground. No spasm. No wagging of the tail, no tucking of the tail between the legs, no threatening lifting of the tail. There is nothing unusual or significant going on and he is just relaxing. If he is afraid, he crouches down and becomes "invisible" with his head as low as possible and his weight on his hind legs. If he wants to intimidate the other side, he hunches over to look bigger, stands upright with his body and head, puts his weight on his front paws and leans forward.

The dog can also communicate with its eyes by changing their shape, size, intensity and direction of gaze. When they are afraid, the eyes are big. When he's in pain or doesn't feel quite right, his eyes become little slits. If he's looking straight ahead, he's usually warning. However, in the home environment, the dog has already got used to looking straight into the eyes of the owner, so this does not necessarily mean a threat. If the dog looks away, it is showing submission or fear. When alert, he looks sideways and adjusts the whites. And, of course, he uses the well-known "dog eyes" when he wants to subdue his owner and wants a treat. If the dog is alert, it raises its ears and tilts them towards the object of interest. Ears backwards signal friendliness and submissiveness. Ears flattened against the head indicates fear.

A closed or slightly open mouth means relaxation and comfort. A good-naturedly lolling tongue is also typical. In fear, the dogs close their mouths, in offence they crouch their muzzles menacingly, in anger they pull their lips tightly together and clench their front teeth. An open mouth regulates body temperature and if a dog yawns, it may be tired or nervous. You may also be surprised to learn that tail wagging has a bunch of meanings, not just joy. If the dog is relaxed, his tail is in its natural position. If he is really happy, he wags his tail freely from side to side. If something interests him, he puts his tail high or horizontal. If he is afraid, his tail is pulled low or between his hind paws. And if he wants to indicate that you'd better not approach him, his tail is stiff.

And what about dogs' understanding of human speech? In 2004, the journal Science published a study on border collies called Rico. Rico caused a storm in the scientific world by showing his uncanny ability to "rapidly map" new words. Rapid mapping is the ability to form a basic hypothesis about the meaning of a word after a single exposure, an ability that is common to young children in the years when they are learning to speak. Rico learned the names of over 200 different objects and was able to identify them by name and bring them up four weeks after he first heard them. A more recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Sussex in England found that dogs not only take emotional cues from our speech, but that they are also able to distinguish between meaningful words and nonsense. A 2014 study published in the journal Current Biology showed that dogs, like humans, use different parts of the brain to process these aspects of speech. More specifically, they process emotional stimuli in the right half of the brain and the meaning of words in the left.

If you're a fan of new technology, we've got a shortcut for you - an app called the Human to Cat Speech Translator, which promises to convert your voice into a meow to get your cat's attention. It has a fairly high rating and contains over 175 quality samples from more than 25 cats. This makes the translator confident that it will "teach you to talk to your cat".

However, if you are more of a "traditional cat talker", remember that while a dog is basically all about its posture and facial expressions, cats "talk" mainly with their tails. A neutral stance is an essential part of cat "speech" - relaxed and comfortable in familiar surroundings. Cats in this frame of mind appear to be contentedly and disinterestedly observing what is going on around them. In the recumbent position, the cat has its body and limbs stretched out, curled up in a ball, or positioned on neatly folded front paws. The cat may occasionally blink or keep its eyes half closed. Ears are not pricked up, but are usually loosely erect and pointed forward - if it hears something in its surroundings, it may turn them slightly (each ear in a different direction). His whiskers are relaxed; they point sideways and their shape in this position sometimes resembles a smile! The body is in a graceful and relaxed position, with no tension that would indicate that he is about to run or jump.

Tail up. When your cat holds his tail high in the air and walks around his territory, he is expressing confidence and contentment. A tail that points straight up signals happiness and a willingness to be friendly. And look at the tip of the raised tail. A slight curve can indicate a particularly happy moment. A tail curved like a question mark. If you notice a curved tail, you should take a break in your daily activities and play with your furry friend. This tail position often signals both a playful mood and that your pet is ready to have fun with you. Tail down. Pay attention. A tail stretched straight down can indicate aggression. A lowered tail is a sign of a very serious mood. Remember, however, that some breeds, such as Persians, tend to have their tails down for no particular reason. Tail tucked. A tail tucked under the body signals fear or submission. Your cat is nervous about something. Tail flicked. A tail that resembles a dish brush is a sign of a very worried and frightened cat that is trying to look bigger to deter its enemy.

Tail flicking. A tail that moves rapidly back and forth indicates both fear and aggression. Think of it as a warning that you should hold back.

Tail flicking. A tail that wags slowly from side to side usually means your cat is concentrating on something. You may see this position just before your cat pounces on a toy or a kibble that has fallen out of the bowl.

Tail wrapped around another cat. When a cat wraps its tail around another cat, it signals the same gesture as when you put your arm around someone else's shoulders. It's an expression of friendship.

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