Did you know that a dog’s tail wagging to the right often means they’re happy, but wagging to the left could indicate anxiety?

Or that when a cat licks your nose, it’s not just being affectionate—it’s actually marking you with its scent glands?

In Australia, where around 69% of households own a pet, understanding these quirky behaviours can transform your relationship with your furry, feathered, or scaly friends.

From a dog’s expressive body language to a reptile’s unique way of sensing their surroundings, let’s dive into the fascinating world of pet behaviour, decoding what our pets are really trying to tell us through just some of their most common behaviours.


1.Tilting Head to One Side

A dog tilts its head when it’s uncertain about something or trying to hear better. This is often seen when they are curious or waiting for more information from their environment or their owner. If it persists it can also indicate a range of medical issues, so don’t hesitate to reach out to your vet.

2. Shaking Head

Dogs shake their heads to relieve tension, shake off water, or after being aggressive or alert. It can also be a sign they were eagerly waiting for something. If this more frequent than normal it could indicate ear issues, have a look and a smell, if you are not sure then book to see the vet.

3. Yawning

Dogs yawn when they are tired, stressed, or feeling threatened. Yawning can help ease pressure and tension, and it’s also common when dogs meet other dogs.

4. Licking Lips

This behaviour usually indicates that a dog is stressed or uncertain. It can also mean that they are sexually active or trying to appease other dogs and in some instances nauseous This is what we call a “tell” that your pet is quite unhappy or unwell.

5. Wagging Tail

A wagging tail generally signifies friendliness or happiness. Rapid wagging held down shows submissiveness, while slow wagging can indicate alertness or confusion.

6. Growling
Growling can mean a dog feels threatened, is protecting its territory, or is in a playful mood. It’s a warning sign that the dog may become aggressive if the perceived threat continues.

7. Barking
Different types of barking convey different messages. Loud, rapid barking can indicate aggression or a sense of danger, while a short, soft bark usually means friendliness or a desire to play.


1. Chattering

Cats chatter, often when they spot birds or small animals outside. This could be due to frustration from not being able to hunt or excitement about the potential prey.

2. Kneading

When a cat presses its paws into a soft surface, it’s a sign of contentment and comfort, harking back to when they used this action to stimulate milk flow from their mothers.They also have scent glands in their feet that release a familiarization pheromone (scent hormone) that relieves anxiety by providing the scent of comfort.

3. Rubbing

Cats rub their heads against objects or people to mark their territory with scent glands located on their heads. It’s a sign of affection and ownership much like kneading.

4. Bringing Gifts

Cats may bring their owners “gifts” like dead mice or birds as a sign of appreciation or to show their hunting prowess. You better be prepared to be grateful, no really LOL

5. Twitching Ears

If a cat’s ears are twitching, it can indicate anxiety or agitation. Upright ears show they are alert and listening to their surroundings.

6. Rolling Around

When a cat rolls on its back, it’s showing that it feels safe and trusts you. It can also be an invitation to play.

7. Purring

Cats purr when they are happy and content, but they can also purr when they are in pain or anxious as a self-soothing mechanism.


1. Binkying

When a rabbit jumps and twists in the air, it’s called a binky. This behaviour indicates that they are extremely happy and excited.

2. Thumping

Rabbits thump their hind legs to signal danger or to express annoyance. It’s a way of warning other rabbits or getting attention. Female pet rabbits are more likely to do this because of their maternal hormones and territorial protection.

3. Nose Twitching

Constant nose twitching helps rabbits smell better and detect changes in their environment. It can also indicate that they are curious or excited.

4.Lying Down with Legs Stretched Out

A rabbit that lies down with its legs stretched out behind it is relaxed and comfortable. It shows that they feel safe in their environment.


Rabbits have scent glands under their chins. They rub their chins on objects to mark their territory, indicating ownership and familiarity with their surroundings much like cats.



Reptiles, being ectothermic, often bask in warm areas to regulate their body temperature. This is a normal behaviour essential for their metabolic processes.

2. Hiding

Reptiles hide to feel safe or to regulate their temperature. Providing hiding spots in their enclosure is important for their well-being.

3. Head Bobbing

Some reptiles, like lizards, bob their heads as a form of communication. This can be a territorial display or a sign of dominance.

4. Tongue Flicking

In snakes, tongue flicking is a way to gather information about their environment. It helps them sense prey, predators, and mates as they taste the air.

5. Shedding

Reptiles shed their skin as they grow. Frequent shedding can indicate a healthy reptile, but issues like retained shed can point to health problems.

6. Escape Attempts

If a reptile is frequently trying to escape its enclosure, it might be stressed or its environment may not be suitable. Ensure the enclosure meets its specific needs for space, temperature, and humidity.

Helping owners to understand some of these common behaviours in dogs, cats, rabbits, and reptiles can help you better care for your pets and respond to their needs. Recognising changes in their normal behaviours is equally important.

If you’re ever unsure about what a specific behaviour means or if you notice any concerning signs, it’s always best to consult with a professional.

At Direct Vet Services, our team of experienced veterinarians love seeing you and your besties no matter furred, feathered or scaled. We are here to help you decode your pet’s behaviours and ensure they put their best into every day . Book an appointment with us today to get personalised advice and keep your buddy happy and healthy.