Tips for Staying Safe Around Pets

Deciding to welcome a new pet into your family is an incredibly exciting moment for any household; however sometimes this excitement can overpower paying attention to your new pet’s moods and personal needs leading to preventable disasters. However, by taking the time to learn about your pets’ habits, boundaries, and body language, you can stop dangerous situations from happening.

Respecting Your Pet

Pets, just like you, want their personal boundaries respected.  Antagonizing or teasing your pet will severely agitate them, possibly leading them to bite or react aggressively. To prevent these episodes here are some pet boundaries you should always respect:

  • Always be quiet and gentle around your pet
  • Never bother pets who are sleeping or eating
  • Never take toys out of their reach
  • If your pet is sick or injured you need to be cautious while you get them treatment

KidswithpetsIf you have children, it is important you teach them pet safety rules too.  You should never let your child pull on your pet’s ears or tail, poke it in the face, or climb on it.  Furthermore, you should teach your child to not run or scream around the pet, especially dogs, as a child’s energy amps up a dog’s energy and will cause them to be either rambunctious, leading to running and jumping or irritated.  Teaching your child to respect animals will not only prevent your child from being harmed, but will further develop their emotional health and ability to empathize.

Reading Body Language

Even though your pet cannot speak human language, they will communicate to you via body language.  By reading your pet’s body language, you can understand their mood and read warning signs, stopping disastrous encounters before they happen. Check out this basic guide to reading your pet’s body language:


  • Happy to see you
    • Relaxed body
    • Ears forward with tail and body wagging
    • Face is interested and alert with relaxed jaw
  • Stressed
    • Turns head away and shows whites of the eyes, avoids threat
    • Facial tension, entire body goes still and tail goes between legs
    • Excessive shedding, yawning, drooling, panting and paw sweat
    • Pinned back ears and continuous licking of nose and lips
  • Anger/Possible Aggression
    • Ears flat, holds a rigid body in bold stance with closed tense mouth
    • Eyes wide open, with pupils dilated turned in direction of threat
    • Head lowered with possible growling


  • Happy & Interestedfrightened cat
    • Ears forward, possibly swiveling
    • Tail upright with fur flat
    • Back arched with fur flat, purring
  • Stress
    • Dilated eyes and tail tucked between legs
    • Excessive grooming, scratching, and vocalization
    • Choosing isolation and an increase in sleeping
  • Anger/Possible Aggression
    • Ears pulled backwards or sideways
    • Tail upright with fur standing on end, possibly thrashing back and forth
    • Back arched with fur standing on end with possible growling

By reading body signs you can begin to understand your pet’s language and combat problems before the start.

Meeting Unknown Pets

Family With Dog (2)We often become so comfortable around our own pets that we forget stranger’s pets neither know us nor are they guaranteed to have the same demeanor and behavior as our pet.  Therefore when approaching unknown pets it is best to keep the following steps in mind before approaching:

  1. Always ask permission from the owner before you approach or pet their dog or cat. Even with permission you should remain aware of the pet’s body language.  If the pet is keeping away from you, you should not approach the animal.
  2. If the pet is welcome to meeting you, you should squat down away from the pet and let the animal approach you. Ball your hand into a fist and extend it out to the pet to smell first, but do not stare directly into the pet’s eyes, they may see this as a challenge or threat. If you go slowly and the pet’s body language is still positive you can begin petting the animal from the bottom of the head, on the chest area or sides, and under the chin.
  3. If you see a cat or dog without an owner on the street it is best not to approach the animal to pet, as you do not know how socialized the dog or cat is to human interaction. Call Polk County Animal Control at (863) 499-2600 to report the stray pet.