What Dogs and Cats Say

If Athena and Tucker were on Facebook, their relationship status would probably be listed as “It’s Complicated.”

When Athena gets the Kitty Crazies, Tucker tries to play with her, thinking she’s asking for a game of Chase. The nongame usually ends with a hiss and a swat. Athena ambushes Tucker when he’s playing Inside Ball, positioning herself between the dog and his designated thrower. She even held held his ball for ransom once. True story.

Yet there are times when the two of them speak the same language.

In the three photos below my dog and my cat are saying so much — and it’s sweet, endearing, and very special.

As a student of dog and cat behavior — and language — I can understand most of what is going on. I’ll provide translations below each photo.

Athena rubs Tucker

Athena’s tail is straight up. She leans into him as she rubs his face. She is saying “I like you.” Tucker’s foot is bent, showing he’s relaxed. 


Athena rubs Tucker

Athena goes back for another pass, in a different direction. She stops, letting her tail curl gently over Tucker’s head. Tucker’s ears are nowforward; he knows Athena is being friendly. He even gets a chance to sniff her rear while she stands there. Sniffing cat butt is a rare and special treat.


Tucker and Athena looking at each other

After several passes, Athena sits and looks at Tucker. She blinks slowly, which is Cat for “I love you.” Tucker’s ears are now far forward as he looks back at her telling her he loves her too.

When animals talk, so much is spoken — without words.

If a cat and a dog can learn each other’s languages — and learn to read ours as well — we can  learn too.

As for Tucker and Athena, just like humans, sometimes they rub each other the wrong way and sometimes they rub each other the right way.

How do your pets communicate with  you — and with other members of your family? 

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35 Comments on "What Dogs and Cats Say"

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  1. My first cat and our first German Shepherd were inseparable. It was a beautiful relationship that lasted fifteen years. ♥

  2. Wow. I love the language translation commentary. Very interesting.

  3. easy rider says:

    It’s complicated is the perfect description… not only for the status between dogs & cats :o)

  4. Emma says:

    Those scenes play out at our house with cat bro Bert all the time! We know that language well.

  5. slimdoggy says:

    What a sweet exchange. Our pets are very expressive if we take the time to learn their language.

  6. Taryn says:

    My dogs have never sniffed a cat butt. They are in chase mode the moment they see a cat!

  7. Beautiful 🙂

    Purrs xx
    Athena and Marie

  8. Amanda says:

    These photos are absolutely gorgeous! I have 2 cats also and their relationships with my 2 dogs are also complicated, but so beautiful at times 🙂

  9. Barkocity says:

    This is super cute! I love that you took the time to analyze this relationship to try and really see their communication. Very fascinating. Great photos btw! 🙂

  10. Earl Lover says:

    What beautiful little guys. Mine would never get on with cats, unfortunately, as they have never grown up with them. It’s a shame, but they don’t live with any cats anyway. Seeing gorgeous dog/cat relationships always make me smile.

    Woofs from Earl, Ethel and I at Earl’s World!

  11. Robin says:

    These two are so sweet! I suppose that all sets of siblings have their rivalries, but as long as love is at the center, all is well.

  12. Loved the interpretation. Wish I could borrow you when little Jax bites Harley’s paw LOL I’d love to know what Harley’s thinking…

  13. So beautiful to see 🙂

  14. Sharon says:

    I love your interpretation. Our 7 month-old puppy hasn’t learned to read cat language yet and it always lands her in trouble. You are right that relationships between dogs and cats are complicated.

  15. Kitties Blue says:

    We all have our different methods of communication. Mauricio whines and whines and whines until he drives Mom and Dad and all of us crazy. Some of us use the tried-and-true, dog method of nose shoved under human hand. Such sweet photos. XOCK, Lily Olivia, Mauricio, Misty May, Giulietta, Fiona, Astrid, Lisbeth ad Calista Jo

  16. Ruth Cox says:

    Pet language I am getting pretty good at interpreting, as it applies to me and my pets. However, I have a little trouble what that body language is telling other animals. I’ll have to pay better attention to my dog interacting with other critters.

  17. Very sweet pictures with the perfect translation, as it seems! Loved the “smelling cat butt is a rare and special treat” portion 😉 I am all for studying our pets’ languages!

  18. Mr. N likes to leave us messages on the laptop. We haven’t quite managed to decipher them yet though.

  19. How sweet! They’re pals!

  20. Daisy says:

    These photos are such a great study in animal communication I love the tail curling over Tucker’s head and also that last photo of their eyes locked on each other so adoringly. Great series.

  21. MyDogLikes says:

    Awww, this helps us to better understand the interactions between the boys. How cute!

  22. Both animals and humans communicate a lot with body language. That’s really cool that you are so tuned into your pets’ body language. Great post!

  23. meowmeowmans says:

    What a beautiful series of photos, and what a beautiful message about communications. <3

  24. Great photos and love the translations. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll ever see such a thing in Rtia’s case, since she hates cats. Such a bummer! As for her communicating, she mostly just tells us how hungry she is all the time, communicated by sitting in front of the pantry!

  25. Very sweet exchange, and we love your explanation. Purrs

  26. LP says:

    Our dogs and cats get along but also have moments when the lines of communication get crossed 🙂

    Great photos 🙂

    the critters in the cottage xo

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