A new leash
on life

a smiling orange cat holds the leash of a happy blue dog in its mouth

Learn how to understand your pet's behavior and body language with veterinary technician and certified behavior consultant, Tabitha Kucera.


Tabitha Kucera kneeling next to an orange cat

We partnered with Tabitha to empower pet parents to strengthen the bond between animals and humans through education and behavior modification. Our common goal: to help pets live happier, healthier lives.

Always contact your veterinarian to rule out medical issues before contacting a certified behavior specialist.**


Your pet communicates through their body language. They'll tell you what makes them scared, anxious, happy, and relaxed. Being aware of your pet's normal behavior in different contexts will help you detect changes in body language as well as any associated changes in the way your pet may be feeling.

Understanding pet behavior 

Common pet myth #1

"You should punish a growl or hiss."

These reactions are a way for your pet to express fear or discomfort. We need to show our pets that we hear them and should adjust their environment as needed.

illustration of a cat clutching the leg of its owner

behavior issues

The most common behavior issues Tabitha sees are aggression, reactivity, house soiling, and separation anxiety.

The good news is, understanding what your pet is trying to communicate through their body language and behavior can help address the root cause and improve the situation.

For more information, our friends at the ASPCA® have provided additional resources on common dog and cat behavior issues.

  • Aggressive behavior in cats and dogs can be caused by fear or pain. When the pet is afraid of something coming closer to them, they may retreat, growl or hiss, or even bite. When aggression is caused by pain from an underlying medical condition, touch, restraint or a reaching hand could make it worse. Overstimulation through playing and petting may trigger biting or swatting in cats while rough play with dogs can trigger behaviors like hard mouthing and jumping up.

    An aggressive dog
  • Reactivity is a label Tabitha uses to describe a high-arousal emotional response to a stimulus such as excitement or frustration. Generally, these behaviors are not ideal. A reactive dog's behavior could be barking excessively, lunging, pulling, and not being able to focus.

    A startled dog barking
  • House soiling is a common issue in dogs and cats. There is a key difference between house soiling and marking. Marking presents itself as urinating small amounts, often on vertical surfaces (especially in cats and male dogs). House soiling is urinating or defecating anywhere outside the potty areas. In dogs, house soiling can be caused by lack of house training or excitement. In cats, it is often caused by an aversion to some aspect of the litter box (size, placement, dirtiness, type, number of boxes, etc.).

    A blue cat looking stressed
  • When dogs and cats experience separation from their attachment figure, this may cause some degree of anxiety. Reactions to this anxiety can include destructive behavior, house soiling, pacing, panting, stress vocalizing, and excessive salivation.

    An orange cat looking tense and worried

Common pet myth #2

"Aggression can be cured."

Aggression is normal behavior for cats and dogs. For this reason, it cannot be "cured." Pet parents can instead take steps to prevent, manage and treat it with the help of a well-qualified animal behaviorist.

A blue cat scratching up the floor

Manage behavior issues

Understanding your dog's or cat's body language will help you know when they're comfortable, fearful, excited, or scared, and it's important for recognizing, preventing, managing and treating behavior problems. When additional help is needed, pet parents should always seek a well-qualified, credentialed behavioral expert.

Addressing behavior issues

Common pet myth #3

"You can reinforce fear."

Fear is an emotional state. Rewarding it doesn't make it worse. If you notice your pet showing this behavior, it is best to comfort them if that makes them feel better—and get help from a behavior expert if your dog or cat seems fearful often.

illustration of a happy dog with glasses

Become an empowered pet parent

The ASPCA Pet Health Insurance program can help support pet parents financially and emotionally with their pets' behavior concerns. Discover how our behavioral coverage* can help with behavior issues like excessive vocalization, phobias, and destructive behavior in the home.

Find a plan that fits your pet's needs and your budget today.

Fetch your Quote

Our enrichment mission

All animals need enrichment tools for their mental health to bloom. Because of this, we partnered with Ohio-based company, Jolly Pets to donate 900 of their toys to three of The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®’s (ASPCA®) rehabilitation facilities.

The team at Jolly Pets has seen the difference their toys make for animals working through behavioral issues and the role they can play in helping prepare them for adoption. Their vision is not just to make a toy, it’s to create one that will enrich a pet's life.

To snag your own Jolly Pets toy, visit their site and use our special discount code, ENRICH15, for 15% off* at checkout.

As the ASPCA®'s only strategic partner for pet insurance, we are proud to take opportunities like this to aid in their efforts to change the mindset that all animals with behavioral issues are "unadoptable."

*Discount available September 1 - October 31, 2022

helpful resources

for pet parents