Home AnimalsCute Animal Behaviors that Are Actually Warning Signs
AnimalsBy Trista -

People love animals for many reasons, including the loving way they play. Kittens and puppies make teeny-tiny noises, have adorable wittle fur, and super cute behaviors. When animals are playful, it just warms our hearts! However, sometimes these playful and seemingly cute behaviors are actually signs of aggression. Since our pets and other animals can’t speak to us so that we can understand, we have to pay extra attention to them, and these aggressive warning signs. If an animal starts acting out of character, even if it’s cute, there’s a good chance something unusual is happening. You would either want to get away from the animal right away, try and help it in any way you can, or even contact the vet office.

This article will explain different warning signs that show animal aggression. From wild creatures to your beloved pets, the animal may be sick, anxious, feel threatened, or scared. Sometimes, animals can be aggressive with no real good explanation behind their behavior. Nevertheless, be aware of these cute animal behaviors that are actually signs of aggression. We tried to stick mostly to pets you would come into contact with, like dogs and cats. We also discuss some farm animals like cows and pigs, and even talk about some zoo animals you might see like elephants and giraffes.

Cute Animal Behaviors that Are Actually Warning Signs
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18. That elephant at the zoo is probably not really dancing.

At some point, you may have seen a video of an elephant swaying from side to side. It might even look as though the elephant is dancing. Yes, sometimes elephants do this when they hear music. However, music isn’t always playing during these videos. That means, it appears as though these elephants sway, or dance, unprompted. Unfortunately, as awesome as the idea of a dancing elephant is, this swaying isn’t always a good thing. There is a good chance that what elephants are doing is actually stereotypical behavior, which is a lot more depressing when you realize that that’s what is going on (via Ranker).

According to elephant experts, the motion of an elephant swaying side to side is the action of weaving. It usually occurs due to the psychological impact of being in captivity. When an elephant is bored, unstimulated, or lonely and deprived of contact with others like them, it will weave incessantly. While this act is unlikely to cause physical harm, it is a huge indicator that the elephant is not psychologically doing so well. Thus, the idea of a dancing elephant is actually a depressed creature stuck in captivity.

Cute Animal Behaviors that Are Actually Warning Signs
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17. When it comes to your pup’s smile, it might be something different than what you think.

We typically think that smiling is an indicator of happiness because it usually is. However, for dogs, an apparent “smile” can have a wide variety of meanings. Sometimes dogs retract the corners of their mouths to show nervousness or submission. When a dog feels nervous, it can sometimes last out, out of fear (via Benton). If your dog seems to be grinning at you, there is a possibility that they respect you enough to obey you, and they want you to be aware of that (via Ranker). 

Is your dog baring its teeth, showing you their pearly whites? Is any snarling or growling accompanying their smile? This sign shows aggressiveness and that the dog may be preparing to attack. With that said, dogs can and do sometimes smile to show their happiness. We tend to find their submissive smiles adorable, so we reward the dogs with belly rubs and pats on the head, thus creating an association between smiles and positive attention. Because of this, a smiling dog might actually be happy and have learned that doing so leads to some love from their human.

Cute Animal Behaviors that Are Actually Warning Signs
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16. A vocal parrot could be a sign of an animal in stress. 

Many birds, including parrots, parakeets, and cockatoos, spend a large amount of their day squawking, talking, screaming, and squeaking. These pretty bird sounds, including singing and even speaking your language, are the reasons many people adore these loyal birds. While these vocalizations, particularly those involving human speech, can be delightful to bird owners, excessive noises can also be a sign of stress (via Ranker).

Are you a bird owner? Please pay attention to these particular excessive noises. If you notice that your pet bird is incessantly talkative, try decreasing common stress causes. Some examples of common stressors for birds include excessive noise or light, boredom, or loneliness. It’s not stress that is causing excessive vocalization from your bird. It could be that you are inadvertently rewarding your pet for the action, so they think it’s okay. Parrots and other similar birds actually enjoy being reprimanded because it is a form of stimulation. With that being said, the best thing to do if you want to decrease screaming is to leave them alone. If none mentioned above works, you should check in with your veterinarian.

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15. Dogs and their signs of aggression.

About 1,000 Americans go into the emergency room every year due to dog bite injuries (via Benton). There are many misconceptions about breed aggression, but the reality is that any dog who is in a state of panic, fear, or aggression can and probably will bite. It’s important to recognize the behavioral cues that can help you gauge each situation independently. Common aggressive behaviors to watch out for include standing rigid and having an intense focus on a target and showing teeth or lunging at someone or (another animal) in a not-so-playful way. 

Barking and growling that sounds threatening are other things to watch out for, as well as mouthing in a controlling way (via Benton). Also, look for raised hackles, which are the fur on a dog’s back (via Ranker). Many of these behaviors are warning signs. Furthermore, there may be less than a second between the warning and the attack. It’s imperative always to be alert when around a dog you are unsure of. If you feel you are in danger of the dog, square off with the animal and make yourself seem as big as possible. In the event of an attack, it’s essential to protect yourself by using your limbs or even other tools to direct the dog’s focus away from your body and face and use force if necessary.

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14. Horses can become aggressive, too. 

Horses are gentle giants, but their size can be responsible for inflicting severe damage to a person quickly if they feel threatened or are frightened. People consider horses to be flight animals. Of course, that has nothing to do with actual flying, and it means horses will choose to flee a situation rather than confront it. They are often in enclosed spaces or stalls while iterating with humans, if not outside, which can lead to aggression when they feel threatened. Be sure always to have an exit strategy if you know you will be around a horse you are unfamiliar with. Make sure you never stand in front of an aggressive horse. Instead, stand to the left side and out of the way entirely (via Benton). If an attack is inevitable, use force and noise to drive the horse away from the size, to minimize kicking, using whatever you have available. 

There are plenty of signs to watch out for that indicate aggression if you are near an unfamiliar horse. These common aggressive behaviors may include eyes wide and focused on a target, flared nostrils, and ears pushed back against their head. A raised tail, living their front feet off the ground or stamping hard, a raised tail, and a dropped head with an open mouth are other signs to be on the lookout for, as well. 

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13. Watch out for these signs of aggression in pigs. 

You might think aggressive pigs are just a thing in the cartoons, like Miss Piggy being a bit sassy. However, there are certain warning signs to watch for when it comes to pigs, especially if you are a farmer. Just like any other domesticated mammal, farm and house pet pigs can start to show aggressive behaviors, too. It may just be more of a nuisance in small pig breeds. However, larger species can injure people when they are trying to assert their dominance or feel threatened.

What do these porkers do when they are acting aggressive? They turn sideways to show their size and will probably charge you (via Benton). They also start to chomp or snap. Pigs also use high-pitched squeals to show signs of aggression. You may experience aggressive behaviors if you live on a farm. However, even if you don’t encounter a domesticated breed, many areas have wild pigs. You could possibly come in contact with one while hiking or even golfing. To avoid being attacked, try to climb, if possible. Alternatively, you could stand and use any means you have to deter the attack. 

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12. Aggressive cats have particular behaviors. 

Cats are amazing creatures, full of mystery. Okay, some are full of laziness and just plain ole meanness, depending on their age, mood, and breed. Nevertheless, grumpy cats still need love. However, how can you tell the difference between a cranky feline and an aggressive cat that might actually hurt you? It is important to know for children and adults alike, as cats continue to be a favorite domestic pet. Encountering an aggressive cat can be just as frightening as any other type of animal. However, cats are less likely to cause significant damage. That doesn’t mean they won’t push your favorite mug right off the table to shatter on the ground.

Plus, aggressive cats are quick and may use both their claws and teeth in an attack (via Ranker). An aggressive cat may intensely focus on its target as the hair on its back raises. Aggressive cats will growl, have a stiff and upright posture, lower both its head and tail and flatten its ears against its head (via Benton). It’s best to avoid any cats who are displaying these warning signs while in your house. In the event of an attack, most cats can be forcibly removed from the area since they are smaller animals, or you can leave the room until the behavior passes.

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11. Even cows can become aggressive animals.

When you think of cows, you probably just picture a bunch of them standing in a field. Cows usually stand, sit, and eat grass. If you work on a farm, you know they have to release this food quite often, too. Besides milking a dairy cow, you might not think much else of these farm animals. So, it may sound out of character, but cows can also become aggressive. An aggressive cow, bull, or steer can do a lot of damage pretty quickly, not surprising, though, with their big size and all (via Mental Floss). Not only can they damage property, but a charging bull can have fatal consequences. 

If a cow happens to feel threatened, you may face some types of behavior similar to what a horse shows. An aggressive cow may lower their head and hunch the shoulders, flatten its ears, shake its head, have raised back hair, or turn to show his or her flank (via Benton). It’s obvious, but just in case, get out of the way as quickly as you can if you encounter an aggressive cow or bull. Even if it’s a stick, use anything large to ward off an attack and avoid turning your back on the fierce animal.

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10. Cats usually don’t wag their tails as a sign of happiness like a dog does.

Most people think it’s cute when they see a dog wagging its tail excitedly, like when it’s receiving a treat. However, we usually don’t notice a cat wagging their tail like that. Think about it: when was the last time you got home, and your cat wagged its time in joy? Now that may be a reason why some people prefer dogs over cats, and vice-versa. A happy and content cat usually does not move its tail very much, if at all. However, a distressed cat will switch their tail back and forth sharply as a warning sign (via Ranker).

It doesn’t always mean, though, that your cat is in distress or ready to attack. Some actually do wag their tails when they are getting attention. Maybe they are swaying their tail to encourage you to continue petting. In order to be able to really tell if your cat is doing it due to happiness or because it is distressed, look out for other signs of aggression it may also display, such as flattened ears or hissing (via Benton).

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9. A cat’s purring could mean something is wrong.

People believe that adorable rumbling noise that cats emit from time to time is the ultimate indicator of a happy feline. Sure, that is not exactly untrue of purring, but it is still missing the mark. Yes, cats purr when they are glad, but they also purr when injured, sick, stressed, or upset (via Ranker). Rather than indicating a particular state your cat is in, purring means don’t leave. This could be because they want you to keep petting them, giving them comfort. It could also mean that they need your help.

Some studies have indicated that purring can promote healing and increase bone density in humans and alleviate the stress we may be feeling. So, while purring can point to a problem, it can also be a mechanism for solving it. With that being said, if your kitty is sick or hurt, please get appropriate veterinary care quickly. Purring is not a replacement for treatment (via Benton). You don’t have to do a medical exam every time your furry friends give you a little hug followed by a purr. However, please pay attention to the different types of purrs you can learn as you love your cat throughout the years. Hopefully, you can start to tell the difference between a playful purr and a painful one.

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8. Margays trick their prey in such a mean way. 

There are not many sounds in this world that are cuter than the sounds that a baby makes. While humans are probably most moved by the coos made by human babies, we can still appreciate the cute noises made by other baby species, including baby monkeys. You are probably imitating the sounds in your head right now! But one thing that is definitely not cute is when a margay is actually making these distinctive sounds (via Ranker).

A margay is a jungle cat native to South and Central America (via Wiki). They imitate the cries of baby monkeys to lure the baby’s parents out to be eaten alive. And while the sound these cats make may sound cute, they certainly do not have an adorable outcome… While the imitation is said to be poor, it’s still enough to get the attention and interest of an adult monkey’s curiosity and concern. Researchers believe that margays pass this technique onto their offspring, making it a learned behavior.

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7. Licking and chewing can be cute, but sometimes the reason behind it isn’t nearly as cute.

Another stereotypical behavior that we may find cute is licking and sometimes chewing on things that are not food. When exhibited in animals like rabbits, who need to chew to manage their dental health, it’s typically not a problem. However, when this behavior is exhibited by animals who don’t normally do this, particularly primates and giraffes, it points towards a significant issue. While it may be found amusing to watch a giraffe lick the bars of its cage or enclosure, it means that the animal is unstimulated, bored, and possibly even suffering from zoochosis (via Ranker).

What is zoochosis? Well, zoochosis is a mental illness brought on by captivity in an environment that does not meet the animal’s needs (via IDA USA). This condition often occurs in many zoo animals, hence the name. Although zoos can help animals by providing medical care and food sources, the concept of being held in a cage instead of roaming free can often hurt animals. People can see these mental issues displayed in several unusual animal behaviors that may seem cute and harmless, but are actually a sign of a deeper, underlying medical problem.

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6. When your pup suddenly stops eating. 

All creatures, including animals and humans alike, need to eat food every single day to feel healthy. The food contains nutrients that help provide energy, strength, and otherwise fortify the body. If any person or pet stops eating, it can be a sign of sickness or something else (via Benton). It only makes sense that when a dog has a sudden change in appetite, it can signal several medical conditions they could have. It can also mean that your furry friend is in pain. It’s usually pretty noticeable if your dog, who usually has a healthy appetite, randomly stops eating. A lack of appetite can be a sign of pain or discomfort.

However, please keep in mind that if your dog’s only symptom happens to be skipping just one a meal, make sure their food is fresh. Double check the food to make sure it passes the smell test before you worry too much. Try giving your dog tasty, nutritious food you know they love. Your pets shouldn’t skip another meal. If the dog’s appetite remains to be off-and-on for more than a day or two, call the vet. Explain the situation, and the local animal doctor should be able to help right away.

Cute Animal Behaviors that Are Actually Warning Signs
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5. Whimpering and whining can surely break your heart. 

Anytime you hear an animal crying, it is a sign of distress. They may not attack you, but something is definitely wrong. When you hear a dog whining or whimpering, it could just break your heart. Some dogs happen to remain quiet when they are hurting. However, other dogs, especially young ones who have not experienced physical discomfort before, may whimper and cry when feeling pain. Your presence may provide some comfort and lead them to stop whining, but it does not mean they are no longer hurting. If your dog has just had surgery and is whimpering, make sure you’re giving them the correct amount of pain medication (via The Spruce Pets).

Is there no apparent reason why your pup is crying out? Then you should seek a vet’s attention immediately. There are many causes for your pets to be in pain, and some can be quite serious. The same goes for if your cat is in the same position with making those sounds. Perhaps they have a fractured bone, or painful tumor, or an underlying condition that needs surgery.

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4. Watch out if a dog (or cat) has an arched back.

Here is an unusual behavior to watch out for in your pooch. Pay attention to the arching of a dog’s back while tucking the belly up and under. It may sound strange, but this is a serious issue. However, your puppy is probably not going to attack because he feels threatened. No, this behavior indicates that your dog is in pain. Gastrointestinal distress can cause this medical problem (via Benton). Plus, anal pain caused by too full anal sac glands, or even a sign of back pain, such as a pinched nerve or spinal injury, can be causes for this type of behavior due to pain.

How can you really tell if your four-legged friend has an arched back? According to the dog walking website Wag!, pay attention to a semi-permanent, arched posture instead of the leisurely kind of stretching dogs do. This arched type of posture is an emergency. That means you should immediately call your vet and take your pup in to be examined. After undergoing some basic tests, your vet can prescribe the appropriate treatment to help heal the pup.

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3. Believe it or not, yawning can also be a warning sign. 

It is common for creatures to yawn in general. Many people only yawn when tired. They would like to inhale more oxygen without even thinking about it, so a yawn is an easy fix. Sometimes people might yawn because they see or hear someone else yawn, and it’s like a contagious reflex. Naturally, animals can yawn for the same reason of being tired, too. Animals may yawn for other reasons as well, but not because they are going to attack. No, that is not that case. Animals usually yawn excessively when they are stressed or nervous. In fact, dogs often fall victim to this unusual warning sign (via Ranker).

Does your dog yawn a lot? If you happen to notice your furry friend has frequently been yawning, try to adjust its environment. Why? To switch things up for a little change to alleviate whatever stress or nervousness they are feeling. If that doesn’t help, you can call your vet to get professional advice. You can explain the situation and listen to medical help about why your furry friend is so stressed out lately. Then, you can get your pup the proper care and attention he needs.

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2. Look out for your pet pressing their head against the walls. 

Some animals, however, mainly dogs, show strange behavior that includes pressing their head against the walls. You can quickly notice this aggressive animal sign because it is relatively unusual. This reaction might seem normal to you, and you may not really think anything of it, but the truth is that it’s not normal for them to behave in this way unless you are playing with them. Head pressing could mean several things, like the animal having several medical issues. These issues include head trauma, infection, a damaged nervous system, lead poisoning, or mental disorders (via Ranker).

Make sure you contact your local veterinarian right away if you notice your dog pressing its head against the wall. We certainly hope these warning signs in animals can help you notice a sick, sad, or scared animal. Remember that scared animals may attack because they feel threatened, even if you aren’t doing anything that deems worthy of such an attack. Keep reading for one final warning sign to look for in aggressive animals. You may never want to have this pet again!

Cute Animal Behaviors that Are Actually Warning Signs
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1. You might want to skip animal belly rubs.

Pets, including your cute feline friend, often like to show off their bellies. This playful behavior can be cute, and it might tempt you to rub their fluffy tummy. After all, this behavior seems pretty welcoming, especially with how cute kitties look with their bellies up. When an animal is showing their stomach, it is easy to assume that this behavior means that the animal wants you to rub or scratch its tummy. However, it would help if you did not hurry over to touch your cat’s belly. Why? That is because the cat can easily scratch, bite, or even kick you. (via Ranker)

Have you ever rubbed a cat’s belly only to get a bunch of claw marks on your hands? Ouch! This doesn’t seem very playful or fun anymore. Try to avoid rubbing a cat’s belly. Make sure you teach your children the same thing. Otherwise, you will have a crying child within minutes with a sore, scratched-up hand. Instead, a man’s best friend might be more prone to preferring this behavior. Dogs are more likely to welcome belly rubs, more so than a cat would (via Benton). That is, unless you like getting a hand full of bloody scratches. 

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