When I first joined PHS/SPCA, I asked our behaviorist why my dog and others I see around the dog park will do their business, then take a step forward and use their back paws to “scratch” at the ground, in what looks like a lame attempt to cover up their poop the same way a cat might in a litter box. I figured dogs just weren’t as smart or clean as cats. Not the case, at least not in terms of this particular behavior. Dogs aren’t trying to cover up their mess. They have scent glands in their paws and are actually leaving their scent behind. Now, you would think that poop, alone, would be enough of a calling card, but some dogs go the extra mile to let others know where they’ve been. Cats have a similarly interesting behavior, but it involves direct contact with their owner. It’s common for a cat to rub its face on their owner’s head. Many first-time cat owners don’t understand the behavior. Don’t worry. It’s a sign of comfort and affection. Rubbing, for a cat, is a natural instinctive behavior. They have scent glands located on their head and around their mouth. Cats may rub on household objects like door jams, table and chair legs or your legs. As he rubs, he’s leaving behind facial pheromones. Folks who study cats have learned that rubbing actions indicate a positive emotion and a sign of comfort versus scent marking described above which indicates stress or a threat. Does Scooter scoot across your carpet? Murray does this from time to time, which is always a nice look when we have company! Many people assume this means the dog has worms. He might, but this is usually not the case. It’s more likely that he’s suffering from allergies or he has discomfort related to an impacted anal gland. Aren’t you glad you asked?
Scott oversees PHS/SPCA’s Adoption, Behavior and Training, Education, Outreach, Field Services, Cruelty Investigation, Volunteer and Media/PR program areas and staff from the new Tom and Annette Lantos Center for Compassion.