Four legs good!

And some of you are so brave, you will rush towards a strange animal and try to cuddle it. The fact is, there are friendly and unfriendly animals out there, just as there are friendly and unfriendly people. If you learn to recognise these two categories, you can be sensible and confident when you are around animals and have a great time, too!

So, how do you tell a friendly animal from an unfriendly one? If the owner is around, just ask him or her. If no one is around, watch and observe. A friendly dog will usually hold its tail high, and wag it vigorously. It has a smile in its eyes. If it recognises you, it will bark ‘hello’.  A very frisky dog or puppy may play ‘pounce’ and dance around you, barking. Don’t be scared as long as its eyes are friendly.

A cat will come up and rub itself on your legs, sometimes purring or mewing loudly. A cow or goat will stick its nose into your hand or bag and look for food. They may even nibble on your fingers in a friendly way, as will rabbits and hamsters. But watch out and take your hand away if the animal gets too enthusiastic! Some people swear that their fish recognise and look happy to see them!

Making friends with a friendly animal is natural and joyful. But you need to be careful too.

* Always wash your hands with soap after you pet or play with a strange animal.
* Don’t stick your hand in its mouth. Yes, there actually are people, even adults, who do such crazy things!
* Leave it alone when it’s eating — you don’t want it to think you’re after its food!
* If it’s a stray that lives near your house, ask your parents to get it dewormed and vaccinated. This will keep it (and you) free from worms, rabies and other dangerous diseases.

Basically, a friendly animal shows with its body language that it wants to be petted, fed or talked to. An unfriendly animal, on the other hand, will either stay away from you or show signs of aggression. An aggressive animal is much rarer than you may think, but they do exist. Learn to recognise one by its body language. It may crouch down, looking as if it is going to jump at you. A dog may bare its teeth, growl or bark in a menacing voice. It carries its tail low and may swing it slowly from side to side.

A pack of dogs may walk towards you, looking as if they are going to chase you. Monkeys may make threatening gestures. A cow or bull may hold its head low and swing it from side to side. Even crows may attack you if they think their baby is in danger.

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