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Animals in Literature

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Bad Dog

This is a story about a young girl believing her ‘dog’ is acting bad, when really she has a cat! A hilarious take on the differences between dogs and cats and the importance of researching your pet before getting it.

Why use this book?

  • Compares the differences in natural behaviours of cats and dogs.
  • A good springboard for discussing animal body language, communication and responsible pet ownership.

Animal Welfare Considerations:

  • On the cover page, Rocky is shown wrapped in a box. While cats do naturally like being in boxes, it is important that a lid is never placed on the box.
  • Rocky is shown playing in the fish tank. While cats playing in fish tanks is a common occurrence in children’s books and movies, a discussion should be had with students on if this is actually a good idea. It is important to have a cover for your fish tank/reptile aquarium to protect the animals inside!
  • It’s a common misconception that cats can’t be trained, however they can be and training your cat can provide both you and the cats positive benefits! This Toronto Humane Society document has information on training your cat.

Ask Your Students:

  • Is Rocky doing anything wrong or behaving “bad”? No!, Rocky is just expressing her natural behaviours (i.e.: scratch, climbing, sleeping, playing with shoelaces, etc). These behaviours are very important to animals’ well-being and it’s important to allow them to express these behaviours (but we can encourage them to express them in less destructive ways)
  • What could the girl do to allow Rocky to still do these behaviours in a way that is more tolerable for people? Get a scratching post, ensure Rocky has toys for play/enrichment, make sure fish tank is covered, etc..
  • Go through the book again with your students, and ask students to look at the body language of Rocky and ask if they can tell how the cat is feeling? (i.e.: nails out/tail straight up = scared, eyes closed, rubbing against mailman’s leg = content).
  • Turn to the page where Rocky has her paws in the fish tank. Ask students: What is wrong with this picture? How do you think the fish are feeling in this moment? What could be done help the fish feel safe? Ensure there is a lid on the tank so Rocky can’t get to the fish, place objects in the fish tank (rocks, plants, castles) for the fish to hide, ensure Rocky has other forms of enrichment to keep her occupied.
  • If you were giving advice to the girl in the book on how to treat cats with kindness and respect what advice would you give?

Activities:

  • How are cats and dogs the same? How are they different? Have students make a Venn diagram showing the similarities (domestic animals that require people to care for them, mammals, drink water, need veterinary care, etc) and differences (behaviour, cats need more protein content in their food, a litter box, different forms of play/enrichment, cats sleep a lot, etc). Have students share their Venn diagram with a partner and add anything they might have missed.
  • What are other common behaviours of other popular pets? Choose an animal to learn about their natural behaviours and how we can help the animal express them?
  • As a class watch Learn how to draw Rocky with the author Mike Bolt! Have students draw Rocky (or their own cat) then add items that help meet the needs of a cat. Cat food, water, veterinarian care, toys/enrichment, bed, scratch post, collar, etc.
  • Reading body language can tell us how both people and animal are feeling. As a class watch Cat Body Language – Signs and Postures (3:42). In pairs, have students act out the different emotions mentioned in the video and see if their partner can guess what emotion they are conveying, first as a cat and then as a person. Friendly, unsure, relaxed, annoyed, content, irritated, scared, and playful.

Additional Resources Related to Book:

  • For additional information on common cat behaviour issues to help address them, read this ASPCA article.

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