Can Pets Fall In Love?

By Renee Colvert
The Place For Pet People | Cuteness

Any pet owner who’s given their furry best friend a rawhide, a catnip toy, or the like will tell you their pets have absolutely been in love. But scientifically, can pets fall in love the same way humans fall in love?

The short answer is: yes.

The longer answer is: yes. Dogs more than cats, but we can’t prove they “fall in love” romantically.

What is love, exactly?

First, let’s define love. Webster’s defines love as… (kidding. We’re not going to do that to you.) For this story, we’re not talking about the “in love” that makes you declare “OMG, I’m in love with that cat costume” We mean the no-control-over-this “viscerally happy ” kind of in love.

Dog enjoying a bone
credit: Abenfield1/iStock/GettyImages

Oxytocin and your pet.

The thing that you don’t have control over is a hormone called oxytocin and pets have it too. It’s released to encourage bonding, and thus aiding in survival. Oxytocin is released equally for companionship love and romantic love (desire to mate). Animals can’t verbally communicate their desires, so there’s no way to know if pets experience romantic love.

Man with cat
credit: Neniya/iStock/GettyImages

First, let’s discuss pets’ ability to love humans.

Based on research by neuroeconomist Dr. Paul Zak for a series on BBC2, titled “Cats v Dogs,” dogs produce more oxytocin after playing with owners than cats do.

guy and his dog, golden retriever, nature
credit: Nevena1987/iStock/GettyImages

The experiment consisted of 20 pet owner with their pets: 10 dogs and 10 cats. Zak took saliva samples from all of the participants, both shortly before and after playtime to measured oxytocin levels. While studies have already shown that both dogs and their owners release oxytocin while gazing into one another’s eyes. Fewer studies have looked at cats.

Girl playing with Siamese kitten
credit: JackF/iStock/GettyImages

The results? On average, dogs were found to produce almost five times as much oxytocin than cats, with saliva levels rising by 57.2 percent for dogs and 12 percent for their feline counterparts.

For cat owners screaming at the screen “How dare you?!” right now, we’ll admit it wasn’t a conclusive study. New York Magazine was quick to point out the flaws and missing considerations in this experiment, suggesting the oxytocin levels likely had more to do with the stress of the laboratory than the ability to love. John Bradshaw, a University of Bristol scientist who studies animal behavior, argued “[W]e know that cats, being territorial animals, usually react badly to being taken out of their regular environment – while dogs on the other hand, usually stay relaxed provided their owners are there.” Valid point.

Romantic dog - jack russell terrier
credit: K_Thalhofer/iStock/GettyImages

Point is, regardless of the degree, pets can love their humans.

Now, can pets love each other?

Instagram is brimming with adorable pet couple accounts. But is this real, or something created by humans? According to Dr. Marc Bekoff, a researcher and former professor of animal behavior and behavioral ecology at University of Colorado, Boulder, it’s sort of real. “If you define love as a long-term commitment — meaning they seek one another out when they’re apart, they’re happy when they’re reunited, they protect one another, they feed one another, they raise their children together — then of course non-human animals love each other.”

Cat pillow, dog blanket
credit: bodza2/iStock/GettyImages

Broadly Magazine reports that dogs can also feel “the aches, pain, and anguish that humans are so adept at afflicting on their lovers.” Citing a time when wild coyote got rejected in a love relationship and moped around for days.

pug with sad eyes sitting at the table
credit: katoosha/iStock/GettyImages

So, next time you suspect, your pet is “in love” or “heartbroken ” you’re probably right.

Couple of jack russell at sunset
credit: Antonio Gravante/iStock/GettyImages
COMMENTS FROM LOVINMYPUP:
Yes they can.  When Bella (my blue Doberman)  was training for her service dog certification Bella met a Golden Retriever named Duke.  Needless to say I became friends with Duke’s mom and Bella and Duke became fast friends.    Bella would know that we were going to meet Duke when we got within 2 miles of His house. But it turned into more than friends..   They would play until tired, then lay down and cuddle until the next round of play.  They would share each others food and water – at the same time.
Unfortunately Duke’s Mom passed away and Duke was adopted by a relative of hers in another state.   Bella became sad and wanted to sleep all day after we didn’t see Duke in 2 weeks.  I finally contacted my friends family and asked them to send me something of Duke’s     When the blanket arrived it was like Bella was on an antidepressant.   But I can’t wash it and lose Duke’s scent.    So Bella has a piece of Duke with her in her bed.  It was definitely eye opening.
Don’t forget to check out the banner/links to the various on line stores to the right of this page  (lap top) or beneath the article (smart phone).  There are traditional pet stores as well as well as  specialty stores for gifts that would make any pet parent ecstatic!  There is also a link to Amazon and Walmart where you can purchase anything that they sell.   Purchases through these links help me keep this site up and running.
Your assistance in this area would be greatly appreciated    And don’t forget to leave a comment so I can tell if  i am meeting your needs.   Your fur babies are important  family members.
                            Make sure you share your love with them each and every day!

 

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