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Can Your Pet Love You Back?

September 20, 2017


It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that many pet owners love their dog, cat, bird or exotic. But, beyond an African Grey verbalizing "I love you", can your pet feel similar emotions as you do? Darwinism is most often credited with the general hypothesis that defined the existence and nature of emotions in animals, as well as the idea that human emotions may have evolved from the same mechanisms. Decades ago, a study at the University of Wisconsin removed infant monkeys from their mothers and raised them with a surrogate made of cloth or wire. Infants raised with the wire mother became fearful and desperate while those with the cloth surrogate seemed psychologically sound. Lead psychologist Harry Harlow interpreted this to be influential evidence that animals need love.

Recent studies suggest animal love is evident in numerous ways, such as the loss of a mate that transcends other relationships in animals who mate for life. When jackdaws (member of the crow family) were studied at Emory University, it was noted that the widow often died shortly after losing a mate. In comparison, humans are 1.4 times more likely to die following the loss of their loved one. Today, scientists have gained a better understanding of how the hormone oxytocin works in the brain of men and women after close emotional encounters. A similar finding exists in animals, but only after, they have formed an adult attachment with another.

According to behaviorist and author Patricia McConnell, a dog's physiology for creating social attachment is so similar to humans, that if any person behaved like our pet, we would call it love. After all, pets have been known to risk their lives to save an owner and often grieve when an owner is no longer present. Unlike a human companion, you cannot ask your dog or cat if they love you. Then, on the other hand, humans don't always tell the truth. At PrimeVET, our caring veterinarians believe you should shower your pet with love and affection, as well as enjoy all the emotions they show in return. Rest assured, anytime your pet is with us, we try to show them just as much love as you do.

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