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Do Animals Love Us?

Learn more about how our furry friends communicate affection.


A cat rubbing its owner's face with its paws

As pet owners, it’s only natural for us to wonder whether our furry friends feel the same love for us that we feel for them. Luckily, there’s plenty of research to suggest that our pets really do think of us as valued family members and friends.  

Do Pets Love Us, or is It Just Cupboard Love? 

Some people believe that pets only express “cupboard love,” meaning their feelings are just an instinctive response to getting a meal or something else they want, like a walk or some quality pets. But recent scientific studies deliver findings that confirm the belief that animals’ emotions are real.  

Measuring Love 

People sometimes protest the “humanization” of animals, claiming that we project our own feelings onto our furry companions. But these studies and more show that animals communicate affection beautifully, even if they can’t say it to us with words. 

Dr. Gregory Berns’s research is an excellent look into what could be called dog love. By training dogs to sit still in an MRI machine, he was able to monitor their brain activity. In response to their owners, the dogs’ brains would light up in regions associated with feelings like empathy and attachment.  

A study by Oregon State University sheds some interesting light on cat love, too. Their kitty subjects were given different forms of stimuli, like human social interaction, toys and food. Their most preferred stimulus? Spending time with people.  

And, as we know, the feeling is mutual! Elderly people flourish when they have a pet in their lives. The warm companionship of an animal friend has been shown to reduce loneliness and even help lower blood pressure. Wagging tails, blissful purring, big smiles and soulful eyes prove our pets are happy to be a part of the household. And we’re glad they’re members of the family! 

Finding Your Best Friend 

Certain breeds of dogs and cats tend to be more affectionate than others, so it’s important to do your research if you want a particularly loving companion. For example, Labrador Retrievers are generally even-tempered and eager to please, which is why they make such great service dogs. Smaller breeds like pugs and bulldogs also love spending time hanging out and goofing around with their favorite humans. Other breeds that display people-pleasing personalities throughout their lives includes collies, sheepdogs and spaniels.  

Different cat breeds can be more innately affectionate toward humans, too. Ragdolls are almost doglike in the way they follow their humans from room to room and melt into your arms when held—not to mention, playful ragdolls have been known to play fetch! Scottish folds, Maine coons and Siamese cats are known to be quite cuddly and sociable, too.  

Of course, you don’t necessarily need to seek out a particular breed to have an affectionate dog or cat in your life. Rescue animals can be just as loving and sweet, so remember to pay your local shelter a visit during your search! 

Found a furry friend? Give them nutrition you can trust and a taste they’ll love with Nutrish® pet food and treats. Remember, a portion of the proceeds from every sale of Nutrish® goes to the Rachael Ray Foundation™—more than $7 million per year has been donated to help furry friends in need (2019 – 2023). Help spread the love and learn more.