Understanding your pet’s love language

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Understanding your pet’s love language - Vetster

Yes, dead wildlife is how they say “I love you.”

Even though they don’t do it with words, our pets meet us more than halfway when it comes to communication. We speak to them in our strange language, use off-the-scale high vocal pitches, and request — nay, demand — all the cuddles. And those are some ways we show love for our pets. But they’re not about to reciprocate with an “I love you human,” talented parrots aside.

To learn more about how our pets communicate love, we connected with Vetster veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Lopez. According to the Canadian Animal Health Institute, Canada is home to approximately 7.7 million dogs as pets and 8.1 million cats (the numbers in the U.S. are similar, though there are more dogs than cats in the States), so we focused on those two popular pets.

It’s puppy love.

“Does your dog ever follow you to the bathroom? It’s because they love you,” explains Dr. Lopez. They want to spend time with you no matter what you’re up to. And when it comes time for doggos to number two, they’ll look you straight in the eyes to show that they trust you during this vulnerable time.

According to Embolden Psychology, dogs only make eye contact with humans, not their canine clan. So it’s definitely a special show of adoration.

Your dog may have another interesting way of expressing love that’s not so sweet. Yep, if your dog brings you dead wildlife, they are absolutely over the moon for you. It’s totally a miscommunication between species, like when you’re gifted a thoughtful hand-knitted sweater but it’s really ridiculously completely itchy. It’s a really nice gesture, but what am I meant to do with this? At least they’re trying? (Cats are famous for this, too. The dead wildlife, not knitting.)

There are more classically human ways that dogs show us their love, too. When they spend time with you, get close to you, and lick you, those are all tell-tale signs that your dog is expressing love. And if they lean on you, well, that’s like, love, and everything in between.

Dogs do really love their humans. A study on animal cognition and animal behavior conducted by Emory University showed that dogs’ “reward centers” are triggered by just the smell of their owners. And because dogs navigate the world according to their sniffer, this is significant. Dogs would rather smell “Eau De Their Human” than most other scents.

Some breeds of dogs are more loving in general, and each dog has their own personality. So if your pup isn’t showing their love in the traditional signs, that’s totally fine. They’ll show you in their own ways.

If you’ve recently adopted a dog and they’re not showing love, Dr. Lopez encourages patience. Considering we don’t know the background of the dog or what they’ve been through, it’s important to take time to figure out what makes them feel comfortable. They may be motivated by treats, toys, or walks. Be patient and you’re likely not too far off from getting some puppy pooping stares.

The cat’s out of the bag.

When it comes to tell-tales signs that your cat loves you, you just need to look at their tail tale. If your cat wags its tail, they’re not pretending to be a happy puppy. It’s actually the opposite: they’re an angry kitty. But if your kitty wraps their tail around you and rubs up against you, they’re communicating their love.

If your cat allows you to pet them, especially on their tummy, they’re showing trust and affection. And when they start to purr, if you listen carefully, you’ll hear “I love you human, I love you human.” (Don’t quote us on that.) Purring is how cats vocalize their enjoyment and adoration.

When it comes to eye contact, cats are ready to get their stare on. If you’re looking to win a staring contest, don’t seek out a feline opponent. But one way that cats communicate their adoration is through eye contact, so if you’re looking for some love, you know where to look. Cats will stare at you and sometimes even slowly blink. That slow blink is sometimes referred to as an “eye kiss,” and your cat may appreciate it being reciprocated. So work on your eye kiss skills.

There are many other ways that cats communicate their love towards humans. Just like their canine friends, different breeds might have different temperaments. And each cat of course comes complete with their own personality.

So if you’re wondering how much your pet actually loves you, look for their love language. If your dog is leaning on you with their full body weight, that’s a lean of love. If your cat is sitting nearby with their tail brushing up against you, that tail is saying love. If your dog says “I love you” or your cat cooks you dinner, you may want to alert the media. But, seriously, if you do have any questions about your furry loved ones’ behaviour, you can always reach out to a vet on Vetster 24/7.