Those of us who live with pets are sure that they love us back, and not just because we feed them. But how do you know if your pet loves you?
The canine brain is wired to build bonds with other species, including humans. For example, your dog may have “adopted” your new kitten and cared for them as their own. Cats have also been studied and shown to have a similar ability to form attachments toward humans.
Even birds have similar brain functions even though the brain anatomy is different when compared to mammals. If cats, dogs, and humans display affection, there’s no reason to think that birds are any different. Dogs, cats, and birds all have unique ways of expressing affection, using body language, vocalizations, and touch.
Eye See You
We see love in our pets’ eyes when they are relaxed. Dogs may squint a little, displaying a peaceful expression. Sometimes cats will give us a slow blink. These cats feel calm and comfortable in our presence. Return the feeling with a slow blink back! Parrots show love and trust by closing their eyes. When they are comfortable enough to sleep, they see us as a member of their flock and feel safe.
When they love us, they want to be close to us. For some, that means flopping down in our lap even if it’s only their head that fits. Others are satisfied to stand next to us. They may reach out a paw, rest their head on our feet, or lean against us.
Cats have a secret reason for wanting to touch us – they are marking us as their own! They use their facial scent glands and weave between our legs to deliver the love message. Birds give friendly nibbles or gentle bites. They may snuggle with us or cuddle under our chin. Some lower their head for a nice scratch.
Let’s Get Together
Many of our furry friends greet us when we come home, want to go with us when we leave, and follow us throughout the house. Dogs are excited to start a new day with us. Cats often sleep with us at night and encourage us to keep petting them. Birds will seek our attention or call out to us when we return home.
When dogs are happy to see us, we know it. Sometimes, their whole body quivers with happiness! An interesting study was done in 2007 that showed when dogs see a familiar person, they wag to the right. When they are stressed or uncertain they wag to the left.
Cats don’t wag their tails like dogs, but the tail position can express their level of happiness. Look for a tail that is straight up, gently waving side to side, or wrapped around your leg in a hug. Birds talk with their tail too. They wag or flip their tails to express happiness. They may even briefly fluff up while wagging.
Vocalizations can tell us how our dogs feel. They may “woo woo” when they’re happy or excited to see us. Cats purr or meow when we come home as if to say, “Where have you been all day?” Some birds can speak to us and say “I love you” if taught to do so. They may sing, chirp, chatter, or whistle while gently preening us.
Our pets will invade our bathrooms when we are most vulnerable, hold our hands, give us hugs, groom us, and sleep on our heads to show affection. Rest assured, no matter how our pets show affection and happiness, our brains respond with increased feel-good levels of biochemicals that help us build our relationships with our companion animals.