Cats and Dogs
Article Rating
1 звезда2 звезды3 звезды4 звезды5 звезд

Do cats experience love?

Do our pets ever really love us – or do they just stick around for the food?

‘Dogs respond with an oxytocin surge when interacting with humans . ’

I t is almost a year to the day since Dustin, our milky-eyed nervebag of a cat, died and we still miss him a great deal, although he was not a great giver of emotion. We miss his refusing to look our way immensely. And his not wanting to be stroked there, there or there. But it wasn’t Dustin’s fault he was like this. Unknown trauma in kittenhood (he was left in a shoebox at the front door of a vet’s surgery) meant that he lived his entire 11 years in terror of being mauled to death by some unseen enemy. Understandably, this constant fear made Dustin very, very nervous.

Through many years of care and affection, we almost managed to rescue him from this anxiety until – almost as if to prove a point – Dustin was mauled to death by two pet dogs off the lead. When we pulled his frozen body out of the freezer before his funeral, Dustin had a withering expression – “I told you so” it seemed to say. This was the only time we really got to stroke him properly. Frozen solid.

I often find myself wondering whether Dustin loved us. The shamefully needy part of me wants reassurance that we made his 11 years as pleasurable as possible. But can we ever really understand what pets feel for us? After a year of this topic swirling around in my head, I thought I would share where I’ve got to.

Is the cat happy with this embrace?

First, some definitions. There is something very British about the fact we have many, many words to describe types of falling moisture (mist, drizzle, hail, sleet, etc) and yet the most dramatic and powerful of emotions – motivating billions of humans to do extraordinary things for one another each day – is chucked into a single bucket labelled, rather blandly, “love”. One can’t help but feel that the ancient Greeks had it right, by pulling love apart into various strands. Storge (“store-gae”) is the love between family members, for instance; eros is erotic love; philia is something like the loyalty that friendship brings; philautia is love for the self. And so, in this piece, I would like to break the concept of pet love into these neat and easily digestible Greek chunks.

To storge, familial love. It won’t surprise you to learn that dogs, more than any other pet, exhibit oodles of this form of love for us. And, unlike most other pets, these attachments have been the subject of many scientific studies. The science confirms what we knew all along, that most dogs actively choose proximity to humans and, within a few months of being born, a puppy’s attraction is clearly toward people rather than other dogs. Dogs exhibit varying degrees of separation anxiety when their humans temporarily leave them. Blood pressure rates in dogs lower when they are being stroked by us. It is a form of storge that we share with one another. No question.

Studies of brain chemicals add further weight to this relationship. In dogs and humans (in fact all mammals) the behaviours that bond individuals are maintained through a cocktail of molecules that are absorbed in different ways by the brain. Many of these are regulated by brain hormones that include vasopressin and oxytocin, the (dramatically over-hyped) “love” molecule. In all mammals (including humans) production of this hormone spikes when individuals are sexually aroused, while giving birth and while nursing offspring. It also rises when we see those that we love, particularly close family members. Interestingly, dogs respond with an oxytocin surge not only when interacting with one another, but also (unlike nearly all other mammals) when interacting with humans.

A similar phenomenon occurs with cats. One small-scale study suggests that cats do receive an oxytocin boost upon being petted by their owners, so there may be love there, but it reflects one-fifth of the amount seen in dogs. If anything sums up cats, it’s this.

Never tickle a parrot down its back or on, or under, its wings .

But what of eros? Thankfully, most dogs or cats don’t view us in an erotic light. Even leg-humping isn’t likely to be a sex thing. The intentions of a horny dog may not necessarily be to inseminate their owner’s leg, but instead to manage unresolved tensions within the human-canine household. Some argue it could be about dominance; others that it could be to let off steam. There is also a chance that, well, a bit of friendly leg-humping just feels really nice to a dog, but not necessarily in a knowing, sexual way. The behaviour is seen in male and female dogs, and, occasionally, in cats.

Birds, however, are another story. Birds are far more likely to feel a warmth for their owners that you could term eros. A parrot that is tenderly stroked in the wrong places by its minder, for instance, will often misread friendship signals as foreplay and begin producing sex hormones. Should you wish not to sexually excite a parrot, try not to stroke down its back or on, or under, its wings. These are the areas that males and females preen in the early stages of their courtship in the wild. A stroke like this is like the kiss and a cuddle that readies them for sex. Upon discovering this fact, I realised I had more than once inadvertently sexed up a parrot.

Ancient Greeks had no word for cupboard love, but, undoubtedly, this is a love the vast majority of animal pets may feel for us. The pet frog or snake that readies itself from its slumber when the humans appear with food. The fish that swarm to the top of a tank at feeding time. Even invertebrates such as stick insects and hissing cockroaches might approach something like this form of love. And you really could argue that it’s a kind of love – something close to philia, a loyalty or a dependable friendship, with the emphasis on food dependability. Sure, it’s not a love that inspires sonnets, but it’s something.

Dustin, Jules Howard’s cat.

A desperately depressed part of me wonders if Dustin loved only himself – that he exhibited philautia. That his each and every day was consumed with where best to hide, how best to be fed and how best to maintain the status quo of survival. This is the ultimate slap in the face for self-obsessed human carers like me, and so considering Dustin in this way naturally saddens me. But then I remember something wonderful. Rare moments of … something else.

Every few months, when he thought we were fast asleep, a very different Dustin would show himself to us – but he would only emerge in the darkest of night. Dustin would sit on the end of the bed and he would watch me sleep. As I lay on my front, he would wait a few minutes before making a stealthy approach and he would begin to pummel his paws against my ribs. A deep purr would emanate from his broad body. This choking purr moved my bones as I held my eyes closed. Minute after minute, he would go on like this, purring and pummelling, and then he would change position. He would lie down and rest his chin in the cleft between my shoulder blades and stretch his paws over my shoulders as if cuddling me.

I would lie there motionless, eager not to ruin these rare and magical moments, breathing in the rhythmic vibrations of his deep purrs. Sometimes, a long, sinuous blob of gelatinous pleasure-drool would roll down my neck. I didn’t care. I wore it as a badge of honour. But then it would end. After about 20 minutes, the spell would lift. Dustin would run out of the door, apparently disgusted with himself for exposing his emotion so wantonly. I don’t think the ancient Greeks had a word for a love like that. A love like that is hard to pin down, hard to put into words. You know it when it happens, that is as close as I can get to putting it into a sentence.

And so, you loved like you lived, dearest Dustin. Cautiously. Yours was a careful love, but a real and vivid love, nonetheless – a love on a spectrum of incredible ways in which humans engage with other animals on planet Earth and, in fleeting moments or in lifelong infatuation, they engage back.

Do Cats Feel Love When You Kiss Them?

do cats know kisses mean love?

Cats can be so stand-offish that it’s difficult to know if they understand when we give them affection. If kissing your cat’s furry little head doesn’t get you the reaction you wanted, don’t be disappointed. Cats feel a lot of emotion, even if they don’t actively show it.

When a cat loves you, it’ll react positively to kisses, usually with purring, slow blinking, licking you, and leaning against you. If a cat reacts negatively, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t feel love for you. It just means that it doesn’t want affection from you at that moment in time.

The idea that cats can feel love is much debated, even among feline owners. However, once you learn how cats communicate, you’ll understand why your cat reacts the way it does when receiving kisses.

do cats like kisses on the head?

What Do Cats Think When We Kiss Them?

When you kiss your cat, what it thinks depends on its mood.

When in an affectionate mood, a cat will want to return the affection. Your cat can’t kiss you back because kissing isn’t something in a cat’s communication vocabulary.

You can tell that your cat is happy to be kissed through body language, such as:

  • Purring
  • Licking you
  • Rubbing against you
  • Exposing its belly
  • Head-butting
  • Slow blinking
  • Ears slightly forward and to the side
  • Kneading
  • Falling asleep

When a cat does any of these things, you know you can keep the kisses coming. However, cats are fickle and can change their tune in a second.

You need to be able to tell when your cat wants to be left alone. Continuing to kiss the feline after it’s shown clear signs of wanting you to stop can annoy your cat and cause it to avoid you in the future.

How to Tell If a Cat Doesn’t Want to Be Kissed

Although cats are affectionate, there comes a point where they may want to be left alone.

When this happens, they’ll let you know by giving you certain signals, either with their bodies or through vocalization, such as:

  • Hissing
  • Getting away from you
  • Ears pushed back
  • Low yowling
  • Swatting at you
  • Rapid tail flicks

When your cat displays any of the above signs, you must stop and move away. Not only will your cat possibly hurt you, but it could lead to your cat avoiding you later on.

Cats are creatures of habit who behave based on good and bad experiences. Getting kissed when they don’t want to be is a negative experience for the cat. Too many of those, and the cat will soon associate you with negative feelings, leading to a weakened bond between you and your cat.

Of course, if you’re your cat’s primary caregiver, it’ll take more than a few uncomfortable moments to sever the bond. Nonetheless, it’s still a good idea to oblige your cat when it’s sending you clear signals.

Cats don’t understand that we have a different communication style. So, when we ignore them when they try to communicate, it confuses and stresses them out.

Do Cats Like Kisses on Their Body?

Kissing your cat on the body is generally okay. Like most things, it depends on the cat.

Cats don’t have any scent glands on the sides of their body, so it’s not an area they commonly use to rub against things. They mainly use their head, and the rest of the body usually follows along, but only due to the headbutting.

If your cat doesn’t like being petted on the body, it won’t like being kissed there either. Before going in with your head, test the waters by petting your cat on its sides. If your cat doesn’t complain, you can leave a kiss.

what do cats think when we kiss them?

Do Cats Like Kisses on The Head?

Most cats love being kissed on the head. The head area is a safe zone where many cats like to be touched. With that said, all cats are different, so your cat may not like being kissed there. The only way to truly know is to test it out.

If your cat doesn’t like being kissed on the head, it could be because of how you kiss your cat. Loud smooching noises are likely to displease your cat.

Remember, cats have sensitive hearing, so loud noises close to that area will surely displease them. When kissing your cat on the head, be gentle and try not to make too much noise.

Do Cats Like Kisses on the Nose?

Cats dislike being kissed on the nose. It’s a sensitive area for them, but they also use their nose to communicate different things. A big part of cat communication is scent, and when they press their nose against something, they’re doing so to gather information.

So, when a cat has no desire to gather information from you, kissing it on the nose is rather rude. It’s an invasion of space that many cats don’t appreciate, so it’s best to kiss them elsewhere than risk getting them angry.

Cats carry diseases they can transfer to you through their saliva. Due to how important their sense of smell is, cats also press their noses against things that you don’t want to interact with, such as cat food, bugs, and their litter box.

Cats feel love when you kiss them, and some cats will kiss you on the lips. However, whether your cat appreciates the gesture every time is a matter of preference. Some cats will love kisses all the time, while others prefer it to be a rare gesture.

I’m Richard, the lead writer for Senior Cat Wellness. I’m experienced in all cat health-related matters, behavioral issues, grooming techniques, and general pet care. I’m a proud owner of 5 adult cats (all adopted strays), including a senior cat who is now 20.

Link to main publication