If Animals Can Really Feel Love
In most cases, our house pets become full-fledged family members. We often say we love them, but they can’t tell us about their feelings. This is where much debate takes place about whether pets really love their owners or just let them take care of them.
5-Minute Crafts tried to figure out whether animals can actually love.
The brains of many mammals are surprisingly similar to the human brain. So experts believe that animals can have the same spectrum of emotions as people.
Love is a bright and complex feeling that everyone understands in their own way. If we look in a dictionary, we’ll find a definition like this: “Love is a feeling of deep affection.”
If animals can love
Experts say that for animals, we are way more than just people that feed them. House pets and zoo animals get really attached to their caretakers. And because attachment is a form of love, animals can love.
There has been a study where scientists watched the reactions of cats and dogs to their owners. The experts conducted that animals are attached to their owners. While dogs openly show these feelings, cats tend to have more of an avoidant attachment style.
Certain chemical reactions in the human brain are responsible for love and attachment. It’s the same with dogs. Experts found that in some situations, when a dog and a person are looking at each other, the oxytocin levels in their bodies rise.
Another study showed that cats are just as attached to their owners as dogs or even children are to their parents.
If animals can care about people
When we get a pet, we assume the role of caretaker. But sometimes, situations may change. Scientists found that dogs care about their owners. For example, they might try to comfort sad or crying owners who are trying to share their feelings.
Experts did an MRI of dogs’ brains and found increased activity in the regions connected with attachment, empathy, and a theory of mind in response to their owners.
A theory of mind is a belief system about what others think and want that is continually updated. So dogs apparently wonder what their owners are thinking about.
Feelings that wild animals can have
There are feelings in the world of wild animals too. Animals can feel empathy. There is one documented case of how elephants saved a lost woman. She was found the next day surrounded by the elephants guarding her against hyenas. And there are witnesses that say humpback whales help seals being hunted by killer whales.
But some relationships between animals look like romantic love. Lovebirds are a symbol of love. These birds choose a partner at the age of 2 months and spend their entire lives with them. They love sitting next to each other and hugging.
Gentoo penguins are just as romantic. When they want to declare their love to a female, males will search the entire beach for the smoothest pebble they can find to present to their special lady. If she accepts it, they mate for life.
Wolves mate for life at the age of 2 years. A pack is usually made up of an alpha male, an alpha female, and their offspring.
Monogamy is found in all kinds of animals, including insects. But most animals are still polygamous. In many species, the male mates with several females. And the females of some animals can have offspring from several partners at once. But sometimes, males decide to be with one female only and help raise the offspring. This is a good example of romantic love.
How animals show us their feelings
House pets show love by being excited when we come home. They try to spend as much time as possible with the people they like.
To show their love, cats bring prey to their owners, like mice or birds. If a cat is really attached to an owner, it follows them around everywhere, purrs, and bumps its head against them. Cats also feel sad when owners leave and are happy to see them when they come back, just like dogs.
Dogs show their love even more actively. They jump on their owners, lick them, and wag their tails when they come home. Dogs share their toys with their owners and look for physical and eye contact.
Experts say that the love of house pets is not unconditional. In some cases, people can lose the trust of their pet. But it happens less often than with people.