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do you think animals experience love?

17 years ago

Hello! I was just wondering if you think animals are capable of experiencing love. I was reading online and there was a trainer who said animals are solely instinctual and do everything they do for survival. People just personify animals with emotions that only humans are capable of. What are your thoughts on this? I want to think that animals receive and reciprocate love. I don't have anything as proof, just my own experience. When my Jasper (7 month orange tabby) comes up to me when I'm on the computer and starts licking my face and nuzzling me I think he's showing love. I read that he's marking me with his pheremones by doing that. When he's not making a sound and then I pick him up or stroke him and he starts purring immediately I know he cares and is happy with my presence. I don't think he thinks of me as dinner or an enemy as the survivor instinct only theory suggests. I wonder about if they are capable of loving us... something outside their species. I don't think goldfish and spiders love, but cats and dogs, yes. I wonder what your experiences and opinions are!

Comments (43)

  • 17 years ago

    I KNOW my "boys" love me. What's not to love??? Ha. Ha. But seriously, I do believe that they do know that they are cared for. I have a Jasper too, only I spell it Jazzpurr, and we call him Jazz. Big,long hair, all black, with green eyes. The most loveable cat in the world. I always tell people that think cats are too independent, that they need to spend a day with my Jazz. He is sooo friendly. Wants to be near me all the time. Well, I got off the subject, but yes, I think they can feel love. :)

  • 17 years ago

    Yes, I do! And don't shortchange the goldfish! I had a black moor that I 'doctored' for nearly a year, after a while she got to the point of swimming into my hand so I could lift her from the tank to treat her. And another of the moors was nicknamed Wiggles because of his reaction to seeing us each day.

    But yes, I think the cats love us, and they certainly have definite feelings for one another. They missed our Tiffany when she went to the bridge, the kittens out of curiousity but the older, 3 y.o. cat mourned her a bit, even batting one of the kittens off 'Tiffany's' couch.

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  • 17 years ago

    I say that animals don't actually feel the same kind of "love" that humans feel. When we say love we think cuddles, kisses, looking at us in a "loving" way. I believe what the author says to a point. I think that yes, they rub against us to spread their scent, but they do it because they "love" us in their own little way. They are showing that they want us to belong to them (Isn't that what we do when we marry?). They are comfortable in their life and snuggle up to us... pack animals, and wild felines do the same thing. I wouldn't say that they love each other per se, but they are comfortable with each other. Some are more comfy with each other than others and show more "affection" toward them. There are definite relationships in the animal world... Love as we know it? I don't think so, but it's "love" as they know it, which includes grooming each other, putting scent on each other, sleeping with each other. That's what they do to us too isn't it? We're really part of their group, and they know that we're the ones who keep them comfy and happy, so they know that they better show their affection.

  • 17 years ago

    I definitely think they can love!

    And I love the name Jazzpurr! I might have to "borrow" it sometime for one of my future foster kitties. :)

    I once had a black cat named Jazzmine and I called her Jazzy. I had to give her up and I found her the best home - a friend of my mom's took her and she was the queen of the castle in their home...but they changed her name... to Blackie!

    But, back to the question - at times I see nothing but pure adoration in my dogs' eyes... I couldn't call it anything but love!


  • 17 years ago

    I know my pets love me. While I think there is something regarding the phermone thing and instinct and the like.

    I watch my youngest cat come down the stairs as soon as he hears my daughter come thru the door after school. He is attached to her literally for the rest of the day. At night he lays across her head if she lets him or at the very least makes his way under the covers to be closer to her.

    As for my dogs, my dogs love. Unconditionally. My old gal has trouble with her hips and is in pain and has trouble doing steps. This dog would follow me up and down the steps 12 times a day if I would allow her. I have limited it to 2 times per day. Once down in the morning and once back up before bedtime.

    Martha lays right next to me on her dog bed and stays there every night. If on the off chance I am not doing the morning feeding, she won't go downstairs until I get out of bed and encourage her to go on down, go out and eat.

    She smiles. I know you may not think it is possible, but I have pictures to prove it.

    Since she is the only one of the pets that cannot get up onto the bed, my husband puts her up on Saturday and Sunday. She is so happy and smiling from ear to ear. She is in her glory and would stay on the bed all day if we let her.

    The boys fight to sleep on the extra pillow I use for a bad sciatic problem. Ends up usually the both have some body part touching me.

    My middle child nudges me constantly for attention and loves to be scratched on his back. The youngest talks to me when he doesn't feel he is getting enough attention. He just needs a little pat and he sits up proud as peacock next to my office chair, just happy to be with me. If that is not love, I don't know what is?

  • 17 years ago

    Depends what your definition of love is. Dogs can be pretty darn affectionate to people yet they don't want to have anything to do with their puppies.

  • 17 years ago

    Of course they love. About 20 years ago we lost our elderly black lab Boone. She had been in failing health a while. She had raised my 2 oldest kids as her own, and then 12 years later was raising my two babies. There was no question they were her babies. She knew exactly what time "her" oldest kids got off the school bus and would go out 15 minutes early to wait for them.

    On her last day, in and out of a coma all day, she waited til "her" kids got off the bus. She lifted her head and thumped her tail then went to sleep for the last time. There is no doubt she loved her kids. Once when ExH had beaten me and I ran out to the garden to cry, Boone came up to me, laid her head on my lap, and had tears in her eyes too. She loved me.

    And I agree about the fish too. We've had several that were just fish, no personality. Then we had Super Hyper Psycho Fat Fish (nicknamed Fatfish). That's another LONG story, but he definitely had lotsa personality! He's been gone over 10 years but I still miss him a lot. He never got enough to eat and used to smack the water surface very loudly as if scolding us to feed him more. It usually worked and he grew very quickly. He hated hard rock or rap music, loved classical, and would dance to oldies rock. He loved to have us talk to him and that was the only time he would be calm and not non-stop hyper. If we put our hands in his tank, he would kind of snuggle up to them. He was a very popular source of amusement and company to all of us.

  • 17 years ago

    I was reading online and there was a trainer who said animals are solely instinctual and do everything they do for survival. People just personify animals with emotions that only humans are capable of. What are your thoughts on this?
    Great Question! I agree that animals do everything they do for survival; but to me, survival depends on having emotions. As humans, we depend on emotions such as love for our very existence. For example, how would (human) infants survive if mothers and fathers didn't love them?

    Why would we think dogs would be any different?

  • 17 years ago

    I know my animal friends love me and me them. RocKat was a bottle baby, I am the mother he knows. He gives me a look with his eyes that is so sweet and specal. Ralph my horse grandson loves everyone he meets and has a special affection for me. I have six cats, two dogs, a horse and they also have relationships with each other some of them love the other. Some of them don't.

  • 17 years ago

    You know, you will see more evidence of this (more obvious) in wild animals. For example monogomous swans...if one partner dies unexpectadly, the mate will come close to perishing in sorrow. I can think of other examples, but don't have time to pop them out right now....

    Have you seen the movie The March of the Penguins?

    One thing...I think animals (other than humans) love in a more realistic and pure manner. Once that true bond is there, come "heck or high water" it sticks like glue.

  • 17 years ago

    I look at this completely different.

    I think that people and animals experience all emotions the same way. We just express ourselves with words, and animals rely on other senses. But I don't think the things that cause us to react to certain people in certain ways is any different than what causes animals to react in certain ways. We all respond to pheremones, scent, a feeling of security, familiarity, past experiences, excitement, sounds, looks, etc. the same physiologic ways. Humans tend to think of themselves as "higher" beings capable of special abilities that I don't think are truly different from what animals experience.

    Animals communicate entirely differently than we do, but that doesn't mean their communication is less intelligent or meaningful. They probably are capable of communicating more meaningful nuances than we will ever be able to appreciate. For example, we cannot detect the difference in genders of most neotropical birds without genetic testing. The birds can see in infrared spectrum, and can tell not only the difference between male and female, but who is currently reporductively active or not. They also communicate who is pair-bonded and who isn't. Just because birds don't wear wedding rings doesn't mean that they are any less committed to their mate. Ask anyone who accidently pair-bonded with their Cockatoo.

    So instead of asking whether or not amimals feel emotions, I think it is more appropriate to ask whether or not people feel emotions any differently than animals do. I'm not convinced that we do.

  • 17 years ago

    Does it really matter if animals experience love? I love my dogs and I believe they love me. I happen to believe that dogs love us unconditionally and are the purest example of Christ's love for us. It seems that whatever happens to them, they just don't care. All they do is keep on giving that love ... loving me no matter who or what I am.

    Maybe what's most important is that our pets bring out the best in us. In a sense they help to complete us as human beings. My dogs set the bar high. I can only hope to come close to giving uncondional love the way they do.

    Now, if the question was do dogs feel hate then I would most certainly agree. My Maizie hates my Quest. Doesn't dislike him and isn't jealous of him. She simply has no use for him. She goes out of her way to torment him, ignore him and avoid him.

    Do my dogs feel love? I don't know. But I believe that they love me. And I am a better man for it!

  • 17 years ago

    Wow.. what a question.. I think that all creatures feel love.. but maybe we feel it in different ways. I love my dogs but I dont think that they feel the same way.. because the only way I have to measure love is in human terms, I can judge my dogs behavior in human terms.. but is that fair?
    I think animals feel love in terms of loyalty, it helps them to be a part of the pack because that means safety and food.
    If we as humans meet those needs of safety and food.. do they actually love us or are we a part of the pack and just doing our jobs as defined by the pack rules?
    I know my dogs are loyal.. to me and our pack.

    I know that some people have one dog.. or two and that I think that is where this question comes from, we as humans tend to project our own wants and needs on our animals,but dogs live in the moment, they dont hold grudges, nor do they hate.. however they do read our emotions and they act accordingly, we are the pack leaders and we set the tone for our animals behavior.
    I have dogs that dislike each other, and within the pack that is fine.. as long as each dog knows that if they fight it will result in reprecussions with the leaders (meaning humans) it will be swift and harsh.. the same as it would be in a large pack of dogs be it wolves, dingos, hyenas. but after the punishment is done it is forgotten and the pack moves on.
    I have 4 large dogs.. I do not just have 4 large dogs, I have a small pack and we interact like a pack and I am dominant female, Whatever I do.. the pack will follow.

  • 17 years ago

    Shiollie, you said it much better than I could.

  • 17 years ago

    Somebody said: We just express ourselves with words, and animals rely on other senses.

    Just because we (all animals) don't speak the same language, are we not able to send the same messages?

  • 17 years ago

    Sure they love, and they experience other emotions as well.

    Ever seen a dog hang its head and slink off it it has been scolded. Its feelings are hurt.

    I once had 2 dogs, and when one went away (disappeared) the one that was left went into depression, and would not leave my side. It was more upsetting to me to see the depressed one left, than the loss of the dog that disappeared.

    Now I have 3 dogs and will never get down to just having one by itself.


  • 17 years ago

    Sue, I thought I was the only person with the 3 dog rule. Glad to see I am not alone in my thinking. People look at me like I have 3 heads when I say I have 3 dogs:-). Nobody looks at a parent with 3 kids like they are crazy - what's with that??

  • 17 years ago

    I've seen fish happy to see people and would swim to the side of the tank when you came into the room...but dogs?

    Absolutely, my dog Lucy is beside herself when she hears my wife remote open the garage door, or when she hears my stepson keying the combination into the front door lock (it beeps) - there's no doubt about it, it's made her day when either of them get home....and she apparently hears my truck well down the street and is always at the front door for me. I know in a doggy sort of way she loves us all. Do dogs write poetry? No, but they live totally in the moment, and it's pure love.

    My former dog, who was just put to sleep a couple of weeks ago, was really 'my' dog when I lived there (he ended up with the ex and the kids) just as I suspect my Lucy is more my wife's dog than mine in some ways (she just goes that extra mile with animals, and it shows :) ) - he followed me everywhere and if I wasn't careful and lifted my feet when I walked, I'd hear his jaw click shut where I'd catch him under the chin when he was following me.

    Ex wouldn't let me see him at all, it broke my heart. I think it broke his too, he was a little older when I moved out, but within a couple of years he had some sort of cancer and went downhill from there. I'm not saying he wouldn't have gotten sick but I'm sure he pined for me. I miss him.

  • 17 years ago

    I believe that animals experience a sort of love...not in the depth that humans can, but I believe they do. My girlfriend and I have two cats, torties. One is my girl and the other is hers...when my girlfriend is away on business trips, "her" cat pines for her something terrible! It goes beyond instinct, it is a true affection.

  • 17 years ago

    Of course our animals experience love. No doubt in my mind.
    pjb999, I'm sorry your dog went to rainbow bridge without you getting to say good-bye. You will meet again.

  • 17 years ago

    Thank you Lobotome:)

    Chemocurl, when a dog slinks away because it has been scolded, its feeling are not hurt..that is a human feeling, what the dog is thinking is that it has angered the dominant being and it just wants to get away without drawing attention to itself.

    pjb999, I am not convinced about the whole love thing.... dogs are pack animals and they want the pack together, they will get excited and greet every pack member as they arrive.

    I am not an expert on animals but, I have rescued cats, dogs and parrots for 10 years, I like to think I have insight.

  • 17 years ago

    Just 3 dogs?? Hmmmm...guess I got a different!

  • 17 years ago

    Yes. Absolutely.

    "I was reading online and there was a trainer who said animals are solely instinctual and do everything they do for survival. People just personify animals with emotions that only humans are capable of. What are your thoughts on this?"

    I think he's an idiot and I certainly wouldn't let him around my animals.

    In a sense, though, he's right that humans do personify animals. But is that any different than animals "animalizing" humans?

    Interaction goes both ways, and I have absolutely no doubt that animals look at us, and try to understand us, in their own terms.

  • 17 years ago

    Animals have more love and feelings than most humans do and i don't care if someone with a doctorate in animal behavior makes a statement that they are incapabable of love. Such is just a statement
    from a person who has never really studied the responses of animals.
    Someone said above animals do not take care of their young. The same can be said of more and more humans.
    I remember research done on rhesus monkeys in the 60's where some monkeys were raised by mothers. some were raised without the touch or love of anything. These monkeys were never able to bond with anything.
    How about dogs that willingly give their lives to save their owners(I,ve seen that happen)How does that explain an animal saving its own hide?
    How about animals that make their way half way across the US to find an owner.( i've seen that once.)How does that explain an animal saving its own hide?
    How about animals that adopt a completely differant type animal.How does that explain an animal saving its own hide?
    My daughter ,her animals and i and my animals interact everyday. yet when i go in the hospital my little dog mourns,does'nt eat or sleep much and loses weight. How is that saving her own hide when she gets love and food from someone
    else she loves.
    Now lets talk about the human animal. They will kill,rape,torture for fun not even to save their hides.They have a capacity for hate and rage unsurpassed by any animal alive or dead. They will completely destroy their environment without one thought of saving their or their childrens hides.
    As Einstein once said " There are only two infinites, one is the universe and the other is the stupidity of man".
    I could list some more actions that show the love of animals.
    I have never been sure of the capacity of man to love but i'll give them the benefit of a doubt.

  • 17 years ago

    Not sure about all animals, but I strongly feel that dogs do feel love. Many will ascribe their activities and reactions strictly to instinct, but the same could be said of humans.

    "But I feel x, Y or Z"... How do you know that your emotions are not tools of evolution driven by instinct? Keeping mates together and parents with kids for survival of the species... friends are kept together for societal benefit of tribalism, etc.

    My little shih tsus act differently when I travel- the female mopes. She shows jealousy. They treat me like I just came home from war- even if they've been walked, well fed, etc. The male falls on the floor wiggling, the female hugs with her teeth (chews on my hand... too cute).

    You can't convince me that their love is any less felt or real than a human's. In fact- their expressions of joy seem far more pure and intense than those of any human that I know.

  • 17 years ago

    Pablo says----You can't convince me that their love is any less felt or real than a human's. In fact- their expressions of joy seem far more pure and intense than those of any human that I know.
    I know one thing for sure.. I love my husband but I don't greet him at the door the way the dogs do. Actually I have to wait my turn because they are so happy to see him. Seems to me that they do love him.
    Let me ask this of those who don't think animals love. Do you think they can experience happiness? If so, then what makes you think they can't experience love? They are both emotions.
    If you don't think they experience happiness...I guess all I can say is"that's very sad."

  • 17 years ago

    As a dog trainer I have to say that dogs are more about the pack. For example: When a dog licks us it is being submissive, or we ate something it likes the smell of:) If they look "happy" because they hear a word or sound they associate with an activity they like it is because they are excited and anxious. They usually are responding to us in ways that we conditioned them and we try to link the response with a human emotion or behavior.
    Cats are a bit harder, who knows what they are thinking! I know mine gets real friendly when she wants to be fed and only does certain behaviors when I'm home, not for my husband.

  • 17 years ago

    YES...dogs do know love. I don't know about other animals, but I know my dogs know love and all the dogs I've ever had knew love.

  • 17 years ago

    Stop putting human feeling on to your animals!!!! They do not see the world the same as we do!!
    Lets just talk about the dog "who loves you"
    That dog sees you as the leader of the pack and it is only natural for them to "get in good with the leader", and I am sorry to tell most people that if the dog tells you when danger is near they are doing their job as a pack member.. simple as that!
    We can think that our animal love us all we want, but we as humans think in human terms and that is not fair to our animals, think like the pack.. or research your animals natural behavior. You will get it then.

  • 17 years ago

    My dogs love me, my dogs get happy, my dogs get their feelings hurt. They feel many things and just because they may not feel them the same way, doesn't mean the feelings aren't there. It is not all about the pack and "natural" behavior. Dogs are not wolves.
    The people who say their dogs don't love them, maybe it's because they've never been given the chance. They were constantly being treated as a pack member and never allowed to let anything else shine through. Nothing against using the "pack" mentality to make sure the human is top dog. It's just that there is so much more to dogs than that.

  • 17 years ago

    Dogs are pack animals and are loyal. If your dog has bonded with you, and you are the top dog, you've got it good.

    Male cats have lust. Female cats love to be pampered, but cats in general, are independent in nature. A cat's tail is a flag signaling its mood and feeling. A hungry cat begging to be feed holds its tail erect. The fun part: Give your hungry cat a saucer of milk and watch its tail. As the cat fills up, the tail goes down like a fuel gauge. When they can't take in any more, the tail will be lying flat on the floor.

  • 17 years ago

    I like this question. Don't have any profound feelings on the subject, but I believe my dog loves me. Yesterday was a real rough day emotionally, he knew instantly. Usually when I let him out he runs off to survey his domain, yesterday he wouldn't leave my side and kept licking my hand and sort of softly nibbling my arm. I sat with him and enjoyed our time together while filling a stock tank, for maybe 25 minutes, he never left my side. When I got up to go into the house and greet the family the events of the day were the furthest thing from my mind. And I love him too.

  • 17 years ago

    Posted by jemdandy (My Page) on Tue, Nov 7, 06 at 13:48

    Dogs are pack animals and are loyal. If your dog has bonded with you, and you are the top dog, you've got it good.
    Male cats have lust. Female cats love to be pampered, but cats in general, are independent in nature. A cat's tail is a flag signaling its mood and feeling. A hungry cat begging to be feed holds its tail erect. The fun part: Give your hungry cat a saucer of milk and watch its tail. As the cat fills up, the tail goes down like a fuel gauge. When they can't take in any more, the tail will be lying flat on the floor.
    I can see you are not a cat person. Male cats do not have lust if they are neutered.( besides I'm not sure I would call it lust in an unneutered male.( More like an instinct to reproduce.) Not all female cats like to be pampered, in fact I find my neutered males want more pampering/petting then the spayed females, who seem to be more independant and standoffish. Milk is a no-no by the way.
    Do you have pets?

  • 17 years ago

    My male cats (both neutered) are more demanding of affection than my spayed female. Cow's milk is generally not a good idea for adult cats.

    Do I think animals experience love?


    Does anyone doubt that mother mammals love their babies? Many of the fathers don't and many of the actual matings are hardly romantic but then there are animals who mate for life and clearly do show romance.

    I've seen horses get so attached to each other that we had to take the friend to the show or the showhorse wouldn't calm down. Racetracks are full of other animals as companions for the horses.

    A friend's dog almost died after their other dog did die. They bought a new puppy and the old guy lived five more years of bliss in love with the puppy.

  • 17 years ago

    This is one of the best written articles I have ever seen on the subject of animals and their emotions.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Do cats have emotions?

  • 17 years ago

    I think that dogs can have emotions, especially Collies. I remember one time when I was a small boy and my mom and I were at a farmer's house. I was playing on the porch with the farmer's folding carpenter's ruler with the dog nearby, and I broke the ruler. My mom paddled my butt to show her displeasure, but it was the dog who cowered in a corner and 'cried'. The paddling didn't hurt that much. I felt more badly about the broken ruler and the embarrasment than the light spanking.

    He wasn't my dog and our houses were far enough apart that the dog was a stranger to me. The dog and I had only met earlier in the day and played together. Yet, when I got the spanking, it was the dog who cried.

    Maybe Collies are too sensitive for their own good. They show signs of distress when something happens to their human friend.

  • 17 years ago

    I had to put an ancient pony down once. It was snowing hard and getting dark. Best I could do until morning was drag the pony around the back of the barn until I could bury her.
    The other horse stood over the body and kept it clear of snow all night. He was still guarding her and clearing snow when I came out the next morning. He barely ate or drank for a week and walked around in a blue funk for a good 2 months afterwards. No survival advantage in that. Just pure love.

  • 17 years ago

    Whether dog behavior is driven by pack instinct or not does not tell us if they love or have emotions.

    Again- prove to me that human emotion is not shaped by instinct. If you cannot analyze your own human emotions, then you can also not tell me that your interpretation of dog behavior is any more valid than mine.

  • 17 years ago

    Pablo, I find it very hard to know exactly what to say to you. First i suggest you take a couple of courses in human psychology.
    I could prove to you that humans act from more than instinct but it would take at least a couple of months,there is so much research on the subject.
    Google the subject.
    Half of humans will love to a fault almost and the other half will hate to a fault. If this is
    instinct it is the antithesis of any known explanation of instinct.
    Do you really beleive you stumble through life
    without the ability to decide your actions for yourself except for genetic and chemical reactions within yourself.
    I think that is such a sad sad thought.

  • 17 years ago

    "First i suggest you take a couple of courses in human psychology."

    Your inability to hold this conversation reflects not on my education.

    "Half of humans will love to a fault almost and the other half will hate to a fault."

    Dogs have done the same. If you doubt that nurture has an effect on dog behavior, then you're not observing close enough.

    "If this is instinct it is the antithesis of any known explanation of instinct."

    I've not said that humans or dogs act purely from instinct. I've called into question the analysis that calls human emotion valid and also dismisses the possibility of animal emotion out of hand.

    "Do you really beleive you stumble through life
    without ... "

    I've not said that either. Read more carefully. I've said that it cannot be proven.

    How an animal (including humans) reacts to a stimulus is definitely driven in part by instinct. Some other part is based on life experiences (tell me about your childhood...). Nonetheless- 2 children raised in the same exact environment may have 2 different "personalities" and react differently.

    The same can be said of animals. The abused dog may be agressive or meek (same as the child). The culture (or household) that a person is raised in shapes their reactions and personality (as well as how they feel about any given situation)- same can be said of an animal.

  • 17 years ago

    Stop putting human feeling on to your animals!!!! They do not see the world the same as we do!!

    This statement is very sad. The love we experience from our pets gives us immeasurable happiness, comfort, joy and laughter. Why would you want to 'prove' that their love doesn't exist? Is being 'right' so important that you think it is ok to try and take this joy away from others?

    I think I'll continue misreading my dogs' behaviors and be thankful for what they bring to my life.

  • 17 years ago

    Animals have more love and feelings than most humans do and i don't care if someone with a doctorate in animal behavior makes a statement that they are incapabable of love.

    I couldn't agree with this more. I only WISH I had the capacity to love and show the same unconditional love that many animals display.

    One thing I've noticed over the years-- it's next to impossible to make blanket statements about animals, or even any certain species, or even breed. I'll restrict my comments to dogs and cats, because they're what I'm most familiar with. I've seen some that as stated above, would give their OWN life to save that of someone they love. I've seen them perk up when someone they love comes home. I've also seen them go into deep depression at the loss of a loved one-- human or animal. I've also seen animals who had what seemed like no emotion whatsoever. When it comes to emotional issues, animals are very much nlike humans. it's all in how they're raised. If they're raised with alot of love and care and attention, they'll give it right back. However, if you buy them, throw them out in the back yard, feed them when you feel like it, and generally don't give a damn about them, that's also what you'll get back-- an animal who just doesn't give a damn-- about anything or anyone.

  • 17 years ago

    Looks like the consesus is animals DO experience love. :-)
    Not that I ever doubted it.