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Do Animals Feel Love? More Evidence that Cats and Dogs Feel Like We Do

Any pet owner will tell you that their precious pooch or feline can feel love. See how a new study has proven what we've known all along.

Marjorie Cunningham knew her dog, Jeremy, felt love for her when he comforted her through the loss of her cat, Dickon. "He would put his head on my lap as if to say, 'Everything will be okay,'" she said.

"He stayed by my side, always making sure I felt loved and appreciated through my grief."

 

Marjorie may have been convinced that her pooch has a huge capacity for love, but scientists haven't always been so sure.

 

Recently, however, the tables have turned. A new study has addressed the question of "Do animals feel love?" scientifically. Animals have been found to release the "love hormone" oxytocin, when they interact with each other and humans.

 

A Loving Goat and His Canine Pal

 

Paul J. Zak, a professor at Claremont Graduate University, and his team have pioneered the study of oxytocin. In an article in The Atlantic, Zak wrote that the brain chemical was first found to be released when a new mother interacted with her baby. His team then found that oxytocin was released in many human interactions — sometimes even among strangers.

 

A self-proclaimed animal lover, Zak wanted to determine how these new findings pertain to animals. Do they experience the same hormone responses as humans? He decided to test the oxytocin levels of animals at an animal refuge in Arkansas. What he found was surpising and intriguing.

 

Zak found a small domestic terrier and a goat who regularly played with each other and seemed to have a strong friendship. After fifteen minutes of play — during which the friends chased, played, and jumped with one another — the dog showed a 48 percent increase in oxytocin. This rise indicated that the dog truly did view the goat as a friend. The goat, on the other hand, had a 210 percent increase in oxytocin. A similar rise in humans would indicate intense feelings of love.

 

Oxytocin Benefits Humans and Animals

 

He states, "This experiment led me to undertake experiments on animal-human relations to try to understand how animals make us care so much about them." A recent article showcased other benefits of having pets, such as staving off depression, but this study showcases the direct effect oxytocin has on the animal-human relationship and the loving, positive bond that is created.

 

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