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Do Pets Love?

It’s common knowledge that we love our pets, and will often go to the nines to make sure our furry friends are living the best possible lives. Monogrammed beds, comfy sweaters, Gourmet food – our pets have it all. Well, recent studies have taken an increased interest in the chemicals involved in the relationships between owner and pet, and how that love translates on a scientific level. The findings have been fascinating – and unexpected.

When we look into our dog’s eyes, a hormone often referred to as the “love” or “cuddle” hormone is released in our brains. This is the hormone that is activated in all mammal’s brains when a deep bonding experience occurs. While humans experience it frequently and with many different encounters (be it social, romantic, or maternal), we know less about when it is released in our pet’s brains. In an experiment conducted to see just how attuned our dogs can be, owners were instructed to gaze into their canine’s eyes. Results were affirming: Oxytocin levels increased for both human and pup, and the connection was the greatest when lots of petting, cooing and affection occurred. This might not be surprising from the human standpoint – we already rely heavily on eye contact and will frequently feel surges of love from looking at our loved ones – but from the canine perspective it is quite astounding. After all, wolves have not yet shown to experience an increase in oxytocin from eye gaze, and yet their very close ancestors do.

Interestingly enough, another study which examined play between a young dog and a goat showed tremendous increase in Oxytocin for both mammals. And although the same has yet to proven for cats, we now know that our four-legged friends respond positively to play, affection, and most importantly – our love.

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