Pet Love Languages: How to Know Your Dog or Cat Loves You

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Ways to show your pet that you love them.

A calico cat brushing up to its owner to get pet on the head.

Purrs, cuddles, playtime, tail wags … dogs and cats may not be able to speak our language, but they have their own ways of showing their owners affection.

Understanding how your pet expresses affection and how to respond in kind makes for an ongoing happy and loving relationship. So how do you know if your cat loves you? What are the signs your dog loves you? Consider how your pet communicates.


What Are the Five Love Languages?

It's widely accepted that humans express love and affection through five different love languages - and our pets use them, too.

1. Quality Time

The cliché is that dogs won't leave their owner's side, while cats want nothing to do with them. But both cats and dogs can express their love by spending time with their owners, whether it's sitting together in the same room or following them around the house.

2. Words of Affirmation

Does your dog wag their tail and bark when you tell them they're good? Does your cat purr when you pet them or greet you with a meow? This is how our pets say they're happy when we give them attention.

3. Physical Touch

Head-butts, cheek rubs and kneading your lap (which stems from nursing as infants) are all ways cats show affection. Dogs also love touch and will embrace belly rubs and snuggles from their owner if their love language is physical touch.

4. Acts of Service

When you love someone, you want to make them happy. Animals feel the same way and want to please their owners. When a dog follows their owner's commands, they're showing respect. If your cat keeps household insects under control, it could be their way of showing they care.

5. Giving Gifts

It's never thrilling to find a dead mouse or bird at your feet, but your pet is actually attempting to please you. Hopefully they'll quickly realize toys or newspapers are much more acceptable gifts.


How Can I Show My Cat or Dog I Love Them?

Here's how to communicate with your cat or dog in their specific love language.

Quality Time

If you're wondering how to show your dog you love them, try taking them on plenty of walks. Of course, this is important for your dog's health, but it also signals that you want to spend time with them. Try to avoid using your phone while out and about, so your dog knows you're focused on them.

Other ways to enjoy time with your pet can be as simple as tossing toys back and forth with your cat or spending time snuggling with them on the sofa. Take your dog to the dog park so they can run free and play with other pups or enjoy a game of fetch. Everyone, including your pet, needs entertainment and these are all ways to spend quality time with your pets while they have fun.

Words of Affirmation

Talk to your pet. While your dog or cat may not understand the words, they understand tone. One recent study in Animal Cognition suggested dogs may prefer "dog-directed speech," which is similar to how people speak to infants. So speak in an excited, higher pitched tone and your pet will know you love them.

One way cats show love is through their eyes. A long, slow blink means they trust and love you, so send that love right back by slowly blinking your eyes. Pay attention to how your pet shows affection, and then try to return it.

A brown dog lying on its back in the grass getting belly rubs by its owner.

Physical Touch

Perhaps more than anything, touching your pet communicates that you love them. Embrace cuddles and belly rubs, and pet them frequently. For many cats and dogs, brushing is another welcome form of touch.

Acts of Service

No one wants to use a dirty restroom, including cats. So one way to show you care is to keep their litter box clean. For both cats and dogs, you can show you respect their space by providing them with clean bowls, fresh water and sanitary surroundings.

Giving Gifts

Learn what they love and you'll be rewarded with pure joy. Put some catnip on a ball and see if your cat responds. Treats, toys or a comfy new bed are all exciting presents for dogs.

It's important to remember that not all pets enjoy the same love languages, so pay attention to what your pet loves and give them lots of attention in their preferred form.

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Date of review August 2021

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