girl hugging dog

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There is no clear answer to who loves you more as the science that measures the love emotion in dogs and cats isn’t conclusive. There is some unpublished research conducted by neuroeconomist Dr. Paul Zak as part of a new series on BBC2 titled “Cats v Dogs,” which found that dogs produce more of the “love hormone” oxytocin after playing with owners compared with their feline counterparts.

On average dogs were found to produce almost five times as much oxytocin as cats after interacting with their human companions. Only half the cats actually showed raised levels of oxytocin.

The study above was conducted in a lab environment, which may not bring out the love emotions in some pets, especially more reclusive cats. Plus there are other findings that cats are just as fond of their owners as dogs. Their feelings, however, are more subtle and their adoration more muted.

In general cats are more solitary than dogs and evolved in the wild to have different social structures and different hunting strategies. Wolves, from which dogs originate, are highly social animals that live and hunt in packs. Cats, however, go it alone. They form loose colonies based around related cats. Dogs, like their wolf ancestors, are generally pack animals living in a ranked community where there is a single leader. Together they hunt and kill larger prey. Cats are capable hunters in their own right and don’t have a pressing need to be part of a group.

Owner with cat

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According to Anthrozoologist John Bradshaw, cats are just as loving as dogs – you just need to know what to look for. Dogs are very obvious in their love: they wag their tails and slobber kisses all over you.

“The upright tail is probably the clearest way cats show their affection for us,” says Bradshaw. Rubbing their owners’ legs or nearby objects also indicates fondness, as do petting invitations. When a cat jumps in your lap or rolls on their back, they’re inviting you to touch them.

With proper care and attention, both dogs and cats will be faithful, loving pets. That love, whether it’s subtle or obvious, is what makes owning a dog or cat one of life’s best experiences.