If cats are known for one thing, it's that they don't care what you think. Our feline friends make great companions, but they exhibit an attitude of aloofness that often makes us wonder whether there are any feelings going on in that fuzzy head.
Our cats seem to like living with us, but sometimes they don't want anything to do with us. It makes some cat owners wonder — do our cats even like us? What's more, do they love us? Is that even an emotion they're capable of. We dug into this question to understand how our kitty's emotions actually work.
Do cats feel love? Of course they do!
While it may feel like our cats don't feel anything about us at all, but they do. In fact, most mammals feel emotions, and cats are no exception. Even though "love" is one of the more difficult feelings to measure, it's hard to deny that cats clearly feel a strong attachment to their humans.
What does science say about our cat's emotions?
Luckily, there is a way that scientists can measure our cat's emotions because cats have the same happiness hormone as humans do: oxytocin. This hormone is known as the "love hormone," and scientists measured how much oxytocin cats release.
Dr. Paul Zak conducted a study to measure the oxytocin levels in cats after they spent time playing with their owners. He measured their levels by taking a saliva sample from the cat 10 minutes before playing with their cat, and then compared that to a saliva sample taken immediately after. Dr. Zak found that cats' oxytocin levels increased by 12 percent, suggesting that cats do feel love when they play with their owners. So for those people who think that cats don't really care, thanks to their classic aloofness, science has proved them wrong.
How do cats show us that they love us?
Even though they may not always seem totally affectionate, there are lots of subtle ways that cats signal their love for us. Cats purr when they're feeling particularly content and affectionate. Cats also rub their head on you to leave their scent on you, which is another sign of their love.
Also, when cats want our attention, they are also signaling to us that they love us. Cats might roll over onto their back to expose their belly, play with us, or climb on us to show their love.
Even though cats love us, they don't love us as much as dogs do.
Dr. Zak's study tested both cats and dogs to measure their reaction to humans, and dogs showed a higher bump in oxytocin than cats. When dogs were measured after they played with their humans, dogs experienced a 57 percent increase in oxytocin (compare to a cat's 12 percent increase). We can't deny that dogs clearly experience a bigger boost in the love hormone, but that doesn't tell the whole story.
Even scientists were suspicious that cats might not feel love at all, so Dr. Zak explained that he was glad to see that the do clearly feel love and bond with their owners.
Our cats may not always be the most demonstrative, but they definitely love us.