Can Pets Fall In Love? by Jacqueline Valencia
Many humans like to anthropomorphize their pets. It comes naturally to us because our animal companions become our friends. We make up little voices for them. We dress them up as people. We sit and talk to them, but still wonder, are they actually taking it all in? If you live in a home with multiple animals, you may often wonder if they can get along and snuggle, is it love or is it friendship? There are times when your pet goes crazy in the presence of other animals, but this is usually seen as play. Can pets actually fall in love?
Well, maybe? The science on this is still ongoing.
Professor Paul Zak of Claremont Graduate University wondered recently, “if pets cause the people to release oxytocin, known as the neurochemical of love, and traditionally associated with the nurturing of one's offspring.” ¹
He found that animals do in fact release oxycontin when around humans that they’ve bonded with and sometimes, even around other animals! While this explains a lot about human and animal interaction, there’s very little we can say to confirm if animals can fall in love with each other. They can bond, find comfort, express kindness, and consideration.There’s no greater evidence of that when you get a cat head boop or when your dog greets you at the door as if you’ve been away at war every day. However, falling love for an animal might be complicated to scientifically decipher. For now, we do have stories that showcase some evidence of true romantic love between animals. Here are a few.
- Australian photographer Tobias Baumgaertner caught this award winning (in St Kilda Pier, Melbourne), shot https://www.instagram.com/p/CHOVgcXBg0B/
These are two widowed penguins that get together every night to look on at the horizon. More on their story here: https://boingboing.net/2020/12/31/tobias-baumgartners-remarkable-photo-of-widowed-penguins-wins-more-awards.html
In London, England, a mute swan rebuffed all suitors after the love of her life had died. That is, until she found true love again. Her story can be found here: https://www.bbc.com/news/av/uk-england-london-54815987
Even in the midst of incredible circumstances, even cats and dogs can find pairings or deep friendships that last a lifetime. This is the case with Hessel, a Labrador Retriever, and a cat named Hannes. Both have been together from the get-go. Their lovely story can be read here: https://www.reshareworthy.com/bert-jonkhans-hannes-hessel-photos/
This all translates into the idea that animals can be or are truly compassionate and much like us seek to find connection in the world. Our pets look to us for guidance and nourishment, but with each other they find partnership. This can be with another animal or with us. However, this is not to say that these bonds are automatic and not without work. When you look to adopt an animal familiar, you look for traits that would gel with you and many times, your pet just picks you.
When it comes to animals befriending other animals, this is a very considered and consensual occurrence. A dog, a bird, and a cat are not naturally friendly to each other in the wild. Therefore, if the encounter isn’t chosen, a lot of patience and coaching by humans in a multi-pet household should be taken into consideration. The use of clickers and treats to acclimatize your pets to each other might be the road to a lifelong connection and this is highly encouraged. If compassion and kindness are part of a pet's natural repertoire, therefore it is safe to say love may be in the air.