Fur the love of pets

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Do Dogs and Cats Really Know When We're Feeling Sad?

Beyond words

Dogs are well known for their big hearts and eager responses to our needs, always at the ready to adore and protect us. Despite a reputation for being aloof and independent, cats are far from indifferent to our feelings. As any pet parent knows, our pets offer quiet consolation to help brighten our mood. They may not be able to share a kind word of reassurance, but they express their affection and support in many other ways: with a purr, a whimper or a rub, as if to say, “It’s alright.”

Scientific proof

Skeptics claim these behaviors come from self-interest and aren’t true empathy, because animals can't really understand. But most pet parents will agree that although our cat or dog may not know the reason for our unhappiness—and sometimes we don’t either—they do seem to genuinely want to ease our hurt. According to research, pets act understanding because they actually do care about us.

Studies conducted at universities in London and Vienna, and at Emory University in Atlanta, indicate that cats and dogs can actually detect when we need sympathy and will intentionally try to make us feel better. The findings reveal pets will even approach weeping strangers with concern and will attempt to rescue fellow animals in distress.

Vice versa

Dogs and cats have a rich emotional life and they’re an endless source of joy for humans. Considering our deep bond, and exchange of love and trust, our furry friends’ nurturing nature shouldn’t come as a surprise—just as we can tell when our pet is upset or feeling down.

So next time you’re forlorn, reach out to a dog or cat for a touching gesture, a sweet look and some soothing attention. And be sure to tune in to them, too!