It's Science: Cats Can Love

A scientist reports that cats release the hormone oxcytocin, called the "love hormone," in the company of people and pets they're close to.

By Cat Fancy Editors | Posted: April 29, 2014, 1 p.m. EDT

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Study Shows Cats Can Love
A study shows that pet oxytocin levels rise after spending time with people and animals.
The hormone released in people’s brains when they experience kindness or love is the same one released among cats and dogs interacting with fellow pets and people, according to a recent study.

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Researcher Paul Zak of Claremont Graduate Center in Claremont, Calif., studied the release of the hormone oxytocin in people, but the cat fan within the man made him to turn his attention to cats and dogs as well.

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Zak’s lab led previous studies that uncovered this chemical basis for compassion. His team conducted dozens of studies over the past decade that showed how the brain produces the chemical oxytocin when someone "treats us with kindness,” he wrote in The Atlantic this week, in an article titled "Dogs (and Cats) Can Love."

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"Our studies showed that a large number of agreeable human interactions — from trusting a stranger to hold money for you, to dancing, to meditating in a group — causes the release of oxytocin and, at least temporarily, makes us tangibly care about others, even complete strangers,” Zak said in the story.

Zak, a confessed cat lover, found that 30% of the people who played with cats or dogs experienced a spike in oxytocin. What surprised him more, however, was the increased in oxytocin between animals. Some dogs a rise of as much as 48%.

"That animals of different species induce oxytocin release in each other suggests that they, like us, may be capable of love," Zak concluded. "It is quite possible that Fido and Boots may feel the same way about you as you do about them. You can even call it love."

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Reader Comments

Michelle    Lynn, MA

7/14/2014 6:51:16 AM

I couldn't agree more they are also very smart,see I treat my cat and dog like children and now I have to spell in front of my dog because when I talk she understands everything I say,it's amazing how smart they are if their truly loved by their owners

doreen    International

5/28/2014 4:19:18 AM

Hi cat lovers, I do believe cats are highly intelligent.....they soak up love and happy atmospheres like sponges allowing them to purr and doze off in cool corners etc etc my little girl Precious loves the dark places and does the rounds in my home everyday the same.. she is a house cat with two large verandahs to sleep in and hide behind large pot plants and genrral garden furniture.....she comes in when I call, and at bed time tells me when its our time to retreat ......

Kelli    International

5/4/2014 3:19:17 AM

I have had cats all my life and I always believed that cats are very unique pets . Most people think cats are independant and only come to you when and if they want this is so not true . My 4 cats great me at the door when I come home I have 2 cats that let me know it's bedtime at 11 pm as they sleep with me . I truely believe cats are much more personal , affectionate, and highly intelligent then they are given credit for! If a cat avoids certain people you can be almost sure there's something wrong with that person cuz I have experienced this first hand cats can read people better then people themselves! Cats actually have a bigger personality then dogs and so much smarter cuz they train their humans as to humans train their dog !!!!

Jenny    Monticello, MN

5/1/2014 4:15:12 PM

When my cats Peggy, Annabella and Prince were born on May 22, 2011 my life changed for the better and I love having them in my life.

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