woman holding a Siberian cat with green eyes

Pet Love Languages: How to Show Dogs and Cats Love

Have you heard of the five languages of love? It’s a concept that can help improve our romantic relationships, but it can apply to our four-legged sweeties too.

What Are the Five Languages of Love?

It’s a pretty straightforward concept. Basically, it says that we prefer to give and receive love in one or more of these five languages:

  • Words of affirmation
  • Quality time
  • Acts of service
  • Gift giving
  • Physical touch

If you know which language your partner—or in this case, your pet—feels best to them, you can strengthen your bond by making it a regular part of your interactions.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you have a pet who follows you all over the house, constantly drops toys in your lap to start up a game, and never misses a chance to sit near you. They’re showing you that they like to express and feel love through quality time spent together. You can use this insight to brighten up their days by setting aside a few time blocks where you focus solely on them.

Words of Affirmation

Our pets can’t understand the words we’re saying except maybe “sit,” “stay,” and “get down.” But they can certainly understand our tone of voice and appreciate a nice compliment. Tell your pet what a good boy or girl they are at various times during the day, and not just when they do something you asked.

Fun Fact

Puppies lap up baby talk according to research (adult dogs not so much). If you’re looking to win a puppy’s trust, try using a sweet sing-song voice.

Quality Time

Spending quality time with your pet is a sure-fire way to show them you love them. It can be as simple as playing a game of chase or fetch in the house. You can also plan special events with your pet. For instance, take your dog out for a puppuccino at your local coffee shop or invite your cat to sit with you on the couch and watch a nature series together.

Acts of Service

Plenty of pets love to serve their two-legged family members. They might run to the door to secure the house from the delivery person or comfort you when you’re feeling blue. One of the best ways you can return the favor it to make sure you’re taking great care of your pet.

  • Keep them well-groomed by brushing their coats, giving them a bath when needed (even cats need a bath from time to time), and trimming their nails.
  • Feed them a nutritious diet that you can liven up with other foods, like bits of cooked chicken, safe fruits and veggies, or an occasional taste of tuna.
  • Make sure they get plenty of exercise. You can take your dog out for long walks or encourage your cat to jump around and swat at a toy.
  • Brush their teeth using a toothbrush and toothpaste made specially for pets. Pet paste even comes in flavors your pet will love like chicken or fish.
  • Give your pet lots of safe and sturdy toys to help keep their bodies and minds active.

Taking your pet to the veterinarian regularly is another important act of service. Your pet might not be fond of those trips, but routine wellness exams can help your pet stay happy and healthy.

Quick Tip

Pet insurance helps you manage your veterinary bills, so you can have more cash to spend on fun stuff like pet toys and treats.

Get more money-saving pet care tips.

Gift Giving

Some pets enjoy giving their main person gifts. When that gift is a caught mouse or something pulled out of the garbage, it’s not all that nice for us. But even then, we can appreciate the sentiment.

You can express love for your pet by surprising them with a present. It can be something you buy from the store, like a new puzzle toy to gnaw on or catnip-filled ball to fling around the room. You can also pick up treats in a flavor they haven’t tried before.

If you don’t want to spend money on a gift, you can make them from things you have around the house. For instance, you can create a DIY toy in no time by cutting holes in the top of a clean pizza box, dropping in some toys or treats, and letting your pet have fun fishing them out.

Or whip up a simple homemade treat for your pet, like these easy peanut butter balls for dogs:

  1. Mix together half a cup of peanut butter (make sure it’s not sweetened with xylitol, which is toxic for pets), two cups of flour, and two eggs.
  2. Add water until you can roll it out as a dough and use a cookie cutter to cut it up into shapes.
  3. Put them on a baking sheet and cook for around 15 minutes at 350°F. Be sure to let them cool off before giving them to your dog.

man being licked on the face by a shar pei while sitting in the open hatchback of a car and drinking coffee

Physical Touch

Lots of pets love to follow their favorite person around, lean on them, and brush up against their legs. If your pet craves physical touch, give them plenty of good petting and gentle scratching where they like it the most—maybe around the ears, under their chin, or all over their belly.

You can even try massaging your pet if they’ll let you. You may have to start slowly at first to get them used to the feeling. Use two or three fingers to make small circles near their shoulders and gradually work your way down their back. It’s helpful to attempt a massage when they’re already feeling relaxed or tired out from an energetic game.

Did you know?

Some experts in dog behavior don’t think dogs like to be hugged. It can make them feel trapped. But of course, every dog is different, and yours might like a cozy embrace.

How Dogs and Cats Say I Love You

Our pets can’t get out the words, “I love you,” but they tell us they love us in so many ways. They run to the door to greet us with an excited dance. They snuggle with us on the couch. They lick at our hands and faces (which can feel a bit rough when your kitty is doing the licking). They also purr and make other happy noises when we cuddle with them.

One of the more unusual ways cats show us their love is with a headbutt. That sounds strange, but there’s a reason for it. Cats have scent glands in their foreheads, so when they bump their head against you, they’re leaving their mark. It’s how they let everyone know that you belong to them.

In the end, it really doesn’t matter how exactly you or your pet shows each other love. It just matters that you love them and appreciate the love you get back from them.