What is Happening in Your Pet’s Brain When They See You

Gresham Animal Hospital_What is Happening in Your Pets Brain When They See You
First, any pet owner knows that your furry (or feathered) family member recognizes you and the rest of the household. There is, however, some difference as to how your pet may greet you when you first come home. If you are a cat owner, you may get different shades of aloofness. Birds can be the most excitable of the bunch—unless, that is, you have an Energizer puppy. Well, it seems that these differences in the way you are received by your pet all comes down to how they perceive you. Let’s break down the perceptions for each type of pet.


According to John Bradshaw, a cat-behavior expert at the University of Bristol, cats treat humans like other cats. Putting their tails up in the air, rubbing around our legs, and sitting beside us and grooming us is exactly what cats do to each other. Sure, they can tell humans are a different shape and larger, but socially they treat humans as their peers. Your cat thinks you are just a bigger version of them. This also makes sense why cats are more aloof than a dog or bird. Cats, in general, are not highly social animals. In fact, the largest reason cats go to the hospital is because they get in fights with other cats.
Most cat owners know that their pet has learned to tolerate them—even love them. A good indication is when your cat kneads you, they are signaling that they trust you and are hoping for some type of grooming in exchange—just as their mothers would.


While dogs and cats have roughly the same intelligence, the biggest difference is the behavior that dogs display around humans. Where cats socially treat humans as they would other cats, most dogs were bred to perform for humans. So they are constantly watching for cues on how to act and how to behave.  Jobs like hunting, fetching, and herding all require dogs to take cues from their owners. If it seems like dogs pay more attention to their human counterparts it is because they are.
Dogs also take it a step further. They can determine how you are feeling and read facial cues. What is also interesting is dogs are actually more conscious of these cues than humans are. Humans develop an unconscious understanding of another human’s tone of voice, body posture, and even pheromones. Dogs pick these up too, but on a more conscious level where they are actively processing these cues to determine how to behave.


Science won’t go as far as saying love, but they are comfortable using the terms “emotional bond” or “emotional attachment.” They qualify these types of bonds and attachments as emotional because the bird can develop these bonds regardless of who feeds them. In other words, it is not a transactional bond—it is truly an emotional one that usually lasts the entire bird’s life. It is not unusual for a bird to pick one household member to follow around the house—even if they are not the one who feeds it.
There are multiple factors that may determine how a bird chooses to bond with a human (or even other pets), however, the biggest factor is who gets to the bird first. The strongest bonds develop early.


Your pet loves you. Even if it’s in different ways and for different reasons, depending on the type of pet. If your cat is more social, they will see you as a momma. A dog is truly your best friend and is constantly trying to read you. They can read you so well that they might be able to beat you at poker. A bird’s bond is permanent and unshakable. Most birds mate for life and are capable of mourning the loss of a loved one.
So when your cat seems to ignore you, or your dog is naughty, or even if your bird seems to be distracted. Know that they still love you.
Gresham Animal Hospital is equipped to provide the services and treatment your pet needs under one roof. Keep Gresham Animal Hospital in mind next time your dog or cat needs a checkup, shots, or vaccines. Give us a call at 503.666.1600 to schedule an appointment today.

“You’ll see how much we know, and you’ll know how much we care.”


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