How to Show Your Pet You Love Them

At Purina we believe that #WeAreBetterWithPets. Read on to find out about showing your cat or dog affection, and how to strengthen your special bond.
Young girl smiling whilst holding a small dog in her arms.
Young girl smiling whilst holding a small dog in her arms.
Young girl smiling whilst holding a small dog in her arms.

How does my pet know I love them?

While pets don’t have exactly the same range of emotions as humans, they are certainly capable of sharing a loving bond with you. As a pet owner you know this instinctively, but you might wonder how to show your cat or dog just how much you care.

The good news is that there are plenty of ways in which you can show your affection and help strengthen the bond between you and your pet, whether it’s by playing together, grooming them, or teaching them new skills.

Exercise together

Nothing strengthens the bond between you and your pet like doing something energetic together. Whether you take your dog for a walk in a place you both love or you play a new game with your cat, spending quality time together is top of the list when it comes to showing your pet you love them.

Sharing exercise with your pet is a great idea for many reasons. We already know that exercise is important for our health and can make us feel good, but making sure your pet gets enough physical activity means they will benefit from a healthier lifestyle too. In short, exercising with your pet is a win-win situation!

If you don’t know where to start, try these as a great way to bond with your pet:

  • Create a safe indoor obstacle course for your cat or dog (use cardboard boxes, tubes and other household objects that your pet can weave in and out of or jump over).
  • Play games that involve plenty of exercise, such as chase-the-toy for cats or ‘fetch’ for dogs.
  • Take your dog for a walk or, better yet, a run.
  • If you and your dog are up for a challenge, why not try a dog-friendly sport
A girl and dog walking on the beach together.

Groom your pet

A young man holding a cat in his arms whilst grooming it.

Few things say ‘I love my dog’ or ‘I love my cat’ more than making sure they’re always well groomed. Apart from making them look beautiful and healthy, the process of grooming itself is a fantastic way to show your pet that you love them.

Both you and your cat or dog will benefit from the time spent together as you brush their fur. Use this opportunity to make a fuss of them; stroke them, give them a belly rub or a scratch behind the ears, and if they’ve behaved well, maybe give them a healthy treat as well.

Some cats and dogs are more tolerant of grooming than others, so don’t push them to stay still for longer that they want to. Most pets, though, will love to have a fuss made of them, even if it’s just an excuse to sit in a warm patch on your lap. Grooming is a fantastic bonding experience, and as well as being good for their health (you can give them a simple health check at the same time!) it will bring you closer together.

Teach them new skills

Investing time in your pet is a wonderful way to show them how much you care, and it’s another great way to spend quality time together. It will help keep their minds sharp, it’s a great form of entertainment (particularly on rainy days when you’re stuck inside), and it can incorporate physical activity as well. Read our article on basic training commands for your dog for some simple ideas.

Are you a cat owner? Many people assume that cats can’t be trained, but there are many useful skills that a cat can pick up too, such as recognising their name. Read our article on training your cat for more information.

Let the fun begin!

A young dog sitting on the floor, shaking his owners hand.

Show physical affection

Young cat lying down, head bumping the fist of its owner.

Sometimes the best way to show your pet that you love them is to physically interact with them – often a good belly rub or a friendly scratch in your pet’s favourite spot will do you both a world of good.

To help you get started, we’ve put together some tips on how to pet a dog:

  • Most dogs prefer being petted on the shoulders, the bottom of the neck, and the chest.
  • Avoid your dog’s legs, muzzle and paws.
  • Stroking your dog can be therapeutic for both of you – move your hand in the direction of their fur, not against.
  • Try gently scratching your dog as well as stroking them.
  • Your dog will quickly let you know what they enjoy, so focus on these areas

And how to pet a cat:

  • Most cats enjoy being scratched under the chin or on top of the head – start with these small areas.
  • If your cat is happy being made a fuss of, progress to stroking them from the top of their head to the base of their tail.
  • If your cat leans in or rubs against your legs, you’ll know they’re enjoying it!
  • Gently encourage your cat sit in your lap as you stroke them.

Treat them

Many of us instinctively reach for a bag of treats when we want to tell our pet that they’ve done well, or even when we just want to show our affection. There’s no denying that most cats and dogs will never turn down a treat, and sometimes they’ll even tell you that they want one – it’s hard to resist those ‘puppy dog’ eyes!

Treat your pet with a piece of tasty kibble, or similar, when they’ve done something very good (like learning a trick of behaving calmly during a trip to the vet). This way, when the treats do come out they’ll be all the more exciting. Make sure that any treat you give your pet counts towards their daily food allowance, rather than being something ‘extra’. Treats have their place, but the most important way to show your pet that you love them is to ensure they have a healthy lifestyle. Overindulgence means that you pet can easily consume too many calories, which isn’t good for their body condition or their health.

The good news is there are plenty of ways in which you can ‘treat’ your pet without reaching for food. A belly rub or a scratch behind the ears can be just as effective in saying ‘I love you’ to your cat or dog as a snack. If you want to do something special, why not buy a new toy that you think they’ll love?

We’ve all asked ‘does my dog know I love him?’ and wondered if our cats share our affection. The answer is simple – if you enjoy spending time together, whether it involves playing, grooming or training, the bond between both of you will be stronger. Affection works both ways – you’ll know they love you too when they rub against you, come to you for attention, and purr or wag their tails when you’re nearby!

A girl holding her cat in her arms on the sofa. She is telling her cat she loves it.