If dogs can been shown to have an emotional reaction signified by a chemical change in their brain that we would call “love” then we should be able to confidently state that cats will have the same reaction which would serve to confirm what cat lovers the world over already know, namely that cats don’t just stay with us because we provide food and security; it goes well beyond that to genuine affection of a type similar to that experienced by people.
Ongoing research at an American University (Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia) showed, through brain scans on dogs, using an MRI scanner, that a part of the brain that deals with positive emotions called the caudate neuleus is similar in dogs and humans.
The tests were carried out on dogs who were trained to accept being in an MRI scanner. They are quite noisy, apparently. In using a scanner it is possible to obtain a much cleaner assessment of a dog’s brain activity and therefore what a dog is thinking. Usually a certain amount of guesswork is employed in observing a dog’s behaviour. A rescue dog named Callie and a 3 year old collie were studied.
OK, there is a downside to this. A dog is placed in a scanner but this is no more that what happens to people routinely. The upside is potentially very big in this instance.
If dogs and cats can be positively shown, through hard science, to have the ability to truly feel the sensation that we call “love” then it should be a step forward in more people respecting the cat, which in turn should result in improved cat caretaking.
It might also, ultimately, lead to legislation that protects an animal’s rights. At the moment an animal’s rights are protected vicariously (through us). We are beginning to understand that animals have the right to be treated as equals.
Associated: Cat emotions and brain function