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Aesthetic_Mess's avatar

Do you think our pets just love us because we give them food?

Asked by Aesthetic_Mess (7887points) November 12th, 2010

I mean, if you stopped giving them food hypothetically do you think they would still be attached to us as they are?

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51 Answers

iamthemob's avatar

This is my fear.

Seelix's avatar

Sometimes I think this is the case, like when my cats start climbing all over me at 6:45 am when they aren’t scheduled to be fed until 9am!

But do you mean if we stopped giving them food after having fed them for years, or if we never had fed them in the first place? I think that a large part of the bond formed when we first acquire a pet has to do with food. They think, “Well, (s)he’s feeding me, so I can trust him/her”.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

You obviously haven’t really connected with your pet. When you do, you’ll know the answer to your question.

Seelix's avatar

I tried to be objective in my answer, but @Adirondackwannabe‘s answer got to me.
One of my cats seems dead convinced that she sprang forth from my loins. She constantly wants to be snuggling, playing, or even just staring at me. And it’s not just that she wants attention, because she doesn’t do it to my fiance.

rts486's avatar

As fond of my pets as I am, and as much as I like to think they love me too, I honestly believe animals are incapable of love. That takes cognitive reasoning. Everything they do is based off instinct. They don’t think. And that “affection” they show us is just because we feed and shelter them. But I still love my dogs and pretend they love me too.

LuckyGuy's avatar

We also scritch their heads and tummies.
(Scritch mine, and I’ll follow you anywhere.)

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

One of my dogs swallowed a rock and it got lodged in his intestines. I could tell something was wrong just by how he looked at me. The vet, who is super, thought I was nuts, until he did the x-ray.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@mama_cakes I’m getting a sweater and bubble wrap. I’m not seeing the babies.

Jude's avatar

Haha. Oh, you had to..

Frankie. Rudy

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Got that one. Beautiful eyes. My dog was a Rudy. :) The other one was Misha.

Aesthetic_Mess's avatar

@mama_cakes What kind of dog is that?

Jude's avatar

@Aesthetic_Mess He’s a 13 year old Pomeranian/Chihuahua. He’s missing a few teeth in the front, so, don’t mess with him. Otherwise, he’ll gum ya to death! ha!

Aesthetic_Mess's avatar

@mama_cakes 13! Wow. He’s so cute.

john65pennington's avatar

How in the world would anyone have an answer to your question?

Unless my border collie begins to speak English, then i will always be forever in the dark.

CMaz2's avatar

Yes. Because “animals” do not “love”. They stay safe.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

I have yet to meet a cat that doesn’t have some degree of narcissism. They seem to be more concerned about themselves.

Dogs, on the other hand, clearly display love. Dad rarely fed our Brittany Spaniels (four of them over a few decades) as he travelled most of the week. As soon as his car pulled into the drive, the dog of the time would go wild. He would enter the house, and the two of them would wrestle about on the carpet and end up side-by-side on the carpet talking softly to each other. After that, the rest of us were greeted.

When Dad passed away, I bought his car from Mom. Every time I pulled in, Scamp would sit at the door and make a crying noise. It broke our hearts.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@ChazMazziest That I would have to disagree with you. I’ve been the beneificary of it.

CMaz2's avatar

Of what? Your pet said, “I love you”? Did it write you a poem?

Or does it just run to you wagging its tail and licking you?

It is a human assumption. All good and such. But the pet, my pet. Who “loves” me. “Loves” that I keep it safe, warm and its belly full. THAT would make anyone or anything. “Wag its tail”.

Also, this is not a right or wrong question. Because there is no way to prove it. I’ll give you that. Common sense, removed from emotional attachment should produce a pretty good “guess”.

All are allowed their opinion. Since that is all it comes down to.

I love my dog. My dog “appreciates” me.

downtide's avatar

I think this would be true for cats but not dogs. Cats that don’t get fed will go and find somewhere else. Dogs just keep loving you as long as you give them attention.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@ChazMazziest You have to learn to speak animal. Then you’ll know what I’m referring to.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@ChazMazziest What did you do with chaz?

CMaz2's avatar

The Fluther Gods have captured him. Actually I have questioned that issue in meta.

Cruiser's avatar

I think if I stopped feeding our turtle it would escape out of it’s tank, silently climb the stairs to my bedroom and start feeding on my earlobes in my sleep! I know she loves me because I feed her but not enough to not scarf on me if I stopped!

marinelife's avatar

Oh, no, they are capable of great love. It is just that one of their great loves is food.

CMaz2's avatar

And licking their privates.

Winters's avatar

No, if you want to see extreme dedication, check out the Korean Jindo Dog

partyparty's avatar

No I think they love us unconditionally. I have dogs and first thing in the morning they will greet me by wagging their tails… I haven’t even got out of bed… so they haven’t been fed.
They just love being part of the pack… with me being alpha dog!

xxii's avatar

I’ve thought about this question for awhile. I don’t think we can ever figure out the real answer – there are just too many biases and contradicting anecdotes to be absolutely sure. I don’t agree with the theory that animals are purely mercenary, and that my dogs see me only as a vending machine. However, I’m equally against the anthropomorphizing of animals into furry or “less developed” human beings that awards them greater emotional capacity than they really have. I don’t believe animals love unconditionally.

Sorry for the unhelpful answer, haha.

CMaz2's avatar

“Unconditionally” being a human perception.

squirbel's avatar

Since I have a thought process that’s in the minority, it needs to be stated.

Most people believe animals have only instinct…

I believe animals have some level of thought. I can’t wait until science catches up to my belief. Progress has been made in this area and the thought that animals can’t think is dropping away, but more study needs to happen before it is accepted as fact. Until then…

I believe pets love their pet parent not only because they are consistently fed – but because YOU love them – they can sense that.

downtide's avatar

@squirbel I’m convinced animals are capable of thought. My dog is capable of plotting.

marinelife's avatar

@squirbel I also believe that animals of capable of thought—some even abstract thought.

partyparty's avatar

According to this article animals DO have emotions, so I guess they are capable of loving us:-

“I studied animal behaviour, focusing on social communication in a wide range of species. Contrary to what many other scientists like to believe, I discovered through my work that animals have rich emotional lives. They feel joy, empathy, grief, embarrassment, anger and love.
Here is some of what I have learned about animals? feelings, that made me reassess how we view and treat them.

In December 2005, a 50ft-long, 50-ton female humpback whale became caught in crab lines, the weight of which was making it difficult for her to keep her blow hole above the water.
A team of divers saved her and after being freed the whale nuzzled each of them and flapped around in what one whale expert said was a “rare and remarkable encounter”.
James Moskito, one of the rescuers, said: “It felt to me like she was thanking us, knowing she was free and that we had helped her. The whale stopped about a foot away from me, pushed me around a little bit and had some fun.”
He said that during the rescue, “when I was cutting the line going through the mouth, her eye was there winking at me, watching me. It was an epic moment in my life.”

Ceann Lambert, who runs the Indiana Coyote Rescue Centre, told me that one morning she noticed two baby mice trying to get out of a deep sink in her garage. Seeing their growing exhaustion, Lambert put some water in a lid in the sink.
The livelier mouse went over to get a drink and on its way found a piece of food which it picked up and took back to the weaker mouse. Every time the weaker mouse tried to take a bite, the other moved the food gradually towards the water until finally the exhausted animal reached it.
Their strength renewed, both were then able to climb out using a board Lambert had placed in the sink.

Animals become angry in the same way humans do. We share common neuro-chemicals, such as serotonin and testosterone, and brain structures, such as the hypothalamus that are important in the expression and feeling of anger, aggression and revenge.
It?s easy to identify anger and aggression, too. Even octopuses get angry. Their pearly white skin turns red when they are agitated. Birds can display tremendous anger.
Researcher Irene Pepperberg studied Alex, a clever grey parrot, for decades, and noted that when something happened that Alex didn?t like, he got very angry.
If he was fed a pellet of bird food rather than a cashew, which he preferred, he would narrow his eyes and puff up his feathers indicating his displeasure.

Gorillas have been know to hold wakes for dead friends, something that some zoos have formalised in a ceremony when one of their gorillas passes away.
Donna Fernandes, director of the Buffalo Zoo, in New York, tells the story of being at Boston?s Franklin Park Zoo during the wake for a female gorilla, Babs, who had died of cancer.
She describes seeing the gorilla?s long-time mate say goodbye: “He was howling and banging his chest.
“He picked up a piece of her favourite food, celery, and put it in her hand and tried to get her to wake up. I was weeping, it was so emotional.”

Two malamutes (a breed of North Alaskan dog, often mistaken for huskies) called Tika and Kobuk had raised eight litters of pups and were enjoying their retirement in the home of a woman called Anne Bekoff.
She tells how Kobuk was charming, energetic and noisy. Tika could only eat her food if it was far away from Kobuk, and he would knock her out of the way if she tried to get out of the door first. Then a lump appeared on Tika?s leg which was diagnosed as a malignant tumour.
Kobuk became subdued and wouldn?t leave her side. When Tika?s leg was amputated Kobuk stopped shoving her around, becoming caring towards her.

Dolphins chuckle when they are happy. When wolves reunite, they run toward one another whining and smiling, their tails wagging. Upon meeting, they lick one another?s muzzles, roll over and flail their legs.
When elephants reunite, there is a raucous celebration – they flap their ears, spin about and emit a “greeting rumble”. If this behaviour does not signal unashamed jubilation then what is it – just exercising?
Animal behaviourist Jonathan Balcombe, who observed two fish crows sweeping their bills through each other?s feathers, said: “There was every indication they were good buddies.”
One researcher tells of watching a female chimpanzee give birth, after which the new mother?s closest chimp friend screamed and embraced two other chimps. The friend tended the mother and her offspring for several weeks.

Watching elephants in the Samburu National Reserve in Kenya, I noticed one walked very slowly.
Elephant expert Iain Douglas-Hamilton told me the elephant, BabyL, had been crippled for years, but the other members of the herd never left her behind. They would walk a while, then stop to see where she was.
The elephants had nothing to gain by helping her as she could do little for them. The only conclusion was that their kindness and care was unconditional.”

Taken from The Emotional Lives Of Animals by Marc Bekoff,

chyna's avatar

No. Mine loves me unconditionally because that is just how dogs are made.

YARNLADY's avatar

Many pets, when left a kennels will not eat, or eat very little until their owners come back, so it must not be the food that makes them happy.

Coloma's avatar

Well, I’d say that my dead cat Marley that came home after 4 and a half days this morning loves me for certain!

Sure he devoured a can of cat food after his ordeal in the woods, I suspect he was treed by the killer coyotes and was either stuck or too afraid to come down and cross the killing field until his hunger and cold took over BUT..he has been clinging to me for the last 4 hours, purring uproariously, kneading me, following me from room to room and now, finally, poor guy is enjoying a deep sleep on his favorite upholstered bench in my bedroom.

If ever I saw a display of gratitude and love this would be it!

Also, my oldster that passed away last May never stopped meowing for the two weeks I was traveling abroad. My daughter said he was beside himself and hardly ate at all.

He too couldn’t get enough of me for days after I got home!

Oh, and my goose that wouldn’t stop shrieking for me at the vets last June.

The vet said she had never seen such a display as when I left the exam room for the bathroom.

As soon as I returned she calmed right down and allowed the vet to medicate her.

Animals absolutely form deep emotional bonds with their caretakers beyond the fancy feast and 12 grain bread. lol

Cruiser's avatar

@Coloma YAY for Marley! Anytime I have seen a cat stay away for days a few months later you got kittens to show for her efforts!! XD

Coloma's avatar


Haha..well Marley is neutered, but yes..YAY! Such a happy surprise, I couldn’t beleive it, thought he was coyote bait for sure!

Zaku's avatar

They don’t just love you for feeding them, but if you stop feeding them, they may have a problem.

And how well will you be loving them if you starve them out of suspicion of disloyalty?

YARNLADY's avatar

@Coloma * * * Y A Y * * *

GracieT's avatar

@adirondackwannabe, My nickname before I was Gracie was Misha. But I act more like a cat!


Well, in order for them to be our pets, we have to feed them to keep them alive, so that they would be with us. And because food is one of the essentials (as well as pleasures) of life, it is natural for the animal we keep to look up to us for its survival. In effect, we are their Mommies and Daddies, and our pets respond like children, needing and wanting us. That’s why they would naturally feel compelled to love us. Conversely, if we didn’t give them any food at all, they would look “elsewhere” for their survival and comfort.

But food is not the only thing that drives our pets to love us. They look to us for shelter, warmth, and protection too, and these necessities contribute to the love they have for us.

Thus, in comes to no surprise that the more care we show our pets, feeding them good food and giving them extra protection and comfort, the more they will love us.

jerv's avatar

There is more to it than the food. My cat loves me for scratching her behind the ear, providing her with a warm, soft spot to sleep, and the occasional hit of catnip.

Paradox's avatar

No, most of my pets have been loyal to me in most situations. I think both cats and dogs have the capacity to love just like people when they trust you.

Coloma's avatar

What would really make them hate us is if we threw away the laser pointers. lol

tigress3681's avatar

Not JUST cause we give them food. Also because we groom them!

busta21's avatar

They also love us because we spoil them and give them lots of toys. (at least I do).

lovable's avatar

I’ve always thought that.

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