How to speak your pet’s love language this month of love 

In his book, The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman decodes the way people express love and explains how we give love the way we like to receive it. Our communication is successful when we know and acknowledge our partner’s love language. However, his theory doesn’t only work for human relationships, you can apply the same principles to your relationship with your pet. 

February is the month of love, with Valentine’s Day on the 14th and Love Your Pet Day on the 20th, and while we don’t need just a couple of days or a month to celebrate the love we have for our pets, there’s no reason we can’t use them as a great excuse, explains Marycke Ackhurst pet behaviour expert from Hill’s Pet Nutrition.

Understanding how your pet expresses affection and how to respond makes for an ongoing happy and loving relationship. So, how do you know if your cat loves you? Or what are the signs your dog loves you? Consider how your pet communicates:

What are the Five Love Languages? Ackhurst shares how you can communicate with your pet in their specific love language:

1. Quality Time – The cliché is that dogs won’t leave their pet parent’s side, while cats want nothing to do with them. However, both cats and dogs express their love by spending time with their pet parents, whether it’s sitting together in the same room or following them around the house. Show your dog you love them by taking them on plenty of walks. It’s important for your dog’s health, but also shows them you want to spend time with them. Other ways to enjoy time with your pet can be as simple as throwing toys back and forth with your cat or spending time snuggling with them on the couch. 

2. Words of Affirmation – Does your dog wag his tail and bark when you tell him he’s a good boy? Does your cat purr when you pat her or greet you with a meow? This is how our pets tell us they’re happy when we give them attention. Talk to your pet. While your dog or cat may not understand the words, they understand tone. Speak to your dog in an excited, higher pitched tone. A way cats show love is through their eyes. A long, slow blink means they trust and love you, so send that love right back by slowly blinking your eyes at them. Remember to praise your pets when they choose appropriate behaviour.

3. Physical Touch – Head-butts, cheek rubs and kneading your lap are all ways cats show affection. Dogs love touch and will embrace belly rubs and head scratches from their pet parent. More than anything, touching your pet shows them you love them. Embrace head scratches and belly rubs and pat them often. For many cats and dogs, brushing is another welcome form of touch. Gentle massage and acupressure will provide your pet with a sense of calm – speak to a professional about the right techniques. 

4. Acts of Service – When you love someone, you want to make them happy. Pets feel the same way and want to please their pet parents. When a dog follows your commands, they’re showing respect. If your cat keeps household insects under control, it could be their way of showing you they care. No one wants to use a dirty restroom, including indoor cats. One way to show you care is to keep their litter box clean. For both cats and dogs, you can show you respect them, and their space, by grooming them regularly, keeping them dewormed, out of pain, and providing them with clean food bowls, fresh water, warm, clean blankets and tidy surroundings.

5. Giving Gifts – We wouldn’t say it’s a highlight to find a dead mouse or bird at your feet, but your pet is trying to please you. Hopefully they’ll soon realise toys or newspapers are much more acceptable gifts. Know what your pets love, and you’ll be rewarded with pure joy. Put some catnip on a ball and see if your cat responds. Treats, toys, a Likimat filled with wet food for their enrichment, or a comfy new bed are all exciting presents for dogs.

While being able to share your life with a pet, and receive the unconditional love they provide is something special, for many (humans and pets) this time of year can be lonely. 

“There are thousands of cats and dogs in shelters around South Africa waiting for a second chance at love,” says Ackhurst. That’s why Hill’s has created the Pet Matchmaker App, an easy and fun way for pet parents to find a pet that suits their personality, and lifestyle. 

On the app, you have access to shelters around South Africa, enabling pet parents to search for ‘the one.’ Prospective pet parents can apply filters and customise their search when looking for their match. These filters help you find just the pet you’re looking for. Search by age, size, breed mix, coat colour, pattern and fur length, disposition, activity level and suitability with other family members. The shelter pets are profiled on the Pet Matchmaker app with their bio, photos, and videos to introduce them to prospective pet parents.

“Think cupid meets Tinder with unconditional love,” says Ackhurst, “and, even better, you can do this from anywhere. It could be love at first swipe this Valentine’s Day.” The purpose of the app is to get as many pets adopted so that we can clear the shelters and find forever homes for these deserving cats and dogs. 

The Pet Matchmaker App is free to download on IOS and Android

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