After a long day at work, there is nothing better than seeing your sweet, happy dog come bounding over to greet you with hugs and kisses. Cats, not fans of the waggy tail, show their love in different ways.
Most pet owners agree that their dog or cat can smile. With over 12 million #happydog posts on Instagram, it is clearly a popular belief.
However, there are just as many people who say, "they are just animals; they can't smile!" Perhaps your dog is panting or just feeling relaxed. Maybe your cat is not smiling but showing another emotion. So, can dogs and cats really smile?
Can Dogs Smile?
When humans smile, the corners of the mouth turn up, and our eyes brighten. We may even show our pearly whites if we are delighted. It is easy to apply human emotions to dogs, but dogs have a facial expression that looks like a smile.
A happy, relaxed dog will open its mouth slightly, with the corners of its mouth upturned. They may also prick their ears forward, which shows they are paying attention or anticipating something. Does this prove that they are actually smiling, though?
Well, scientists at the University of Cambridge say that "non-human animals are capable of exhibiting intentional behaviors due to the presence of certain neurological structures." Dogs may have a different brain structure from ours, but they are still capable of experiencing emotions.
So, dogs can smile! While dogs may smile due to happiness or enjoyment from belly rubs and treats, they may smile to get their owner's attention or as a greeting. Since they can't speak, dogs use body language and facial expressions to communicate.
You may even be subconsciously teaching your dog to smile. Dogs love to repeat things that make them feel good, and we use this during training. When your dog does something you ask, you say what a good boy he is and give him a reward.
Similarly, when you see your dog show a facial expression that looks like a smile, you pitch your voice, informing your dog how sweet he is. To your dog, this is an excellent reward because he is getting lots of attention. He now knows that he will get a fuss when he repeats the same facial expression, making him feel good. Even though you have taught him to do it, he is still smiling to feel happy and loved by you.
Can Cats Smile?
We all know that cats and dogs are polar opposites for behaviour, but is it true that cats can smile just like dogs can? The phrase "grinning like a Cheshire cat" would have you think so.
Cats cannot speak either, and they too rely on body language and facial cues to communicate their thoughts and feelings to us. It is undoubtedly true that cats have a facial expression that looks like a smile but is not a smile. The truth is, when your cat looks like he is smiling, this means he feels relaxed and content.
The story doesn't end here, though, because it turns out cans can smile, but they do it with their eyes. Following research into cats and how they communicate, psychologists from Portsmouth and Sussex universities found that cats use their eyes to greet people or other cats and show emotion.
All cats are unique and have their own personalities. Some cats behave more like a dog, playing fetch and running to greet their owner. How do you tell if your cat is smiling when he has the stereotypical aloof attitude? If your cat gazes at you and narrows his eyes or blinks slowly, he says hello and shows that he is not a threat. Your cat is smiling if he has bright eyes and slit-like pupils. This indicates that he is happy in your presence and feels no fear.
Whenever you want to say hello to your cat, simply gazes into his eyes and blink slowly. Most likely, he will return your greeting with his own. Slow blinking is proven to strengthen the bond between cat and owner. Not only does this work with your cat, but with any cat. It is an excellent way of offering a friendly greeting and showing that you are not a threat.
Happy Pets Are Smiling Pets
The best way to bond with your pet and make them happy is to play with them. This works for both cats and dogs. Whether it is a game of fetch with your dog, training, or a stuffed mouse for your cat, encouraging them to join in with a play session will get them feeling happy and relaxed.
Want to get your cat in on the action? Just give him your best slow blink, and you'll have no problem getting him involved in a little brain training or catnip fun.
Dogs love attention. Some dogs love to play; a game of chase, a bit of wrestling, or testing their brain cells with a puzzle toy. Perhaps he just wants to spend a bit of quality time with his human, receiving lots of belly rubs and ear scratches.
It’s not just facial smiling either. Dogs and cats both show their emotion through their tail. If they hold their tail upright when they greet you, they are happy to see you – and maybe feeling a little playful too! The cutest sign of affection is when your pet mimics you when you yawn. Awww!
Cat or dog, it doesn’t matter. Delivering smiles to your pet is easy when you know how!