Study: We feel as much love from our pets as a human saying ‘I love you’

That feeling you get when your beagle is happy to see you when you come home from work, or a heartfelt “I love you” from your partner? Turns out that many of us register feelings of love on just about the same level for those two experiences.

That was one of the findings of a study called “What Does It Mean to Feel Loved: Cultural Consensus and Individual Differences in Felt Love,” where people of all ages reported on their “everyday experiences” of feeling loved, both romantically and non-romantically.

The study will be published in the upcoming January issue of the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

The research questions asked people to respond true/false to if they would feel loved in 60 different scenarios – from romantic to non-romantic scenes.

What makes people feel loved?

The top situations that most people agreed would make them feel loved:

  • someone shows compassion toward them in difficult times
  • a child snuggles up to them
  • their pets are happy to see them
  • someone tells them ‘I love you’

Less popular scenarios are situations that might seem romantic in a Hollywood movie, but in reality, were perceived as negative when it came to experiencing love:

  • someone wants to know where they are at all times
  • someone tells them what is best for them
  • someone insists to spend all their time with them

The researchers found these scenarios to be especially unpopular because the study was carried out with U.S. participants; the cultural consensus was that these scenes made them feel controlled rather than loved.

However, subjects in other countries or cultures, or a “more diverse U.S. sample,” researchers wrote, people might respond differently.