Posted on: November 3, 2017 at 7:40 am

When you’re feeling sad there’s nothing better than coming home to a big, sloppy kiss from your pet. They can always seem to cheer you up, no matter what your mood. Whether you’re a cat lover or a dog lover, studies now show that our little friends can read our emotions through our facial expressions and respond accordingly. So, next time you’re feeling down, grab your favorite furry friend and curl up on the couch. They may just be the best remedy for your blues.

Dogs Can Read Our Facial Expressions

Dogs have been living and working next to humans for thousands of years. In order to survive in the human world, dogs were forced to learn as much as they could about us, including our emotions and what they mean.

A study, run by Ludwig Huber, a researcher at University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna’s Messerli Research Institute, proves that dogs have successfully adapted to the human world by distinguishing angry and happy faces in humans.

Huber says: “They can tell that these two expressions have different meanings, and they can do this not only for people they know well but even for faces they have never seen before.”[1]


Huber and his team trained their pups to identify happy and angry faces on 15 humans by looking at pictures. The dogs selected the correct emotion 70 out of 100 times[2]. 

“It appears likely to us that the dogs associate a smiling face with a positive meaning and an angry facial expression with a negative meaning,”[1] Huber says.

Whether dogs can feel emotions as we do is currently unproven, but this study shows that they can at least understand that our face is the gateway to our emotions, meaning that they have an idea of what’s going on in our mind.

Is this simply a common trait in ‘man’s best friend’ or is it possible for all pets?

Cats Can Sense Our Emotions Too

Any cat owner will also attest to the fact that their cat seems to know what they’re thinking and feeling. Up until now, there were little to no studies on the matter. Well, now the dispute can be put to rest because it’s been proven that cats can read our facial expressions just as well as dogs can, but they can’t do it with strangers.

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In the study, published in the journal Animal Cognition, twelve cats and their owners were observed. The research found that cats were more likely to perform “positive” behaviors, such as purring and sitting on the owner’s lap, when the owner was displaying happiness. They also chose to spend more time with a smiling owner than a frowning owner[3].

The cats were then tested with strangers, and the research found that the cats reacted positively regardless of if the human was smiling or frowning[3].

This study shows that while cats respond positively to their owners smiling face, they are unable to distinguish emotions on strangers, insinuating that cats can only learn to read facial expressions over a period of time.

This could, in part, be due to the fact that dogs have been cozying up to humans for longer than cats have. Dogs have been domesticated for approximately 30,000 years, whereas cats have only been with us for around 10,000 years. This additional time may be the clue as to why dogs are better able to distinguish human emotions.

“People care about whether cats really do understand and pay attention to their owners. Our work shows that they may not be as indifferent as people accuse them of being[4]” states Jennifer Vonk, a researcher from Oakland University who conducted the study.

Both cats and dogs are far from indifferent when it comes to us. They’ve worked for centuries to figure out our emotions, and many people attest to the fact that their pet can sense even more than just our facial expressions.


Your Pet Can Sense More Than You Think

Animals are complex beings, and there is much that we don’t know about them. We don’t know everything that there is to know about the minds of our furry friends, but many owners do like to speculate on the things that their pet can sense. 


There have not been any significant studies to prove whether your pet can sense pregnancy or not, but many owners report that their pet seems to take on a ‘nurturing’ or ‘protective’ role both before and after the baby is born.


Dogs have a phenomenal sense of smell. That, combined with their ability to detect minute changes in hormone levels allows them to sense illness and disease within us humans, most notably cancer, narcolepsy, migraines, low blood sugar, and seizures. Dogs have proven to be so skilled at sensing illnesses that they are often trained as service dogs to detect and assist individuals during episodes.

Paranormal Activity

The existence of ghosts or spirits is up to your interpretation, but there have been reports of dogs and cats acknowledging ‘entities’ in their homes where nothing appears to be. 


Ask any pet owner and they will tell you that their pet is able to sense many or all of these things. Our pets are complex creatures, and we are learning more and more about them each day. The more we learn, the easier it is for us all to live in harmony with each other. Your pet is already a pro at living in harmony with you. She’s adapted to your home by reading your facial expressions and offering up cuddles and kisses when you’re feeling down. What more can we ask for?


[1] Meghan Holohan. (February 19, 2015). Science Says Dogs Can Tell If You’re Happy or Sad. Retrieved on October 30, 2017 from

[2] Corsin A. Müller, Kira Schmitt, Anjuli L.A. Barber, Ludwig Huber. (February 12, 2015). Dogs Can Discriminate Emotional Expressions of Human Faces. Retrieved on October 30, 2017 from  

[3] Moriah Galvan, Jennifer Vonk. (September 23, 2015). Man’s Other Best Friend: Domestic Cats (F. Silvestriscatus) and Their Discrimination of Human Emotion Cues. Retrieved on October 30, 2017 from

[4] Robin Wylie. (October 14, 2015). Your Cat Can Pick Up On How You Are Feeling. Retrieved on October 30, 2017 from

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