62% of owners agree they share a ‘mutual love language’ with their pets

NEW YORK — Toys and treats are not the only way to a pet’s heart. Half of pet owners claim that physical touch is the primary love language for their furry companions, according to a recent survey.

This survey, which encompassed 2,000 dog and cat owners, revealed that 83% believe petting is the best way to express love to their pets. Another 62% endorse hugging, and 55% support kissing as important ways to share affection. Nearly three in 10 respondents agree that quality time is essential (27%), with notable activities such as allowing their pet to sleep in their bed (62% permit this) and including them in outings whenever possible (40%).

This study, conducted by OnePoll in collaboration with Nulo pet food, also highlighted the importance of dietary love. Pet parents are largely committed to offering high-quality meals (53%), with a focus on health and nutrition (47%), and incorporating diet variety (32%).

Thankfully, 95% of respondents are confident their pets recognize the love they receive. Interestingly, 62% feel they share a mutual love language with their pets. This affection is reciprocated by pets through gestures like shadowing their owners throughout the day (65%), cuddling in bed (58%), offering kisses (48%), and playful interactions with their humans or toys (47%).

woman lying beside two kittens
In a new survey, most dog and cat owners say that petting, hugging, and kissing are the primary ways they express love to their pets. (Photo by Tran Mau Tri Tam on Unsplash)

To many, this bond is reminiscent of deep friendships or familial ties. Nearly half (47%) perceive their pets as best friends, and a similar 42% feel the same about their pets. Some respondents equate their love for their pets to the affection they’d have for a child (38%), and 37% feel their pets view them as parental figures.

Pet diets a clear priority for owners

Highlighting the depth of this bond, an impressive 69% of participants said they’d compromise on their own dietary preferences to ensure better food quality for their pets. Currently, 87% are satisfied with their pet’s diet, which has been consistent for around three years on average. However, if put in their pet’s position, about 48% believe they could only manage the monotony of identical meals for up to three months.

“With nearly 70% of respondents prioritizing their pet’s dietary needs, it’s evident how pivotal pets are in their owners’ lives,” says spokesperson Dr. Heather Acuff, Ph.D., in a statement. “Pet parents aren’t just understanding their pets’ love languages; they’re going the extra mile to offer top-tier care and nutrition, ensuring their pets lead healthy, joyous lives.”

The survey also found that pets don’t need to beg for long. On average, it takes just 9.5 minutes of pleading before owners yield and feed them. The primary reasons owners choose a particular pet diet include their belief that their pet enjoys it (50%), confidence in ingredient quality (35%), and affordability (29%). Key factors indicating the right diet include regular bowel movements (59%), quality of sleep (50%), soft or smooth coats (50%), and daily energy levels (49%).

“Supplying pets with a top-notch diet is a profound expression of love and care. As pets can’t vocalize their food preferences, it’s the responsibility of pet parents to research and ensure the meals we provide meet their dietary needs, maintain high quality, and offer palatable variety. Without a doubt, the food we choose significantly impacts our pets’ quality of life,” Dr. Acuff adds.

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 cat and dog owners was commissioned by Nulo between September 22 and September 26, 2023. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).


  1. Our saint bernard got at least one hot meal every day. Always ordered a menu item for him when we dined out. He even could discern which ice cream shop had the best ice cream.

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