Cat and rat

Photo and caption: Juan Fontaine/National Geographic Your Shot

"Perhaps our cat Sonic was just too old, or too lazy to care about primal instinct. Or perhaps, Rosy the Rat was too blind, or too naive to worry about fear. Or perhaps ... there are no rules when it comes to love within a family."

This charming photo, which adeptly subverts the typical "cat versus mouse" narrative, is just one of the many fabulous images submitted for "The Animals We Love," a photo assignment run by Your Shot, National Geographic's photo community. This particular assignment is being curated by fine art and editorial photographer Robin Schwartz.

"Animals have been my passion my entire life," Schwartz says. "Animals are my guiding light, my vice, my joy, my therapy, and my companions. This assignment is about following your passion for animals and photographing from the heart."

The assignment ran from June 2-23, and now that submissions have closed, Schwartz believes her biggest challenge as an editor will be differentiating between "poignant" and "too cute."

"Sometimes I marked photos as favorites that were not technically perfect but made me just plain stare or catch my breath — for reasons that I could not always pin down," Schwartz explains. "In other words, I looked for photos that made me feel."

Continue below for a small selection of the heartwarming photos submitted for the assignment, with captions written by each author. Schwartz will be sharing her favorite shots in an upcoming story dedicated to the assignment.

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Photo and caption: Luis Eduardo Sandoval Bavaresco/National Geographic Your Shot

"15 years ago I rescued and hand raised two orphan antillean manatees; since then I have not stopped working with those amazing and gentle animals."

Deer and schoolchildren

Photo and caption: Juan Fontaine/National Geographic Your Shot

"In the surroundings of Kyoto you can find the village of Nara. In it, all temples and parks are loaded with wild and free deer. You can touch and feed them. It's amazing the respect and care people here have with both animals and plants. In this picture you can see a group of students visiting one of the main temples in the city sharing with the deer as if they were another of their classmates."


Photo and caption: Julia Cumes/National Geographic Your Shot

"I met this baby elephant while documenting a baby elephant rehabilitation/release program in Assam, India. He had lost his mother in a flood. I spent a lot of time with him and became quite attached. When I finally had to leave, I turned around one more time to look at the building that housed him and saw he had got up on his hind legs and was looking out the window at me. His expression was so strikingly human in that moment and I saw in his eyes something universal and profoundly expressive."

Dog and dogbone mobile

Photo and caption: Mike Melnotte/National Geographic Your Shot

"We keep our 113-pound Lab out of our daughter's room (swallowing a pair of underpants got him banished), but getting up on her bed is one of his little pleasures in life. Perhaps surrounding him with treats would complete his idea of heaven. Or if he can't reach them ... a nightmare."

Cat stroller

Photo and caption: Juan Fontaine/National Geographic Your Shot

"Cat lover carrying his pets through the Hiroshima streets."


Photo and caption: Margherita Vitagliano/National Geographic Your Shot



Photo and caption: Stephanie Amaudruz/National Geographic Your Shot

"In Asia, it is a common sight to see people feed golden fishes like we feed pigeons in Europe — the idea is to create harmonious shapes by throwing food in chosen — or to have fun. Babybottle fish feeding is a popular attraction."

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Catie Leary is a photo editor at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.