We know that animals have feelings. Studies have shown that animals have consciousness and emotions. But if you have a pet, you know this firsthand.

Just think of how thrilled your dog is when you come home after a long day away or how your cat purrs when you open a can of food.

But do our pets actually smile at us when they're happy?

When your dog is content, his mouth will be relaxed and could be slightly open, psychologist and best-selling dog author Stanley Coren, Ph.D. writes in Modern Dog. His ears are up, his head is high and his tongue may be lolling out if he's ready to play. This may look like a happy smile.

Cats typically don't "smile" in the same way, say behaviorists. They might show their affection in a different way with something like a slow blink. Your kitty may look at you, blink slowly and then possibly look away. She's not bored or tired. Instead, she's showing that she's comfortable with you, says veterinarian Dr. Wailani Sung, in VetStreet.

Because direct eye contact or a prolonged stare is considered aggressive in the animal kingdom, your cat is saying she's not threatened or fearful.

"While a slow blink does not always mean your cat wants physical contact with you, it is a way of signaling to you, to another person or to another cat that everything is A-OK and she is comfortable being around you!" Sung writes.

It's a feline way of smiling. Or maybe, like the cat below, your cat smiles too.

A smiling kitty. A smiling kitty. (Photo: SV_zt/Shutterstock)

Maybe they're happy or maybe those are just their natural pleasant-looking expressions. Whatever the case, they certainly make us smile.

Mary Jo DiLonardo covers a wide range of topics focused on nature, health, science and anything that helps make the world a better place.

Pets that sure look like they're smiling
We know animals have feelings, but are these happy dogs and cats actually smiling?