It depends on the kind of love :) "Adorare" is mainly used for emphasis, while for a parental love it could be "amare" or "volere bene". "Amare" isn't as omnipresent as "aimer" in French, but it could also work for a strong preference, i.e. a stronger "like". It isn't easy to draw a line :)
For those who can read it, here is an Italian blog post by a language/linguistics blogger discussing whether it is possible to 'amare' cats (among other things). http://blog.terminologiaetc.it/2013/08/06/differenze-love-amare/
The article is needed in a number of instances in Italian, much more than in English; at http://italian.about.com/od/grammar/a/italian-definite-articles.htm (the paragraph "Usage of the Italian Definite Article") there is a good explanation, together with many cases when the article must be omitted. There are many cases not covered though. In this case you're saying you love cats (or she loves coffee) as a general category, so the article is needed.