Let's explore the science behind it! Many of us are devoted pet owners, loving and caring for our furry (or feathered or scaly) friends as if they were members of our own family. But have you ever stopped to wonder why we love our pets so much? What is it about our animal companions that makes them so special to us? In this article, we’ll explore the science behind the human-animal bond and what it is that makes us love our pets.
Pets make us happy
One of the most obvious reasons that we love our pets is that they make us happy. Research has shown that simply petting a dog or cat can release feel-good hormones such as serotonin and oxytocin, which can reduce stress and anxiety and improve our mood (1). In fact, studies have found that interacting with pets can have a positive effect on our mental health and well-being, including reducing symptoms of depression and loneliness (2).
Pets provide companionship
For many people, pets are valued companions and friends. They offer unconditional love and support, and can be a source of comfort during times of stress or sadness. Research has shown that pets can provide social support and reduce feelings of loneliness, especially for people who live alone or are socially isolated (3).
Pets are loyal and non-judgmental
Pets don’t judge us or hold grudges, and they’re always happy to see us. Dogs, in particular, are known for their loyalty and devotion to their owners. Studies have shown that dogs can sense human emotions and respond with empathy, and that they form strong emotional bonds with their owners (4).
Pets can improve our physical health
In addition to the mental health benefits of pet ownership, pets can also improve our physical health. Studies have found that dog owners are more likely to engage in physical activity than non-dog owners, and that dog walking can provide a form of low-impact exercise that can improve cardiovascular health (5). Other studies have suggested that pet ownership may be associated with lower blood pressure and reduced risk of heart disease (6).
So there you have it – the science behind why we love our pets. From providing companionship and emotional support to improving our mental and physical health, pets can play an important role in our lives. And while the bond between humans and animals is still not completely understood, the evidence suggests that it is a mutually beneficial relationship that has evolved over thousands of years of coexistence.
- Odendaal JS, Meintjes RA. Neurophysiological correlates of affiliative behaviour between humans and dogs. Vet J. 2003;165(3):296-301.
- McConnell AR, Brown CM, Shoda TM, Stayton LE, Martin CE. Friends with benefits: on the positive consequences of pet ownership. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2011;101(6):1239-1252.
- Stanley IH, Conwell Y, Bowen C, Van Orden KA. Pet ownership may attenuate loneliness among older adult primary care patients who live alone. Aging Ment Health. 2014;18(3):394-399.
- Horowitz A. Disambiguating the “guilty look”: salient prompts to a familiar dog behaviour. Behavioural processes. 2009;81(3):447-452.
- Christian H, Bauman A, Epping JN, Levine GN, McCormack GR, Rhodes RE, Richards EA, Rock M, Westgarth C. Encouraging dog walking for health promotion and disease prevention