Why People Love Their Pets
Why do we love our pets?
Why Do So Many People Own Pets
We pet lovers are everywhere. Our dogs, cats, birds, and other pets we keep, occupy our homes and our hearts. Why are so many people pet lovers? Why do we own pets?
According to the Humane Society, the number of people who have pets in the United States has more than tripled since the 1970s. Back then there was estimated 67 million households who had pets. In 2012, there were approximately 164 million pets owned. That translates to about 62% of U.S. homes having at least one pet.
According to the American Pet Products Association, people spent above $50 billion on their animal friends, dogs, cats, and other pets. There are approximately 83.3 million dogs owned in the U.S. in 2012, according to The American Pet Products Association. 47% of homes have a least one dog. 70% of dog owners have one dog. 20% have two dogs. 10% have three or more dogs.
There are 95.6 million cats owned. 46% of cat owners have one cat. 31% have two cats. 24% have three or more cats.
Pets Make Us Happy
What compels so many of us to have pets, to spend our money on them, and use our energy and time on a species other than ourselves?
Most of us would agree that we do this because our pets make us happy. People by nature are social creatures. We are pack animals. Being social, wanting to be part of a group, we look to make others happy, a feeling that is hard wired in us.
In many ways it is easier to make our pets happy, than it is to make other people happy. Our pets give us unconditional love and in an opposite way, we don’t have to worry about pleasing them. They love us anyway. Because of this unconditional love, we can be ourselves around our pets. Our pets help us feel loved, and help fulfill some voids in our lives.
Freud stated “ dogs love their friends and bite their enemies, quite unlike people, who are incapable of pure love and always have to mix love and hate in their object relations." Perhaps it is the simplicity of a dog’s feelings that attract us to them.
Pets help meet our social needs
Pets and Our Social Needs
The need for social support is vital for our psychological and physical well being. We need the connection with other people, and a new research study suggests that pets can also fulfill the need we have for belongingness. In a study published online in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that pets can improve people’s lives and provide meaningful social support for their owners.
Previous studies have found that people who were dealing with health challenges did better when they had pets. This study found that all people do better when they own a pet. Three different studies were conducted and found consistently that pets are an important social contact and give important benefits to their owners. One study done by McConnell and associates involved 217 people, and it showed people with pets had greater self esteem, more extroverted, felt less alone, were more physically fit, less fearful, had healthier relationship styles, and were more conscientious than people who did not have pets.
The study also found that pet owners felt they received as much emotional support from their pets as they did from their family members, even when they had a close relationship with their family. This showed that people did not turn to their pets because of poor social support, the pet owners extended their general human emotions to their pets as well as their family members.
Our Need to Belong
In another study done by the same researchers, dog owners were surveyed and reported that their pets fulfilled their social needs as far as a sense of belongingness, the feelings of a meaningful existence, and self esteem. Pet owners in the survey also reported that they were happier and healthier. They felt less depressed, had a greater sense of self esteem, they feel less stress, and less lonely.
In yet another study, 97 pet owners some were induced to feel socially, rejected, and some were not. Pet owners were then asked to either write about their own pet, write about their best friend, drew a map of campus. The people who drew maps after feeling socially rejected felt worse than they were at the beginning of the study. This showed that the experiment of feeling socially rejected was successful. The participants who wrote about their dog were just as happy as the people who wrote about their best friend. Even after being rejected, these two groups didn’t display any negative feelings.
This showed that even thinking about our pet or a friend can stop the negativity that comes with feeling socially isolated. The conclusion of the research found that owning a pet is very positive for people. Pet owners were happier and healthier than non owners and even thinking of your pet can shield someone from feeling down, even after feeling socially rejected. The study also found pets helped improve human relationships. Both introverted and narcissistic personalities enjoyed positive consequences from their pets. The research also found it didn’t matter what kind of pet, whether it was dogs, cats, horses, lizards,etc. People added human qualities to all species.
These studies were done by psychologists at Miami University and St. Louis University to look at the potential benefits of pet ownership for who they classified as “everyday people”. Three experiments were conducted. In one study, 217 people, 79% women 21% men, average family income $77k, average age 31 filled out surveys to determine if pet owners differed from non pet owners in regard to their well being, personality type, and attachment style. In the second experiment, 56 dog owners, 91% women, 9% men, average income $56,000, average age 42, looked at whether pet owners felt their pets fulfilled their social needs. The third study asked 97 college undergraduates, average age 19 to find how pet ownership helped them deal with social rejection.
Social support is vital for the psychological and physical well being of humans, which reflects
Pets and People
Do Pets Help Fulfill a Social Need for You?
We love our pets
Pets are Good for Our Mental and Physical Health
our need to belong. Multiple studies have shown that pets are good for the mental health of pet owners.
The need to belong is a central need of people. If pets are psychologically close to their owner, they can provide the same benefits that another person would.
People have deep bonds with their pets. Most pet owners feel their pets understand them. This may be one of the main reasons we have an intense relationship with our dogs, especially. The mutual ability to connect and understand us emotionally helps bring us joy and fulfillment. Dogs most definitely choose to be with us. They love us, not because of our own prestige, or anything we have for them or do for them, but because they want to be with us. What greater feeling is there than that!