Why We Love Our Pets So Much
People and Pets
Why do so many of us own pets?
It is certainly not for survival. Some people may own pets for security purposes, but for many who own pets, it is because our pets add to our happiness.
The bond we humans form with our pets is deep, special, and long lasting. In return for loving our pets, they are affectionate and give us unconditional love that creates the basis for an important relationship in our lives.
We love our pets for many reasons, among them is the strong element of security, the comfort they give us by their presence, and the reassurance we get from them.
Animals amazingly give people a form of acceptance, unconditional love, and companionship. The pet people relationship is a very close one.
Pets and People
Pets and Our Social Needs
Dogs have a natural ability to be attentive to our body language and the gaze of our eyes. Through this, they are able to pick up the emotional state of their owners.
Pets help us feel a sense of relatedness or a connection to others. Psychologists know that we are social animals, and it is a basic human need to feel a sense of belonging. It is believed that we are genetically pre-programmed to be socially connected. It is so important to have our relatedness need fulfilled, we look to get it from people and from our pets too.
Studies have shown the person dog relationship resembles the relationship people have with other people. Psychologists believe, having a dog satisfies the need we have to connect to others on a basic level.
When our dogs greet us at the door after a long day, with the enthusiasm and excitement of a member of our family that is truly happy to see us, they help us feel loved. When a dog looks at us with their warm and soulful eyes, their tails wagging, and their desire to just be with us, our spirits are lifted, and our tensions begin to melt away.
Dogs are hypersocial, which makes them hypersensitive to the actions of people. Dogs become happy when we are happy and they learn to behave in ways that evoke this type of response.
When your cat curls up next to you and purrs and purrs, we feel as contented as they feel. When your cat puts their paws on you to scent you, the idea that they are telling the world we belong to them, helps us feel loved.
The Benefits of Pet Ownership
Pets have many positive effects on people, some of which may have to do with human nurturing. Pets are like our children. There are many things we do with pets that are similar to what we do for children. Caring for our animals helps us feel productive, and joyful in the perpetual childlike behavior dogs elicit.
The history of man with domesticated animals also helped ensure the survival of humans. Domesticated animals provided milk, eggs, meat, clothing, warmth, and protection from some predators. The human cat companionship can be traced back to 2000 BC in ancient Egypt.
The human-dog bond goes back to the dawn of time. Dogs were probably the first domesticated pet. It is believed that the dog and human relationships date back to the Palaeolithic ages, some 12,000 years ago. Dogs are pack animals, making them easily fit into human families.
Why are people and dogs good together?
Dogs and people have a special chemistry that researchers have found can be traced back tens of thousands of years ago. All dogs have descended from wolves. Wolves live in packs that parallel human families.
Wolves hunt cooperatively
Wolves are territorial
Members are emotionally bonded and greet each other with great enthusiasm when they see each other after being separated.
In a wolf pack, only the alpha male and alpha female are sexually active even though other pack members are sexually mature.
There are similar social adaptations between dogs and human beings that make cohabitating natural. People do not look at dogs as an alien species, they become part of the family.
Anthrozoologists, and especially psychologists are very interested in the relationships people have with their pets. They want to understand how pets affect people’s attitudes, behavior, and beliefs.
Pets and People
So why do we love our pets so much?
The Attachment Theory developed by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth explains the bonding that occurs between parents and children and patterns of relationships between people.Psychologists believe that the Attachment Theory can be applied to our pets too. We grow attached to our pets, and our pets are attached to us.
There are many benefits to owning a pet, from higher self esteem, greater physical fitness, improved happiness and socialness and better overall well being. Dogs have shown to alleviate depression in people. Children who grow up around dogs are more empathetic towards others. Pet owners are less self absorbed, compared to non pet owners.
The health benefits of owning a dog can be proven in the levels of human hormones. Dog owners have reduced cortisol, which is the stress hormone, and produce more feel good hormones such as oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin in people.
Companion animals have a calming influence on people. Psychotherapists who use animals in sessions report their patients are less anxious during the session. Animals have a proven record of having a calming effect on people.
Emotions and Pets
Our Fascination with All Animals ... It is in Our Brain
Why do people bird watch? Why do people go to zoos? Why do people watch tv shows, youtube, and the abundance of social media photos and videos making these so popular in today’s culture?
People derive pleasure from observing animals and interacting with them. There is not much research that explains why we enjoy watching animals. Is it possible that we look at animals as some sort of reflection of ourselves?
Scientists from the California Institute of Technology and UCLA, reported that neurons in the amygdala respond preferentially to images of animals. The amygdala is the part of the brain where we process emotional reactions. The amygdalae are a pair of almond shaped neuron clusters that are located deep in the brain where the medial temporal lobe exists.
The research team recruited 41 epileptic patients from the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. Using electrodes that were already in place to monitor for seizures, the scientists recorded single neuron response in the amygdala as these participants were shown images of people, animals, objects, and landmarks. The experiment showed the neurons in the amygdala were most active the people saw pictures of cats and snakes, compared to the pictures of building or people. There was more activity in that part of the brain whether the participants were shown cute, ugly, or dangerous animals. The response behavior was only in the right, not the left amygdala. Scientists have concluded that early in the evolution of the vertebrate, the right hemisphere became specialized in dealing with stimuli that was unexpected and biologically relevant to our environment.
The amygdala is a very old brain structure. Early man’s survival was dependent on quickly noticing animals, which could be predators or prey. It was quite a surprise to scientists that our amygdala responded more to animals than to human faces, and that people responded to all kinds of animals,whether we found them dangerous, repulsive, or cute.
People have always had a fascination with animals. Zoos exist because people love watching animals.
In southern France, the Chauvet Cave is filled with drawings of many animals including horses. These drawings were created approximately 34,000 years ago. Long ago, and in the recent past, man interacted with animals on a daily basis.
Today, most people have very little interaction with the animals of the world. We exist in an age of technology, most of us live in urban and suburban areas where we have limited interaction with animals. Yet our need to be connected to animals shows in the rise of pet ownership, in the popularity of pets in movies, tv shows, books, on the internet, and in social media. These desires comes from a basic, deeply rooted human need.
Our Pets Are Part of Our Family
The facial features of some animals have similar features to human babies, and is the same reason we are attracted to cartoons, teddy bears, and cuddly creatures in general. It is this basis of cute human baby like faces that forms the basis of human being’s attraction to animals and is one of the reasons we treat our pets like children.
We love our dogs because they have childlike characteristics that help people derive satisfaction from interacting with them.
According to Harris Interactive, a leading market research firm, 91% of dog and cat owners consider their pet a member of the family.
The pet business is a multibillion dollar industry, and it is no wonder. With all that pets do for us, we do much for them too. According to the American Pet Products Association, almost ⅔ of households in the U.S. own a pet. Our pets are our friends, our companions, our family.