​Why People Love Their Pets So Much

​Why People Love Their Pets So Much

Posted by Positive Impressions on Apr 12th 2018

Why do people love their pets so much? As pet owners, we know the joy of having a cat curled up in your lap, a dog jumping around excited about fetching a ball, or just passing the time by watching tropical fish. What about society as a whole? The answers aren’t as straight forward as you would think.

Contradictions Between Research and Media

The first studies on the relationship between animals and humans didn’t start until the late 1970s and this category of research didn’t have a name until researcher John Bradshaw coined the term “anthrozoology” in 1990. Even with teams like Bradshaw’s studying these relationships for decades, we’re still a long way from understanding them. Unfortunately, the media jumps on new study results without looking at the big picture, making pet ownership look both fantastic or terrible when the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Animals can lower stress when we spend time petting or playing with them, and our bodies do produce the hormone oxytocin when we’re with our pets. However, pet ownership can also increase stress through behavioral issues, health care and expenses. From visiting the vet to arranging for care while on vacation, owning a pet is a lot of work and expense.

The rate of mental illness is slightly higher in pet owners than non-pet owners, but mental illness doesn’t seem to be correlated with pet ownership. In other words, it seems more likely that people with mental issues seek out pets to cheer them up rather than having mental problems because of their pets.

The biggest misunderstanding comes from toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite that only grows in cat digestive systems. To help it spread, the disease changes how infected mice act, causing them to walk out into the open where they can more readily be eaten by other cats. This lead to the assumption that infected humans will also change their behavior, causing everything from the crazy cat lady phenomenon to schizophrenia. The first wide scale study on the disease’s effect on humans was finally released by Duke University two years ago. They found that there was no correlation to mental illness and infection. Moreover, with as much as 50% of the world’s population may be infected, these mental effects seem even less likely.

The Benefits of Pet Ownership

While we may not have a full understanding of our relationship with pets, there are a few things we do know:

Our relationships with animals started because of their utility. Dogs can guard areas and help with hunting and sheep herding, cats can hunt rodents, and birds can hunt and deliver messages. By some estimates, we’ve had domesticated wolves for over 27,000 years. Pet ownership as we know it today started with medieval royalty. Animals were treated like members of the household and were well cared for to show the owner’s wealth.

Pet ownership helps develop empathetic behavior. A pet’s emotions aren’t complicated, so it’s easier to make a pet happy than make a person happy. This isn’t just rewarding for pet owners: this quick feedback helps children learn how to care for others.

There’s also some truth to using a dog to help get a date: we perceive people that have pets as being more trustworthy. Child therapists are experimenting with this, using pets to help their patients feel more relaxed and let down their defenses. Likewise, there has been promising work with horse riding for people who fall on the autism spectrum. It provides physical therapists with a way to help patients that’s less direct and painful than traditional therapy, making it more pleasant for all involved.

In many industrialized countries, we’re seeing the new phenomenon of the “pet parent.” People are putting off having a family longer, and in the meantime, they’re adopting pets, letting them get an experience that’s like parenthood while fitting their lifestyle and available resources. John Bradshaw sees this as part of a shift from us perceiving pets as independent beings and not something we own, although he warns that they are still animals and don’t understand or react the same way humans do. While you may enjoy a spa day, your cat may be freaked out by being handled by strangers.

Show Your Clients How You Love Their Pets

No matter how you look at it, we love our pets, and we all want to feel like our pets are appreciated when we visit the vet. Positive Impressions has helped veterinary practices show their clients that they care for over 10 years. From welcome cards to memorial products, we have products that can help you keep in contact with your clients and make them feel welcome through good times and bad. We have ready-made cards, and a variety of bags and other products ready to ship, or you can add a personal touch with our custom printing services. For a sneak peek at some of the newest items and discounts available, check out our monthly specials page on our website.

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