Why do we love our pets?

I have two dogs at home who I love dearly so I have always been interested to learn why and how we came to keeping animals as pets. If you’re a pet owner, there’s no denying the giddy feeling you get when your dog wags its tail or your cat cuddles up to you. Many owners even treat their pets as another member of the family as mine does. They may cook their pets dinner or let them sleep on their beds. Why is it we love our furry friends so much? There are several possible answers. One being the history of the relationship between humans and animals. Hogenboom’s article for BBC explains that thousands of years ago humans kept wolves because they were useful for hunting and protection against predators. Over the years the wolves became tamed and the idea of keeping dogs as loving companions evolved. However, in some third-world countries such as Kenya, many animals are still kept solely for the purpose of protection and hunting. “Pets” isn’t even a word in their vocabulary. Hogenboom further explains that humans are social creatures, always seeking to form new relationships with others, even animals. A lack of social relationships may lead people to depression or vulnerability to disease and infections (Hogenboom).

But why do Americans see dogs and cats as pets and countries like South Korea or China see them as meals? Harold Herzog of the Western Carolina University explains that this is due to cultural differences. Americans see cats and dogs as pets because all Americans do and therefore it has become a social phenomenon. People in Asia see them as food because that is all they know and pet keeping is not a trend. Studies show that pet/ dog popularity fluctuates up and down about every 25 years or so (Hogenboom).

Image result for pet memes

Image found here.

Another reason we feel so deeply for our pets may be due to chemical reactions happening in our brains when we interact with them. When we look into their eyes a “happy” hormone, called oxytocin is released. MaryAnn Barone describes in her article that this hormone is the same hormone that is released when parents interact with their newborn babies. She goes on to describe a study where researchers combined 30 pairs of humans and dogs and had them look into eachother’s eyes. The levels of oxytocin were then measured and it was found that humans had a 300 percent increase while dogs only had a 130 percent increase (Barone). These results show that humans really do become happier upon interacting with their pets. It is also believed that keeping pets can help lower your cholesterol and boost you self confidence (Barone). This is why many universities bring in puppies for their students to relax and destress with them during midterms and finals week. Petting dogs or cats really does take away tension for many people and put them in better moods.

With all of these potential health benefits how can people not be “pet people”? I can attest to these articles studies in saying that relaxing with or petting my dogs does make me significantly happier and furthers my affection for them even more.

7 thoughts on “Why do we love our pets?

  1. Chelsea Greenberg

    I like the topic you chose! I find it really interesting how you mentioned that having pets is a cultural thing, because in my sociology class in high school we talked about that, and I’m sure I’ll discuss it in my soc class this semester as well! It is a nice connection to a sociological observation. Here is a near article talking about the sociology behind owning pets. As a pet owner, I can definitely support the science behind loving pets! I love my cats more than most people. Awesome blog post!

  2. Rachel Sara Anton

    Hey Avery,

    I wrote about a very similar topic! To add to your thoughts about why we love our pets, I found research regarding the fact that dogs have a sense of morality, justice, and right vs. wrong. I thought this was interesting because who is to say that other animals don’t have these same tendencies and we just never gave them the proper evaluation to prove it? One thing that you included in your blog that really interested me was the analysis of foreign countries and pets. I think it is crazy that Kenyans do not have pets and solely see animals as machines. This is interesting because all animals were viewed like this at one point, but somehow our country and many others grew a deep bond with animals such as dogs and cats. I wonder what prevented that progression in places like Kenya. Here is the article that talks about dogs and morality. It also says a lot about cats and their evolution as our pets.

  3. Erin Johnson

    I love this blog post because I am such a dog person and I treat my dog like she is a person. I talk to her like a human and even consider her part of my family. I have always had such a connection to dogs and I love how excited they get when you come home even if you were only gone for 30 minutes. I never thought that dogs/other pets caused chemical levels in our brain to change once we see them. This helps explain why I am extra happy when I go home and see my dog. Dogs are such loving creatures (in most cases) and I cannot imagine my life without one. I hate the cultural differences between pets in other cultures. I know some countries eat dogs and I think that that is absolutely horrific. I know we eat other animals, but I cannot fathom eating a loving creature like a dog. I hope that the culture of eating dogs changes in the very near future because I love all dogs and it hurts my heart thinking about them being eaten or treated poorly. I’m curious as to why we domesticated dogs so long ago and other cultures/countries still have not been able to do so. If there was a study done on this particular question, I would love to look into it because I think it is really interesting.

  4. Taylor Lexi Weinstein

    Hi Avery,
    Reading this article made me think about my dog at home and my connection to her. In my life I have always been scared of dogs. I never wanted a pet dog and I had a pet cat but I was never a dog person. I went away to college and last semester my family got a dog. I was very nervous about how it was going to go when I came home. I was very scared and I didn’t like to be around her since I wasn’t a dog person ever. I have been starting to bond with my dog and now I really enjoy being with her but it took some time. I like the part where you talked about different cultures and what there policies about pets where. Some cultures eat different animals which I find interesting so I did some research. I had a roommate two semesters ago from a different country and I decided to look into there pet policy. I learned and researched that in Vietnam they aren’t dog lovers like us they love other types of exotic pets like, including parrots, salamanders and snakes. The article that I found has more information of these animals and why people in Vietnam love these types.

  5. Asaad Saleh Salim Al Busaidi

    Hi Avery,
    You really made me think again about having my own dog/cat. In my country, dogs and cats are not really popular. I think the reason is because of the way a culture views it as you said in your post. However, buying birds as pets are really popular in my country. I myself used to have more 50 birds, such as parrots and canaries, in diiferent times when I was at school. The reason that made choose to have birda instead of dogs or cats was because birds were easy to buy, less expensive, easy to breed, and also easy to manage as a business in aviculture. Here is a link for some birds that are popular in my country and are easy to breed http://www.birdchannel.com/breeding-birds/5-best-pet-birds-to-breed.aspx

Leave a Reply