What is it about animals that draws us to them? What about their validation calls to our inner psyche? Over the years, there has been a lot of research into the human trait of keeping pets, I do mean a LOT. Humans are the only animal that own pets. Other than working dogs, the relationship is very one-sided. So why do we do what we do? If an alien race were to come to our world and observe pets and owners, they would likely question who’s the owner and who’s the pet. We house them, feed them, walk them, clean up after them, pay for their grooming and medical care, and in return, they… give us a rub or a lick. In reality, we often treat them better than we treat other humans. It seems like a very one-sided relationship. It deserves a deeper look.
The consensus is that humans and dogs began living together 14,000 years ago and maybe even longer. Cats probably started living with humans around 12,000 years ago and probably domesticated themselves. That is so cat. The initial arrangements would likely have been mutually beneficial to dogs, cats, and humans, providing food and protection. The connection grew into much more. It’s not just dogs and cats either. Humans seek a connection with all other living things. People take in birds, reptiles, fish, bugs, spiders, and pretty much anything that creeps, or crawls. How many of us, as kids, caught bugs and kept them in a mason jar with a few sticks, some grass, and leaves, making sure to punch holes in the lid? Maybe it is a primal urge to own or command something and to feel control over an aspect of life. Perhaps it is something more.
So what do the studies say about the interaction of humans and pets? I'm glad you asked. Some studies say that people who have pets live longer. Others question those findings. Do we have them because interacting with pets produce a rush of endorphins or because they increase our socialization? True points but is that the reason? Did you know that children who are raised with pets have a lower occurrence of allergies and sickness? And taking care of a pet also seems to help children with confidence, maturity, and communication. I am no scientist, but I think it has something to do with how animals make an authentic connection, giving us validation, forgiveness, acceptance, unconditional love, and trust. Animals often display traits we seek to develop. In the end, perhaps it is because they show us the virtue we call “humanity” better than we can see it in ourselves.
We may never know what that certain unknown something is that animals bring into our lives. Whatever it is, though, nearly 70% of families in the US feel that our animals are worth every penny. Whether it is the over-the-top excitement to greet us, the purr and head bunt, or that unique, particular thing you have with your pet, it is a priceless experience to share our lives with these fellow creatures. If you will excuse me, I need to go ‘sniggle’ my fur babies. What do you love about your furry other? Let us know about what makes your pet special.