Pets have an impact on the quality of their owner’s lives. The human-animal bond is so strong that most pet owners consider their pets to be members of their family. If you’re like me, then you may even refer to your pets as your children. Despite the claims of some stereotypes, having a tight human-animal bond (or two or three) is actually very beneficial to both the pet and the human.

The Psychological Benefits of the Human-Animal Bond

Benefits of the Human Animal Bond title photo

One of my favorite photos of myself, my husband, Cinco and Manna.

The psychological benefits of owning a pet are just amazing. A study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology states that pet owners had greater self-esteem, greater consciousness, and less fearful attachment than non-pet owners. In general, pet owners are happier people. Our pets (especially cats and dogs) offer us unconditional love and companionship that is completely without judgement.

Pets fill a very important need in the human psyche – the need to have purpose. As much as we dream of having a life with no responsibilities, such a life wouldn’t leave us satisfied. Having a pet around that needs us can bring that satisfaction. The human-animal bond is not one sided – we need them and they need us. As we feed our pets, groom them, play with them, and spend time with them we become more whole as human beings.

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The Physical Benefits

The benefits of the human-animal bond are not just all in our heads. According to WebMD, pets can lower our stress levels, lower our blood pressure, lessen anxiety, and boost our immune systems. Children growing up in homes with pets are less likely to have pet allergies. It seems that the earlier a person is exposed to animals, the healthier their immune system is overall.

The human-animal bond can help us get through some debilitating illnesses and injuries. A study from the University of Minnesota found that cat owners in particular are less likely to suffer from cardiovascular problems like heart attacks and strokes. If you do happen to have a heart attack, it has been shown that owning a pet can help you live longer and heal faster. Pets can even be trained to work as service animals to help with specific needs related to an illness or injury.

There are also the benefits you receive from the exercise you get while playing with or caring for your pet. Interactive toys can be loads of exercise (and fun for all). Think of all the bending and lifting involved with owning a pet. Anyone who has ever had to buy kitty litter knows how much exercise that can be!

The Social Benefits

Benefits of the Human-Animal Bond Robin and Manna

Manna and I having some bonding time.

The human-animal bond can take away our loneliness and open our eyes and hearts to worlds other than our own. Humans are social creatures by nature. We need social interaction to be mentally healthy. Pets can provide social interaction for even the most introverted or unsociable people. Pets are unintimidating, they don’t judge us or belittle us. They don’t demand as much of us in social situations as other humans sometimes do. Just their presence in our lives can make us less lonely.

The physical interaction of petting a pet causes a release of oxytocin into your body. Oxytocin is known as the “moral molecule” or the “love molecule” because it relaxes us and makes us feel more trusting and open with others. This little hormone can help you to make decisions about your actions based on how they will affect other people (or animals). Oxytocin is also found in very high levels in pregnant women and mothers while nurturing their children. Petting your pet can make you care more about others.

Our pets give us more than the body chemistry we need to be social. It turns out that having pets gives humans something to bond over with other humans. It can be very awkward to start a conversation with someone you don’t know well. However, 2 pet owners will never be lacking for something to talk about. HABRI, an organization specializing in research on the human-animal bond, even suggests to doctors that they use the subject of pet ownership to get their patients to open up. I don’t know about you, but I’ve made several friendships that are based on our common interest in cats (or pets in general).

 In what ways have your pets helped you?

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