Pet care is truly one of the few joyful things about life. Over 85 million families in the United States have a pet. That’s more than half of the households in the country! Scientists are still pinpointing the exact time humans started having pets, but the earliest record of an animal being domesticated was over 32,000 years ago. To no surprise, the very first man’s best friend was a dog.
Why People Like Having Pets
The bond between man and animal stretches thousands of years. Some people argue that people like having pets because they’re useful companions for hunting and foraging. Others think it’s because they’re simply cute. However, John Bradshaw, a research fellow from the University of Bristol in England explained in an interview with The Washington Post that it’s neither of those explanations. It’s because humans have evolved to like them.
Every time you pet your cat or dog, according to Bradshaw, your brain releases hormones that stimulate satisfaction. The primate in you thinks you’re grooming your pet, which is a way of socializing back in ancient times.
This is why multiple scientific publications state that pet ownership helps you reduce stress and prevent feelings of loneliness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) even said that having a pet helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol and keeps you active and sociable.
Your pet (or pets) provides you with feelings of comfort, humor, love, and all other positive emotions. You’re happy when you’re with them and you love them like your own child. But have you ever wondered what your pets feel about you?
Inside the Mind of Fido
Some people are convinced that their pets love them. While others, especially cat and rabbit owners, may feel that their fur babies are just sticking around for the food and water. There are multiple studies about what pets think of their humans. Here are their answers to your questions.
Does my pet love me?
Looking at your dog in the eye increases levels of the social bonding hormone known as oxytocin in both your brains. This means your dog sees you as more than just a conduit for kibble and treats. They see you as someone who can keep them safe when they’re frightened or anxious. They’re also one of the few species that run to you when they’re happy to see you after a long time of being away.
Some K9s may need dog obedience training to keep their wild emotions in check, but the love they feel for you remains the same.
These qualities can be seen in cats, too. However, the way they show their affection and companionship is different. They can sense when you’re feeling down and show that they’re there for you by purring or licking your hand. Your pet cat also sees you as someone who can keep them safe – like a mother.
Cats who feel secure with their owners greet them and go back to what they were doing beforehand, according to researcher Kristyn Vitale in an interview with NBC News. Her study analyzed the relationships of over 108 cats and their owners. They found that cats are looking for companions that can be a source of their safety and security. Your cat loves you and cares for you, just not in the way that a dog would express.
Do my pets get jealous of other pets?
You’ve probably experienced visiting your friend and petting their dog, who is definitely a good boy, and by the time you come home, your own dog smells you and then looks at you with betrayal in their eyes. Do they really get jealous when you interact with other pets? The authors of a 2014 paper published in the Public Library of Science (PLOS) stated that yes, dogs do feel envy.
Their study found that dogs display jealous behaviors when you’re interacting with someone else. They bark and nuzzle you until you focus on them. They may even slap or gnaw things that you’re holding onto, causing you to buy a new PS4 controller again and again. Dogs also feel a sense of competition against other dogs and animals when it comes to getting your attention.
There is no solid research that cats could feel jealous of other cats and pets. However, John Bradshaw, a cat behavior expert, stated in an interview with National Geographic that cats don’t always get along well with other cats. Even if they’ve lived together for a long time, they may still feel mental distress. This stress can make your cat more vulnerable to diseases, like dermatitis and bladder inflammation.
As such, you should always consider the way your fur babies interact with each other and whether you should keep them in separate rooms or even houses to keep them mentally healthy.
The bond between you and your pet spans centuries and even millennia of evolution. Their benefits for your mental and physical health are undeniable. They make you feel happy, satisfied and loved. These studies prove that to some extent, they reciprocate that love back – and even feel childish jealousy when you don’t pay attention to them. Now, you can confidently feel that when push comes to shove, you can rely on them for support and companionship, as they are truly your best friend.