The Influence of Pets on Human Life

October 1, 2019
Companion animals have been part of society for centuries. However, not long ago, researchers began looking into the positive effects of pets on human life. 

Since time immemorial, the presence of pets and companion animals in human life has been registered by numerous sources. The influence of pets on the life of human beings has filled the pages of books, articles and many other means of dissemination.

The origin of the influence of pets

Going back to the most ancient human-pet relationship, archaeological evidence confirms the relationship between humans and dogs. Researchers have obtained proof that the domestication of dogs occurred at the end of the last glacial period.

During that period, man devoted himself to hunting and gathering. Humans were nomads, meaning they had no permanent residence. It seems that domestication was the result of a process of interaction between both species that lasted dozens of thousands of years.

The dogs’ ancestors established a relationship with human beings based on protection, shelter, and the provision of food. This relationship led to coevolution and cooperation. Today, in western culture, the number of homes that have at least one cat or dog has increased. In the same way, multi-pet homes have also grown in number.

Science and interaction between pets and humans

Just the same, people continue to adopt animals and incorporate pets into their family circle. In fact, many animal lovers consider their pets to be members of the family. And science has finally noted the importance of the presence of animals in human life. Sorry Darwin!

A family with a pet dog.

What do humans get out of the relationship with their pets?

This is the question that researchers have been trying to answer in recent years. In the last three decades, science has conducted detailed studies of the relationships between humans and their companion animals. This research has come from different disciplines and scientific fields, like psychology, anthropology, and history.

Anthrozoology is a discipline that has generated a great interest in society. It has produced the appearance of scientific magazines focused on this new field, as well as the institution of different associations.

One of these associations is the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), focused on the reliable spreading of scientific studies regarding this subject. The institute gathers donations to encourage research. Furthermore, universities in the United States have established graduate studies related to the relationship between humans and pets.

For this reason, some authors have focused their research on a molecular level. They’ve suggested that the hormone oxytocin is a relevant factor when it comes to answering the above-mentioned question. This hormone allows for the establishment of bonds of trust between human beings, as well as between humans and animals.

Some of these studies have demonstrated that dogs have the ability to maintain eye contact with human beings. Establishing reciprocal eye contact is important in relationships when it comes to building trust. As philosopher Martin Buber states, “An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language.”

Oxytocin intervenes, then, in the establishment of a social bond. However, their role is not altogether disentangled. In fact, it’s quite complex. Just the same, it has given way to the creation of a new term, the “pet effect”.

A man on a bench with his dogs.

The influence of pets on human beings

The pet effect refers to the idea of the positive influence that living with an animal has on people. Different studies have registered many health benefits. For example, increased chances of surviving a heart attack.

Research has also registered that pets help produce an increase in social relationships. They also strengthen self-confidence and reduce triglyceride and cortisol levels, as well as blood pressure. In short, they allow for various types of positive sensory stimuli that have to do with the release of oxytocin and the strengthening of the human-pet relationship.

On a scientific level, we can say that the influence caused by a pet’s company has physiological, therapeutic, and psychosocial aspects. Researchers have observed that individuals who have pets have a higher level of physical activity. This, in turn, reflects positively on their health.

A couple walking a dog on the beach.

The presence of pets is beneficial for people of all ages

In conclusion, the influence of pets on the lives of human beings offers both short-term and long-term benefits. Animals are considered a part of our families, and they fill our homes with laughter and happiness. So, bring a pet into your life!