Psychology 101: Our Furry Friends

Welcome to Psychology 101; a segment that I’ll be writing for KIS Today. Each article will feature a different aspect of psychology – so keep reading if you want to uncover the truth about the human mind. Today’s article is about our furry friends.

When I say “furry friends”, I’m not talking about your weird bearded neighbour who only leaves the house every fortnight (that will totally be in a different post). I’m talking about your family pets! I’m pretty sure many of you here at KIS have a friendly little animal friend in your home – and if you don’t you should really get one, they’re great. I recommend a cat. But dogs are okay too I guess. But has anyone ever stopped to wonder why we adore these creatures so much? Sure, I relate to cats and their love of sleeping but I don’t really have much else in common with them.

So what makes the bond between humans and their pets so strong?

Just like Ms. Ana likes to say, humans are social species. As soon as we are born we all demand attention and affection from the world around us. However, I bet it’s also in human nature to get completely fed up with other people. Like, don’t get me wrong I love my friends and family but I also love hiding in my room away from the pressures of social interaction. Pets give humans the opportunity to receive love and attention without having to put up with being awkward around others. Unless your pet is a fish and you’re trying to give it a cuddle – that’s super awkward for everyone. 

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Also, some studies show that a hormone called oxytocin spikes in our brains when we are looking into the eyes of our pets. This is the exact same hormone that’s released when parents look into the eyes of their babies. So if anyone calls you crazy for treating your pet like your child then you can tell them that you’re hardwired to do so.

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However, I’m sad (and a little embarrassed to tell you) that love isn’t the only reason why humans have pets.

A psychologist named Harold Herzog looked at how animals are treated around the world. In some cultures, the word “pet” doesn’t even exist and people wouldn’t even dream of treating an animal as one of their own. In other cultures, people keep pets – such as dogs – for protection but not for affection. So how is it that in some cultures we cherish the love of pets and in others, people couldn’t care less? Herzog concluded that we have pets because it’s “socially contagious.” In other words having a pet is trendy or considered popular. And if you think about it…this makes so much sense. For example, after the first Finding Nemo movie was released the demand for clown fish was insane! And whenever I go to visit my uncle in Australia I become obsessed with his dog all over again and keep pestering my parents to let me have one.

Now, if we are to believe that pets are adopted because of their popularity, then wouldn’t it make sense that all of you petless people reading this will suddenly get the urge to adopt a pet?

If this is right then pet owners at KIS will skyrocket. However, I know it’s not as simple as that. Some of you might not have pets because you’re parents won’t let you, others might live in buildings where pets aren’t allowed. Because of this here’s a list of all the positive psychological benefits of having a pet. Hopefully, you can use this list to convince your parents or your landlord.

  • A requirement of having a dog is taking them out for walks. Not only does this benefit you physically, it also benefits you mentally. Having a dog gets you off your computer and outside into the fresh air. This can clear your head, de-stress you and even give you the opportunity to meet new people and strike up a conversation. (I know that last one doesn’t sound too enjoyable but I’m sure it’s good for you).
  • Sadly cats, birds and fish don’t require you to go out and walk them. But it’s been proven people can become calmer and less stressed when their beloved pet is in the room with them.

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(See extremely calming!)

  • Studies have even shown that the effects of being with your pet is stronger than having to take anti stress pills.
  • The emotional benefits of having a pet is pretty much equal to having a friend.
  • People who have pets generally are far better in terms of self-esteem, loneliness and depression.
  • And most importantly they can give you moral support while doing your homework. My cats constantly sit by me (and sit on me) while I work.

I would like to end this post is with a dedication to our furry friends and their beloved owners.

Also my heart goes out to all of you who are allergic to these lovely creatures. I’m sad you will never experience true joy.

Sources:

http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150530-why-do-we-love-our-pets-so-much

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/11542075/Why-humans-love-pet-dogs-as-much-as-their-children.html

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201208/3-surprising-true-facts-about-pets-and-their-owners

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/13/pets-psychological-benefits-study_n_897022.html

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