There are few things stronger than the bonds between humans and their pets, and the relationships are one of the purest forms of unconditional love. Many of us consider our dogs and cats to be part of our families, but did you know there is science and research that explains why we love our pets and why they love us back?

Humans have been bonding with dogs for roughly 30,000 years, and with cats for around 8,000, and since the beginning, we’ve searched for answers to explain why we love our pets so much. You’ll often hear people remark that their pets can tell when they’re sad and comfort them, and although some people scoff at the thought, it’s not as far fetched as you may think. Numerous studies have shown that dogs, and some cats, have the ability to determine when we are sad based on our scent, auditory cues, and physical indicators. The reward centres in dogs’ brains also activate differently when we interact with them based on whether we are sad or happy.

The science behind why we love our pets goes much deeper than just them being able to pick up on our moods. Certain studies have shown that the hormone associated with social bonding, oxytocin, is released by both humans and dogs when we spend time together. Animal companionship has also been shown to actively reduce the symptoms associated with anxiety and depression disorders. We aren’t the only ones who benefit from these relationships though, dogs are the only known species that will instinctively run towards people when they are scared or anxious. Although cats are known to be more independent, they display similar behaviour when they’re around people, but there’s just less research on the subject.

We love our pets, and they love us back. Even though there’s extensive research on the subject, all many of us really need to know is that we bring each other joy. Some people may turn their nose up at people who treat their pets like they’re more than animals, but it’s not that we view them as people, we just want to treat them well because they bring so much happiness into our lives. Giving a pet healthy food, a warm bed, and plenty of affection makes us feel good. Plus, it ensures they’ll be in our lives for as long as possible, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

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