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Buddy Science – Why we love our pets

Why on Earth do we obsess over our pets sooo . . .  much? I’m not talking just about how adorable, innocent and quirky they are. People obsess over their pets so much that today there are cosmetic surgeries to alter their appearances. Pet insurance is a real thing. And, to boot, a whopping 500,000 people purchased testicular implants to restore what was once lost to their beloved pals. In the world of consumerism pet care is one of the fastest growing retail businesses, second only to personal electronics. Billionaire Leona Helmsley left a $12 million trust fund to her dog, Trouble; her grandkids, received nothing. In one questionnaire a participant commented, “I care for them more than for most people I know,” when commenting about his/her dogs. Lloyd Garver, a journalist, said in his article about pets, “But don’t try to turn them into humans. Why would you want to knock them down a notch?” Get this–people who lose their pets display the same level of grief as losing a loved-one; not one but three studies proved this to be true.

Pets or domesticated animals specifically dogs have been around for thousands of years. Dogs as domesticated animals date back to 12,000 years ago. All dogs are descendants of wolves. Good thing their bark is worse than their bite. The adorable Shih Tzu and not so adorable Pug (no offense) all transcended from wolves. This is somewhat shocking to ponder, but it makes sense. Just like people, wolves all have unique traits: some are smart, some have thick fur, some are really large, some have large snouts, etc. Over time humans blended these characteristics to create today’s furry friend. 

Random facts: There is evidence that a dog very similar to the Pekingese existed in China by the first century. Also during the reign of the Roman Empire small breed dogs were believed to help cure stomach aches when sitting on a person’s lap. 

For most people it is common knowledge that the Egyptians held the cat sacred and mummified millions of them, ya millions. The earliest evidence of domesticated cats dates back to 3000 B.C. Cats are sought after for their independent nature and pest control abilities as well as their innate adorableness. 

Over time many other animals became domesticated as well, including the horse, sheep, elephant, camel, pigeon, rabbit, cow, and buffalo to name a few. All of the above served their own purpose; sheep for example provided meat and clothing while cattle provided transportation, clothing, meat, and power for ploughing/hauling. The first domesticated animals served a more primal purpose and aided survival. Today’s domesticated animals especially those who live in first world countries have it easy. Dogs and cats remain by and large as the primary animals to dwell indoors with their owners. 

Exotic animals are on the rise as desirable pets despite, well, their exotic behaviors. Owning exotic pets is banned in many states; some states have partial bans, while others have no regulations whatsoever. The fact that people are willing to risk their lives and well-being to own these animals suggests there is something deeper to humans’ desire to own pets. 

Interesting fact: Did you know that measles came from dogs, mumps from poultry, tuberculosis from cattle, and the omnipresent cold from horses? Additionally, humans are the only species that consistently integrates and builds relationships with other species. 

When you think about it, pets in the modern sense of the word eat, poop, and sleep all at the expense of their owners, sounds rough (pun intended). What could they possibly provide in return to repay the incurring debt? The answer is simple: they provide, “something,” otherwise we wouldn’t continue with this growing and obvious obsession. 

In the United States and Australia approximately 63 percent of households include pets and in the U.S. more people have pets than children.

Most people acquire a pet for comfort and security. Really what’s more comforting than walking in the door after a long day of work to Fido who is incessantly jumping, drooling, scratching, licking, and showering you with unconditional love, right? Those who truly love their pets and view them as members of their family know there’s a lot more to it than that. 

I recently moved to a different state and had to leave my two dogs with friends and family. You know what the toughest part about moving was? Leaving my dogs. I had no idea exactly how much they meant to me. I literally could go on and on about the effects of not having them around has had on me. Seriously, people, I stopped sleeping soundly through the night without Tobers my little Yorkie-Chihuahua next to me, and I couldn’t fully relax without my protector, avenger, and neurotic Lab-mix Marzi. I cried like a little girl every time I thought about them (I don’t cry, for the record), and the list goes on and on.  

For the pet naysayers who believe all pet owners are crazy or lacking the ability to communicate or reach out to people, they’re wrong. John Archer a psychology professor at the University of Central Lancashire in the United Kingdom wrote an essay titled, “Why do People Love Their Pets?” in it he provides extensive research citing multiple experts who believe pets better our well-being. Additionally he reiterates that people have owned domesticated animals for thousands of years and that most people who own pets have fulfilling and secure  “human” relationships, therefore the naysayers’ point is moot. What really takes the cake though is that more and more evidence including Archer’s concludes that pets are beneficial to our health and well-being #booya.

Pet owners are less likely to develop cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, cope with stress better, have fewer psychosomatic symptoms, fewer visits to the doctor’s office and live more active lifestyles. Children benefit from pets too. They provide a constant companion and partner in crime. Children also experience less stress around dogs. In one experiment children who read aloud to a group with a friendly dog present had lower blood pressure than those who didn’t  have a dog present.

This evidence suggests that humans have adapted their behavior to changing needs over time. As lives become more and more stressful people find different ways to cope: drinking excessive amounts of booze, watching TV for hours in one day, eating unabashedly, etc. None of these promotes your health and all are adaptive behaviors due to the increased amount of stress in our lives. Owning a pet on the other hand promotes healthier living and reduces stress. Sure there are those times when you want to strangle your dog for diving into the forbidden treasure commonly known as the trash can or how about those times when he or she unfalteringly insists that the squirrel, cat, rabbit, deer, or any other living, moving thing should either be a best friend or a mortal enemy? Even when they do these silly, albeit irritable things, ya still love them, We just can’t help it. 

Why do people love and obsess over their pets? Simple. They make us happy because we make them happy. We make them happy and they make us happy and this goes on.

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