CHAH_iStock_000017761090_LargeIt’s been one of those manic Mondays where nothing seems to go right. Plopping down with your head in your hands, a familiar nudge grazes your knee, sits down beside you, and snuggles up against your lap. For almost every pet guardian out there, this scene is a familiar one. We can think of occasions in our lives when our pets seemed to inexplicably understand our most unspoken concern, grief, pain, or confusion.

For pet parents, the human-animal bond is as real as any important connection or friendship, if not more so. But what’s behind it? And why does it make such a meaningful impact on our lives?

The Human-Animal Bond Defined

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA), the human-animal bond is “…a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviors that are essential to the health and well-being of both.”

This bond is most often felt through the emotional connection we have with our pets, such as when we are greeted by an exuberant dog and in turn, we are made to feel good as a result of such unbridled enthusiasm. Or, perhaps you’ve experienced this bond when you are under the weather and your cat curls up next to you in bed, soothing you with her presence and healing purr.

The Origins of Our Kinship with Other Animals

For more than 12,000 years (or perhaps longer), humans have relied on animals for food, protection, resources, and companionship. Research suggests dogs and cats may have played an important role in nomadic tribes and agricultural settlements. We’ve learned that being a part of human communities also benefited animals. In other words, they participated  in the domestication process since they benefited from our resources as well.

As we continue to explore the physical and emotional benefits of animals in our lives, we are looking at ways both humans and their pets can help improve health and quality of life for each other.

Physical and Emotional Benefits of Pets

When you have spent a lifetime with pets, you don’t need to see a gamut of research on the human-pet bond or the studies that speak to the benefits of pet ownership. You simply feel this in your heart. From the comfort that a beloved pet brings during times of sorrow, to the comical antics of a new puppy bringing smiles and laughter, the bond is undeniable.

Because pets have been so instrumental in our lives, research continues to focus on the physical, emotional, and practical benefits of pets on our lives and we are continually surprised by new discoveries.

Some of the amazing and seemingly magical exchanges between humans and animals have proven to have numerous advantages. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Pets allow us to feel needed – they engage us in daily routines and caretaking rituals that help us express love, affection, and nurturing.
  • Those with pets are less likely to feel lonely or depressed, especially among seniors who spend a greater amount of time at home or alone.
  • Pets, and most certainly our social canines, help us stay connected to others, since we are likely to interact with others while on our daily dog walks to the park or through the neighborhood.
  • Pets motivate us to exercise – remember those daily walks!
  • Pet ownership has been linked to lowering blood pressure and improving cardiovascular health.
  • Some pets are even trained to provide services – such as medication management and walking assistance – to help people recover from or better cope with a range of disabilities and challenges.
  • What are some of your favorite ways your pet has enhanced your life?

    The human-animal bond is the subject of research, study, and fascination. And, it is no wonder when so many of us intuitively have felt the powers of this most amazing bond.