At times, we all get caught up in the stress of our modern-day lives. Pictures of our furry loved ones make one remember the simple things that bring joy and calm. So, how does looking at or interacting with our pets make us feel better?
1. We are naturally predisposed to be attracted to specific facial features in our companion pets.
Research has shown that humans tend to be drawn to facial characteristics associated with infancy and youth. When we see an animal with facial features such as a large head, round face, large eyes and a small nose and mouth, it triggers a releasing mechanism for caregiving and affective orientation towards that animal. Studies have confirmed that faces with infantile traits are perceived as "cute" and are preferred over those with less delicate facial features. These childish facial features are often present in companion animals. They may contribute to our attraction to these animals and motivate us toward pet-keeping and caretaking.
2. Interacting with our pets triggers a chemical change in our bodies.
Studies have found that levels of the hormone oxytocin increase after we interact with our pets. Oxytocin is a powerful hormone involved in social bonding and maternal attachment. In 2015, scientists demonstrated that sustained eye contact between a dog owner and his dog resulted in higher oxytocin levels in both the dog and the owner. Also, sniffing oxytocin increased gazing in dogs, an effect that transferred to their owners. The release of this hormone results in physical and chemical changes that slow the heart rate and block the production of stress hormones, creating a sense of calm, comfort and focus. Other studies have revealed that both owners and dogs experienced higher levels of oxytocin, beta-endorphin, prolactin and dopamine after a positive interaction between dog lovers and dogs. Both endorphin and dopamine are fundamental to our sense of well-being.
3. An image of our pet can profoundly affect the activity and biochemistry of our brains.
In addition to the hormonal changes, behavioural studies on brain activity demonstrate that specific brain parts are activated when people look at their pets. Mothers' brain activity as they viewed their child and dog's images identified similarities in the perceived emotional experience and brain function associated with the mother-child and mother-dog bond. The participants reported similar pleasantness and excitement ratings for their child and dog. The results show that the direct interaction and the thought or image of your dog can activate a hormonal response and brain activity related to affiliation, reward, and emotion.
PETS ARE FAMILY; CELEBRATE THEM!