The human-animal connection is often used to describe the relationship between humans and animals. Pet owners know it’s much more than just a relationship, and anyone who has ever loved a companion animal has felt the power of the human-animal bond. Our unique relationship with our pets can impact physical, social, emotional, psychological and mental well-being for us and for them.
Our pets may not be able to tell us how they feel, but research can tell us that our companions feel the impact of the human-animal bond too. The human-animal bond also benefits our furry companions. Oxytocin is a hormone found in humans, cats, and dogs. Often referred to as the “love hormone”, it plays an important role in human relationships and can help explain how our pets feel about us. Studies have shown an increase in oxytocin levels in dogs after making eye contact with their owner, and an increase in oxytocin levels in cats after playing with their owners.
The emotional power of the human-animal bond can be difficult to describe to someone who has never had a relationship with a pet, but almost every pet owner recognizes unconditional love as a key component of the bond. Our pets offer friendship and love without judgment; they keep our secrets and listen to our fears; they quickly forgive us when we make a mistake; and they don’t blame us (although sometimes I think my cat might get mad at me if I feed him later than usual). The bond we form with our pets can also give us comfort and a sense of security.