Friends ‘Til the End: Exploring the Human-Animal Bond

young redhead woman hug her small Mixed-breed dog

redhead teenage girl and her dog portrait

For many of us, some of our fondest memories as children were connected to time spent with pets. Whether jumping in a mud puddle with Spot at our side, or curling up with Mittens after a long day at school, animals share a space in nostalgia and in our adult lives. They are considered family and are cared for in the way we would care for any loved one – two- or four-legged.

For centuries, mankind has been fascinated by other animals, including domesticating many of them as partners in our evolutionary success. But what is the human-animal bond? And is there any science behind it?

The Science of the Human-Animal Bond

Purdue University’s Center for the Human-Animal Bond defines the bond as, “… the dynamic relationship between people and animals in that each influences the psychological and physiological state of the other.”

While we may associate this bond with modern pet ownership, other species have been integral to our lives for thousands of years, offering protection and service, such as herding or assistance with hunting. As we have strengthened our relationships with pets, the bond has proven to be advantageous in numerous other ways.

Not only do pets promote companionship and empathy among us, they also have been shown to help lower blood pressure, relieve anxiety and clinical depression, and help us live longer lives.

Shifting Views

Another important factor in why the human-animal bond is strong between pet owners and pets has to do with our view of pets. Over the past few decades, our understanding of the emotional lives of animals, as well as tremendous strides in veterinary medicine, has given pets a more important place at the proverbial table.

Pet ownership has gone beyond the mouser-cat or guard dog, and has given pets more meaningful roles in our families. In fact, many people report feeling the loss of a pet as deeply as they have felt the loss of a human loved one.

From funny cat memes to heartwarming stories of someone being reunited with a missing pet, our four-legged friends also connect us as pet lovers. They bring out the best in us as we nurture and care for them. And we are now finding animal companions in children’s hospitals, nursing homes, and other places where they provide therapeutic comfort.

On February 20th, we celebrate National Love Your Pet Day, a day devoted to celebrating the many ways animals bring joy, meaning, and unconditional love to our lives. The human-animal bond is a testament to the power of simple companionship, of honoring a friendship that does have a common language – the language of the heart.

Happy National Love Your Pet Day! We hope you have something special planned for your wonderful pet, and we’d love to hear about what you did to celebrate.

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