I just watched a fun animated kid’s movie called Boss Baby in which Baby Corp. (you know… the corporation that makes babies and delivers them to families) was deeply concerned about the competition they were seeing from pets. The Baby Corp. executives were worried that pets were going to put Baby Corp. out of business as they feared that more people were choosing pets over babies. Now, we all know this is pure fiction (of course Baby Corp. won’t go out of business) but I wanted to look at why pets are becoming more popular.
I think it is because pets make people more human. Why else would you people include pets like me in your lives? The reason defies logic, practicality or anything tangible really. When you think about the commitment, the responsibility, the financial costs, etc. of pet parenting it would lead many to avoid us altogether. But if you read last week’s Pet Column you will remember that 68% of households in this country have a dog or cat (and amounting to more than 70 million dogs and 74 million cats in U.S. households).
It is sort of like deciding to bring a child into your life — no rational reason to do so but those who do experience a level of love and joy in which they can’t imagine life being otherwise. It is this truly profound but undefinable human-pet bond that drives the research of Lori Palley, the assistant director of veterinary services at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Comparative Medicine. Her research has involved scanning the brains of mothers while they were looking at images of their own children and their dogs. Surprise: similar areas of the brain were activated — regions involved in emotion and reward — whether it was the kids or dogs on view. Though obviously not definitive, the work does seem to suggest this thing you have with pets goes deep (and yes, validating the concerns of Baby Corp.).
Human understand it even if your minds don’t. According to the American Heart Association pet ownership may lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S., “Overall, pet ownership of any kind tended to be independently associated with survival. Dog ownership was strongly associated with decreased mortality, with the likelihood of mortality being 4.05 times greater for dog non-owners than for dog owners (independent of physiological measures or the severity of CVD).”
Additionally we know through studies of animal assisted therapy programs that pets can provide many other positive physical health benefits for people with challenges such as high blood pressure and other heart risks, as well as emotional issues such as depression and anxiety.
Thus, I suggest you all give up trying to figure it out and give in to your internalized desire to adopt a new pet into your lives. If you want your brain’s emotion and reward centers activated and super charged come meet me today. My name is Panda and I am an 18 month young boy kitty. I am an outgoing, social, affectionate lover of laps and naps. I am a good conversationalist so I prefer hanging out with dogs more than cats.