Where to start. Animals have long been companions to people, and people have long been companions to animals. Over the years, more and more people have added animal companions to their lives. I am aware of people (including myself), that have allergies but still none the less have made adjustments so that they can have an animal companion in their life. I have also noticed an increase in the number of transient people residing in the San Francisco Bay Area that have an animal companions in their lives.
So why the attraction to animals? There are many reasons and I imagine if you were to ask different people with an animal companion why they have one, their answers would vary. I think it’s safe to say that there would be similar reasons as to why people have animal companions. One being that animal companions provide their human companions with a sense of unconditional love. When we arrive home after a being out in the world, our animal companion(s) greet us with so much joy and excitement that it can be overwhelming (in a good way) if you stop and think about. It’s rare to live with a person that is happy every single time they see and interact with us. With the consistent positive feelings for us, animal companions can cause us to feel safe, loved and help us to experience a secure attachment to another living being, which is priceless. Animal companions have a way of making us feel accepted and loved, even when the world and possibly loved ones have rejected or ignored us. The gentle nudges, touch and long eye contact from our animal companions, help to improve our sense of connection and mood.
Animals companions also help us to laugh, experience child-like joy and be fully in the present moment more frequently. From that laughter and joy, we experience an improved mood, feel less stressed, and or depressed. Science has found that we when look in to the eyes of loved ones, including our animal companions, the love hormone oxytocin is released, and we experience a sense of safety, love, security and belonging. Looking at pictures of your animal companions when you are away from them or at work, can provide you with feelings of joy and happiness when you are not feeling your best.
Another reason people enjoy animal companions is because animal companions require us to give our attention to something other than ourselves. For some, having an animal companion to look after and take care of, creates a sense of purpose. Having a sense of purpose for many people has been a way to decrease symptoms of depression and suicidal ideation. Having to take a doggie companion for their daily walks provides people with the opportunity to get some exercise and feel less anxious or depressed. Those walks can also help people to lose weight and help with arthritis. Petting a cat companion has been shown to lower blood pressure and help people feel less stressed.
There are far more benefits of having an animal companion that are listed in this post. I was only able to cover a few but it’s good to remember that animal companions help their human companions to improve their mood, sense of purpose and safety, and provide lots of laughs and positive memories in the process.
Photo by Anusha Barwa
Christina is a Psychotherapist in private practice in Oakland California.