Study: Neurobiological Relationship Between People and Pets

Non-pet owners tend to believe that it is quite weird see pet owners treat their cats, dogs, birds or other animals like their own children, such as dressing them up for Halloween, throwing a birthday party or buying them gifts for Christmas. It seems they can’t understand the love that a person can have for their pet.

A new study finds people can love their pets as much as they love their own children.

The Massachusetts General Hospital released the findings of a report that concluded there is scientific evidence to suggest that the relationship between people and their pets is very similar to the relationship between parents and their kids.


“Several previous studies have found that levels of neurohormones like oxytocin — which is involved in pair-bonding and maternal attachment — rise after interaction with pets, and new brain imaging technologies are helping us begin to understand the neurobiological basis of the relationship, which is exciting,” said Lori Palley co-lead author of the report, in a statement.

In order to come to this conclusion, the researchers had utilized a group of mothers with at least one child between the ages of two and 10 as well as one pet owned for at least two years. These study participants were provided with a survey consisting of questions regarding their children and pets. Scientists were also given photos of the children and the dogs.

Following this element of the research study, mothers were put inside an MRI scanner and researchers measured the activity of their brain when showed images of their children and dogs and the other mothers’ children and dogs. Once this was completed, they were given another survey and were asked to rate the images on their reaction to them.

The researchers found that there were heightened similarities of the brain’s reactions to the children and dog images. The areas that had the most activity were responsible for emotion and visual processing, which were also more active when they saw photos of their own children and dogs than when they viewed photos of other participants’ children and dogs.

“Since fMRI is an indirect measure of neural activity and can only correlate brain activity with an individual’s experience, it will be interesting to see if future studies can directly test whether these patterns of brain activity are explained by the specific cognitive and emotional functions involved in human-animal relationships,” said Randy Gollub, MD, PhD, of MGH Psychiatry and co-author of the study, in a statement. “Further, the similarities and differences in brain activity revealed by functional neuroimaging may help to generate hypotheses that eventually provide an explanation for the complexities underlying human-animal relationships.”

Parents tend to do anything for their children because they have that special bond and responsibility. A significant number of pet owners share the same attributes as parents do so the general public shouldn’t be surprised to see pet lovers dole out thousands of dollars in toys, vet care, spas, insurance, clothing and other items. As we reported this year, Americans spend billions of dollars per year on.

When you see a video of this pet, how could you not be in love right away?