In the last few weeks at work we’ve been lucky enough to have a puppy by the name of “Bella”, a staffie, running around the office biting our shoelaces filling us all with laughter and happiness. She has a cast on her leg, which makes her all the more adorable and impossible not to love, which has bought with it an air of delight and cheerfulness into the workplace. Puppies make people happy all the time, they’re cute and fluffy and put a smile on your face, but what is the psychology behind pets making people happier? Is this fact? If so how does it work?
What research has been done on pets and human psychology?
Research on pets being used to help humans has only been around for a few decades, and was initially done on dogs being used in nursing homes as part of therapy. Some research even extended as far to explore heart disease and how having a pet at home reduced stress and blood pressure, clearly having a positive effect on people’s health.
In fact there’s been a real life test conducted amongst female and male stockbrokers in the United States suffering from heart and blood pressure problems. The researches gave them all the same medication for half a year, but then half the group were asked to live with a pet for the 6 month trial and the other half were told not to. When they were tested 6 months later in stress testing it was found the half who had kept a pet for the past 6 months returned better results in their stress testing, than the other half who hadn’t.
This is just one example of health benefits that people can get from having a pet around the house. There are much more common and obvious examples, like the ones Dr. Alan Beck from the school of veterinary medicine at Purdue university has researched, such as the benefits of companionship. Companionship with animals decreases loneliness, and even touching animals stimulates physical reactions that are very necessary and important in humans. Does this bring anything/anyone to mind…
Although looking at the research, perhaps its better “crazy cat ladies” do in fact have cats, as it’s helping them to be healthier psychologically. Not only that, generally owning a pet stimulates more exercise and physical activity. Not just because you’re running around after them inside the house, but taking them on walks. This is seen especially in elderly people, who don’t get much physical activity, so having pets help them get out and be slightly active.
They don’t have to always be traditional pets either. As this article shows, chickens have been introduced into some nursing homes to combat social isolation and loneliness for some of the elderly. The pensioners have aptly been renamed hensioners, and their love for these chickens is just downright adorable, and shows how simple companionship with animals can make a world of difference.
So that feeling most of us know of coming home from a long ruff day at work and feeling down in the dumps. Only to have happy dog (insert different animal for other pet owners) come bounding towards you, licking you to death and you can’t do anything but have a smile beam across your face as it fills you with joy. Thinking to yourself how can there be something so loving in this world, which can snap you out of a bad mood and make you so happy so quickly.
This type of reaction is completely normal and expected! And it’s backed up with research that pets are great for our mental health. The fact that a fluffy little creature (sometimes not so little) can take us from being in a state of unhappiness and depression, to a happier and more pleasant place is a pretty awesome idea. And all the more reason to take them on walks and keep them happy as well! A workplace in Japan has taken this to a new level, insisting any new employees they hire must have a “love of felines”. They encourage employees to bring their cats into work, and even if you don’t have one of your own, they’ll pay you a monthly bonus to adopt a cat. The company says some of the benefits they’ve seen have been increased productivity through increased communication between employees, lower stress levels and more pawsitive attitudes.
Going off the research that we looked at earlier, it’s no surprise that this little anecdote of cats in an office has helped the company’s day-to-day morale and productivity.
If you’ve been struggling to convince your boss as to why you need a pet at your workplace, then just show them all the benefits of having one around the place and how much happier everyone would be, just think of all the pawsibilities!