Why Pets Matter: The Human-Animal Bond

Ask a pet owner what they love about their cat or dog, and chance are they’ll mention the affection they share, the fun pets add to a home, or the joy of having an exercise buddy.

These are just some of the benefits of human-animal interaction or “HAI” – what’s commonly referred to as the human-animal bond.

In fact, in its 2017-2018 survey of national pet owners, the American Pet Products Association found that over 80% of pet owners named companionship as a benefit of pet ownership. Over 65% said pets relieve stress or help them relax.

And the benefits don’t stop there. For more than a decade, the WALTHAM Petcare Science Institute, has collaborated with academic institutions and the U.S. National Institutes of Health to understand the human-animal bond.

Study findings suggest important health and well-being benefits from enjoying life with a pet…

  • Kids with pets tend to have greater self-esteem, less loneliness and enhanced social skills.1 In fact, they often think of pets as their best friend.2
  • Kids also report feeling more positive while completing a task if their pet dog is with them.3 And, pets in schools can help kids learn by keeping them interested and motivating good behaviors.4
  • At a time when loneliness is becoming an epidemic, surveys suggest people with pets feel less lonely. Over half of pet owners in a recent U.K. survey said getting a pet gave them a new sense of purpose.5
  • Pets help people connect. Dog owners are 5 times more likely to know their neighbors than non-dog owners.6
  • Also, people who walk their dog get 30+ minutes of physical activity more days a week than non-dog walkers, and feel safer in their neighborhood.7
  • Owning a pet is associated with higher social capital, which is measured by things like helpfulness, friendliness, trust and civic engagement.8
  • Pet ownership even makes a difference in the survival rate for heart attacks. In one study, 94% of heart patients with pets survived serious heart attacks for at least a year, compared to 72% without pets.9
  • For older adults, pets can help them stay active and motivated to maintain their routines.9
  • Even in the face of significant stressors — like the loss of a spouse or close friend — pet ownership appears to mitigate the negative health consequences of stress.9

The human-animal bond is valuable and beloved. For all these reasons, the BETTER CITIES FOR PETS™ program of Mars Petcare is helping cities be more pet-friendly. In a world where pets are always welcome, we believe pets and people can have a better life, together.


  1. https://www.waltham.com/news-events/human-animal-interaction/family-pets-boost-child-development/5560/
  2. https://www.waltham.com/news-events/human-animal-interaction/pets-are-a-child-s-best-friend/5562/
  3. https://www.waltham.com/news-events/human-animal-interaction/coping-with-childhood-stress-could-a-dog-be-the-answer/5557/
  4. https://www.bettercitiesforpets.com/2017/08/29/classroom-pets-arent-just-fun-new-research-reveals-animals-positive-impact-students/
  5. https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/how-many-days-month-brits-13280238
  6. https://www.waltham.com/news-events/human-animal-interaction/mans-best-friend-helps-owners-make-connections/5576/
  7. https://www.waltham.com/news-events/human-animal-interaction/walking-the-dog-helps-keep-owners-healthy-and-promotes-community-cohesion/5564/
  8. https://www.waltham.com/news-events/human-animal-interaction/pet-ownership-adds-to-the-glue-that-holds-societies-together/5558/
  9. https://www.waltham.com/dyn/_assets/_pdfs/the_role_of_pets_in_human_healthy_active_aging_booklet_waltham.pdf

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