As a skeptic and someone that never had a pet, all I see in pets are creatures that are very needy and you have to look after, take care when sick, sometimes with expensive procedures, and are a burden if you have to stay away for any time longer than a few hours.

That said, the furthest to a conclusion I reached for the answer to "why people have pets?" is that pets, mostly dogs, somewhat resemble the reaction that people that love or care about you have with you, although that's arguably instinctive. For example: a Dog seems happy when he see the owner, just like a girlfriend or family member does. And that is usually taken by people as a reason to bound. Other more simple explanation is that pets are cute and we like to have them around.

So is there any scientific explanation to why people have pets?

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    I wonder if Cognitive Sciences might be a better home for this question? cogsci.stackexchange.com "Cognitive Sciences Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for practitioners, researchers, and students in cognitive science, psychology, neuroscience, and psychiatry." – James Jenkins Dec 21 '15 at 19:06
  • Although it's about pets, it's not a specific pet related question/issue, it's borderline off-topic... – Just Do It Dec 21 '15 at 19:16
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    I agree, the answer is "Yes, but it's offtopic here, and if you have to ask it may never make sense to you -- and that's entirely acceptable as a matter of personal taste.". – keshlam Dec 21 '15 at 20:06
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    (I should note that the reasons people decide to have kids or not are equally multiple and varied, and that doing so doesn't appeal to everyone... and that too is entirely acceptable as a matter of personal taste and may not be rational.) – keshlam Dec 22 '15 at 0:10
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    People "seem" happy to exactly the same extent that pets "seem" happy. There's no reason to deny one and allow the other. – Oldcat Dec 22 '15 at 23:47

There is a special edition from Scientific American this month with an article that happens to discuss this. The article is "Pets: why do we have them", by Daisy Yuhas.

From the article:

Researchers led by Christof Koch of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle have found neurons in the amygdala , an area invovled in emotions, that respond preferentially to animal images. The 2011 finding hints at a neural basis for the powerful emotional reactions animals elicit from us.

Other points in the article is that hugging pets leads to higher levels of oxytocin, that pets give social connectedness and provide relief from stress.

It was also pointed out that pets tend to have the forms that we associate with babies/children, such as large eyes and soft contours. But if I understand the article right, it is not yet proven that this leads to our positive response towards pets.

As a personal note, I believe that there are evolutionary reasons. Domesticating wolves into dogs was beneficial for both, for example.

  • Counterexample to the "babylike appearance" argument: most non-mammal pets.... – keshlam Dec 23 '15 at 2:26
  • @keshlam The child-like theory doesn't hold for tarantulas, but it could still hold for cats and dogs. – Vixen Populi Dec 23 '15 at 7:42
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    True, @vixenpopuli. And I do refer to my cats as "the kids", though that's figurative / jokingly rather than an accurate description of how I see them. (I think; never had kids so I can't compare raising housecats to raising houseapes.) – keshlam Dec 23 '15 at 15:54

I believe that people have pets because it makes them feel happy and joyful. It also allows people to develop friendship skills and be a better person. One more thing is that pets can make people feel less lonely.

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