Scientific Benefits Of Hugging A Pet

By Holly Thompson

We all love a good hug, especially from our animal amigos. Whether furry, scaly or slippery, every pet has the capability to boost even the grumpiest person’s mood. But how? Let’s dive into the science-mumbo-jumbo of why a cuddle (or a cwtch as we say in Wales) makes us feel like we can pick ourselves up and face another day.

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Oxytocin. Our first science word of the day. Oxytocin is a hormone often labelled as the “feel good” hormone. This hormone promotes lower levels of stress, happiness, and magically lowers heart rate and cortisol levels. These all allow you to feel better, physically and mentally. And guess what…. This magical Oxytocin is released by hugging your pet! (Or anyone come to think of it)

Neuroeconomist. Yes, this is a person who knows a lot about a lot of things, including the brain. Neuroeconomist Paul Zak (aka Dr. Love) recommends at least eight hugs a day. This is because of the Oxytocin and the suggestion, sourced from research, that hugs allow you to develop better relationships with others. Psychotherapist (yes another long word!) Virginia Satir also famously said;

“We need 4 hugs a day for survival.

We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance.

We need 12 hugs a day for growth”

Universal Language. This is an easier concept to understand. In the same way music is classed as a universal language, so is touch. Hugs don’t count on people understanding each other (especially in our case of pets). Numerous studies over the years have proved without a doubt that touch has the power to bring emotions such as anger, fear, disgust, love and sympathy to the surface. Being able to express these emotions has a huge positive impact on mental health.

Do you mind? Our minds go through so much stress throughout the day, every day. In many cases we don’t have time to express or explore these emotions because we must get on with whatever we were doing. Touch can help bring these emotions to the surface. They don’t get bottled up to the point where they subconsciously eat you up inside. Exploring these emotions can teach you so much about yourself, especially with your head stuck in the fur of your beloved pet can guarantee a no judgement zone.

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Judgement free zone, proceed with open hearts. Fun fact: Animals aren’t judgmental (as far as we know). This means that we can rant and cry and sulk as much as we want, and they won’t see us as any differently. This is an amazing relief that doesn’t happen when you are in the company of other people. There’s always that niggling feeling about what they might be thinking. Sure, they can’t give advice, but at the end of a hard day, is there anything better than curling up with a good film and having a cwtch with your fluffy companion?