- Today, some examples show that animals can and do keep pets.
- Scientists say that humans cause this situation and that it is almost never encountered in natural life.
- Scientists also explain why people own pets and argue that what distinguishes us from animals in this regard is our cognitive abilities.
People love having pets. Approximately 60% of the US population owns at least one pet. More than $100 billion is spent on pets every year. So, are there any other animals that have such an incentive to care for a member of another species? Do you keep any non-human animals as pets?
You’ve probably seen many examples of animals “adopting” other animals. The most famous example of an animal adopting another animal is probably Koko the Gorilla and her pet kitten. Examples are not limited to Koko the gorilla: There are many examples of animal communication, such as an elephant making friends with a dog, a crow adopting a cat, and a goose making friends with a turtle. These examples show that animals can and do keep pets.
“The problem is that, with very, very few exceptions, all of these occur in the context of human intervention,” said Harold Herzog, professor emeritus at Western Carolina University in North Carolina. So these situations occur: in wildlife parks, in people’s homes, or in laboratories where people conduct experiments to study animal bonding. “There are very few examples of such relationships forming in the wild.” said.
Herzog said that when looking at all of the scientific literature, there are very few examples of interspecies interactions that occur in the wild and are supported by evidence. Herzog gave examples of spontaneous interspecies interactions in nature: a dolphin adopting a melon-headed whale calf, a lion adopting a leopard cub, a killer whale adopting a long-finned pilot whale, and a humpback dolphin adopting a common dolphin.
It is also unclear what the connections are in these cases. Scientists generally consider all of these to be interspecies adoption. But despite hours of observation by scientists, only a handful of examples exist, suggesting that pet adoption in the wild is incredibly rare. To understand why we may be lonely in our pet feeding habits, it is useful to first understand why we have pets. According to Beth Daly, an associate professor of anthrozoology at the University of Windsor in Canada, there are four main theories about why people keep pets.
The first theory is that you can show others that you are a good mate candidate because you are interested in things. The second theory is that we use animals to learn how to care for our own babies. Another theory is that keeping a pet may also be due to loneliness. People are becoming more lonely, postponing having children, and pets may be filling our loneliness for us. According to the latest theory, pets can only be a positive presence in our lives, but Herzog and Daly disagree with this idea.
“There are a lot of people who think pets are good for us, but actually pets are good as long as they don’t pose a problem for us,” Daly said. Think of someone who was paralyzed when he fell off his horse. “It’s not a good pet, but essentially the horse was doing whatever other horses were doing.” He expressed his opinions on the subject. Herzog also responded to the examples given about the reasons why we have a pet: “When you put socioeconomic and other variables aside, the vast majority of studies show that there is no difference between pet owners and non-pet owners, or that pet owners are worse off.” he replied. When Herzog kept an informal tally of 46 studies on depression between pet owners and non-pet owners, he found that 30 of the papers found no difference in depression rates between the two groups.
None of these theories about why we keep pets are unique to humans. Many animals need to care for babies and perhaps that’s why they benefit from companionship. Herzog argues that the only thing that makes us different is our cognitive abilities. Finally, Herzog said, “The reason why pets spread so quickly among humans is that we have the capacity to fall in love with them. “What most other animals probably don’t have is a sense of recognition that there are other creatures with minds.” said.
Compiled by: Esin Özcan