TORONTO, Dec. 15 /CNW/ - A recent Harris/Decima study1 reveals that more than half (53%) of Canadian pet owners think animals are more reliable than people. Pets offer us unconditional love and acceptance, which feeds our psychological needs as a species. It is not uncommon for people to become deeply attached to the companionship that pets provide, looking to them as confidantes, matchmakers, personal trainers or even therapists. In fact, statistics show that nearly all Canadians (90%) talk to their pets, and close to a third confide in Milo or Fido - even confessing their biggest secrets.
Shiri Joshua, a Canadian Psychotherapist, speaker and educator who specializes in the animal-human relationship, agrees: "There are many reasons why people trust their pets, but what's really important is that we learn from their behaviour," says Joshua. "We can honour what they teach us by offering the same gifts to the people in our lives; namely, by being kinder as human beings towards one another."
So does our love of pets mean we are becoming less people positive as a society? Joshua says no. "Sharing a life with a companion animal actually acts as a catalyst for human-to-human interaction; by observation alone, it's quite obvious that people talk to one another, laugh, and smile more if there is a pet involved."
Research shows that children tend to confide in pets first, over their mother, father or siblings. This tendency attests to the human need for companionship that is judgment-free, which pets offer naturally. The relationships that they provide act as a jumping-off point from which people can form meaningful human relationships.
Simply put, experts support what Canadian pet owners have innately known all along: our lives are much richer with pets in it.
Pets: The original social network
In western society, people struggle to find ways to connect with one another. Schedules are packed, demands seem never-ending and, unfortunately, social lives often take a hit. But pets help us stay connected to others, maintain a sense of community and can even help our social circle grow.
The majority of Canadian pet owners say their neighbours talk to them more when they're with their pet (61%), and two-in-five (41%) say their pets have helped them initiate a new relationship with someone they otherwise would never have met. It's natural that pet lovers want to meet like-minded people, since everyone naturally gravitates towards those with whom they share common interests. What easier way to spot a connection than with a visual cue (like a furry companion by one's side)?
"I once spoke with a woman who was quite depressed before she adopted her puppy," says Joshua. "Her dog helped her open up to the world and she met her husband shortly after - she says if it wasn't for her pet, she never would have learned how to trust others and build strong relationships. Her pet helped her connect with people."
Many pet owners have described their cats or dogs as having an underlying "sixth sense" or ability to pick up on cues that go unnoticed by people. Tales of animals saving human lives or responding to earthquakes before they hit are not unheard of. "Companion animals are very sensitive to their owner's emotions and energy because they share their space," says Joshua. "They are able to sense when things are not right and respond accordingly - they often pick up on our moods and even physical illness before we are aware of it ourselves."
This helps explain why close to three-quarters of Canadians say that their pets behave differently when they're sick. But this isn't the only way that pets offer comfort; 61 per cent say that when they're feeling low, their pet lifts their spirits. More and more studies show that when we interact with pets, our brains produce chemicals that fill us with a sense of well-being that is enormously beneficial to our health. With these kinds of benefits, it's not unrealistic to think of pets as Mother Nature's anti-depressant.
In addition, the human-animal bond is reciprocal: people want to support their pets as much as their pets support them. A third (30%) of pet owners say that, if permitted, they would bring their pets to work with them. And the reasons they provide carry a common sentiment: they feel their pets enrich their lives and don't like to think of them being left alone all day long.
How's that for puppy love?
PawsWay.ca connects Canadian pet-lovers from coast to coast
It's common knowledge that social media has greatly changed the way we talk to one another. Thanks to websites specifically designed to connect people, today's conversations are inexpensive, instant, and visual. Friendships are no longer limited by geography. We can build relationships with people from across the country as easily as we can meet a neighbour at the dog park.
This truth, coupled with the fact that pets enhance our social experiences, has inspired Purina to create PawsWay.ca: a free, virtual community where potential and current owners can connect, educate themselves, tell stories, build relationships, tap into expert advice, and share their love of pets 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Registrants can also create a profile for themselves and their pet, take part in various discussion forums, and post personal pictures to the online gallery.
"Pets are powerful; research shows us that the bond we share with them spills over into other areas of our lives, and greately enhances our connections with people," says Karen Kuwahara, President at Nestlé Purina PetCare Canada. "At Purina, we believe that life is richer with pets, so it only makes sense for us to give Canadian pet lovers a vehicle through which they can share this truth with one another - PawsWay.ca is that vehicle."
To experience how life is richer with pets visit www.PawsWay.ca.
1The Harris/Decima omnibus poll was an independent poll commissioned by Nestlé Purina PetCare Canada and conducted between November 11 and 14, 2010. It surveyed 1,014 adult Canadians, of which 781 own or have owned a cat or dog. The margin of error for this subgroup is +/-3.5%
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