Many pet owners know that our connections with animals can be on an emotional par with those we share with other humans – and scientific research backs this up.
The key ingredients of human attachment are experiencing the other person as a dependable source of comfort, seeking them out when distressed, feeling enjoyment in their presence and missing them when apart. Researchers have identified these as features of our relationships with pets too.
But there are complexities. Some groups of people are more likely to develop intimate bonds with their pets. This includes isolated older people, people who have lost trust in humans, and people who rely on assistance animals.