The history of emotional attachment to animals

Authored by: Ingrid H. Tague

The Routledge Companion to Animal–Human History

Print publication date:  September  2018
Online publication date:  September  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138193260
eBook ISBN: 9780429468933
Adobe ISBN:


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It may seem that humans’ emotional attachment to animals needs no explanation and has no history. Evidence of human affection for animals is widespread and goes far back in time, and the potential benefits to humans of emotional connections to animals, especially through pet-keeping, are now widely recognised. A variety of studies have shown that even short-term contact with companion animals can reduce stress, and there is evidence that pets and therapy animals can provide a wide array of emotional and psychological benefits. 1 Such studies usually take for granted the existence of strong attachments between humans and animals. From another point of view, however, the depth of such attachments is surprising. Many scholars perceive contemporary affection for animals as rooted in problems or failings of contemporary society, or at least as the result of the specific conditions of industrialisation. Thus they consistently identify the nineteenth century as the moment when modern pet-keeping, with its emphasis on affection and companionship between species, first arose. In this view, pet-keeping might provide social bonds that are lacking between humans in industrial society, or a sense of connection to nature for those living in urban environments. 2

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