African American boy oetting his tabby cat at home

The science behind human-animal interaction

The field of human-animal interaction research has been growing rapidly over the past several decades. There is increasing evidence that owning a pet or simply interacting with one can bring physical and mental health benefits to people of all ages and from all walks of life:  

  • Pet ownership, particularly dog ownership, is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and better overall heart health

Our support for high quality research into the human-animal bond

We have been supporting and partnering with leading universities and research organisations worldwide to help advance our scientific understanding of human-animal interaction and how pet ownership or pet interaction can bring health benefits to both pets and people. Quality science can inform health policies and help develop evidence-based, tailored therapies and programmes for those struggling with mental or physical health issues.  

The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health

For over 10 years, thanks to our public-private partnership with NIH/NICHD, we have been supporting researchers across the world in their quest to better understand how our relationship with pets can benefit children and adults alike. Studies have included both pets and therapy animals, using methods such as assessing stress by analysing blood cortisol levels and monitoring heartbeat and breathing rates during animal-assisted interventions. 

The Human-Animal Bond Research Institute

We are supporting research that can help us better understand the role pets could play in tackling social isolation - a serious public health issue affecting 3 in 5 people in the US and 9 million people in the United Kingdom.  

Our collaboration with the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) led to the first-ever Social Isolation and Companion Animals Summit. The event helped human and animal health experts and researchers identify ways to advance human-animal interaction science as well as best practices and solutions to improve access to pet interaction or pet ownership for those who could benefit most, including aging adults or people struggling with mental health issues.   

The findings of a 2019 US market survey served as common ground for the Summit discussion. Over 80% of pet owners interviewed felt that pet interaction can help reduce loneliness. Over 55% of the older adults taking part in the survey got a pet to improve their mental health. 

Pets and loneliness: survey results The Social Isolation Summit Report

Research highlights

Some of the studies we have helped fund in collaboration with our partners have found: 

Explore our publications

Human-animal interaction science: steps ahead

Despite recent progress in the field, human-animal interaction research still faces important challenges. Additional quality studies can help healthcare professionals understand who exactly - and under what circumstances - can benefit most from animal therapy or other specific animal-assisted interactions. This is why we are supporting researchers’ efforts to develop a sound framework for research design.   

Thought leaders

When Military Veterans and Shelter Dogs Walk Together, They Both Benefit

I probably don't have to convince you that animals have incredible powers to help us in so many ways and, as human's best friend, dogs are a prime example. From the classroom to the hospital and beyond, dogs can do incredible things.

Why understanding human-animal interaction is all about asking the right questions

It's been an exciting month for human-animal interaction science. New research published in the American Heart Association's medical journal found an association between dog ownership and owners' lower mortality risk.

Resources