Is there anything better than a purring cat curling up in your lap? Or a devoted dog flipping out with joy to see you walk in the door? Animals are awesome. Or are they? Maayan and Lauren discuss the love they’ve had for pets, and the limits that exist (or don’t) for that love. Lauren struggles with the identity crisis of being a once-fervent animal lover than now LOVES not having a single pet to take care of. Maayan reveals her perhaps too-forgiving affection for a too-smart, sometimes violent cat. Whatever your feelings about pets, you’ll want to listen in to this episode of furry feelings.
Listen to This: Pets On A Pedestal
First off, the human-animal bond is a real thing. It’s even officially recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). It is, according to them, a
a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviors that are essential to the health and well-being of both. This includes, but is not limited to, emotional, psychological, and physical interactions of people, animals, and the environment.
As powerful as that bond can be…it can change or fade, as many a pet-owning new parent can discover. People who once treated their animals like ‘fur children’ can turn suddenly disenchanted with their animals once a baby shows up. Lauren, once a die-hard animal lover, is embarrassed and shocked to find herself becoming almost a ‘non-dog’ person since having a child…or at least very intolerant of annoying dogs. And while she loves animals in the abstract still, she can’t imagine having her own pets to take care of, an existence her younger self would have been devastated by.
So what happened to Lauren the ex-animal-lover? Science has some answers…in fact, researchers have looked into how mother’s brains perceive their dogs vs. their new babies in a study described on Science Daily.
Areas previously reported as important for functions such as emotion, reward, affiliation, visual processing and social interaction all showed increased activity when participants viewed either their own child or their own dog. A region known to be important to bond formation — the substantia nigra/ventral tegmental area (SNi/VTA) — was activated only in response to images of a participant’s own child.
So it’s not like pet-owners completely stop loving on their fur-babies…it’s just…not the same connection you’ve got with your baby–a feeling that biology and evolution essentially command you to feel. That baby is your little gene-propagating, lineage-continuing bundle. Your beloved Labradoodle just can’t compete.
Still, for those of us who haven’t created a gene-bundle, a pet remains a powerful presence in their lives. Take for instance this insane study about cat owners and their feline companions described by the Discovery Channel:
The researchers determined that cats and their owners strongly influenced each other, such that they were each often controlling the other’s behaviors…Cats also seem to remember kindness and return the favors later. If owners comply with their feline’s wishes to interact, then the cat will often comply with the owner’s wishes at other times. The cat may also “have an edge in this negotiation,” since owners are usually already motivated to establish social contact.
Maayan can definitely relate to this information–she talks of Leesha, the most ‘beautiful cat in the world’ that is scary smart, bordering on supernaturally talented. Hyper sensitive and hyper aware, Leesha keeps a secret ledger on Maayan’s behavior, and rewards and punishes her accordingly. Maayan has bruises and bloody scratches as proof, but swears it’s all understandable, given Leesha’s history of abuse. Lauren thinks it’s a case of Stockholm syndrome. You decide which is true.
One thing’s for sure, there’s no debate about the situation discussed in This American Life’s episode, ‘Animal Sacrifice’, in which Ira Glass, yes, THE Ira Glass, the calm, savvy host who always interviews weird, quirky people about their strange lives…actually reveals that he is just as much of a weirdo as any of his guests. Listen to the episode (his story is the third and final act of the show) to hear about how much he and his wife have and continue to sacrifice for their very disturbed and very difficult pitbull, Piney.
Lauren has a PONDER. She feels like perhaps it’s time to add something more to her beauty routine beyond a simple face wash and the occasional moisturizer…basically, is it time to do facial masks? They seem great…but many of them can cost more than $50 a jar. So really–is it worth it? Beauty mavens weigh in!!
Maayan has one of her amazing food-related TIPS and RAVE–this time, it’s a divinely simple chicken soup. Easy to make, tastes amazing…and best of all, cheap as all hell. More on that here