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One of the most important parts of human interaction is touch. From hugs to high fives, positive physical contact is an essential part of our makeup as it helps us connect with others on a much deeper level. Since our skin is the largest organ in the human body, it makes sense that positive touch is so important for our overall well-being.
When we engage in positive contact, our body releases oxytocin, a hormone that makes us feel good. From the moment a baby is born, one of the most important things that a baby needs immediately is touch. Without positive contact in our lives, our bodies go through a series of physiological changes that can negatively impact everything from stress levels to quality of sleep, appetite, and more.
Tactile starvation, also known as touch deprivation or skin hunger, is a very real condition that affects millions of people around the world. As humans, physical contact with other humans is a big part of our biological architecture. Whether it’s a hugging and holding hands, a simple handshake or a pat on the shoulder, these acts of contact help reduce stress and increase feelings of meaning. Positive touch has the power to reduce the production of the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn lowers blood pressure and heart rate.
Due to COVID-19, the number of people suffering from tactile starvation has increased on a massive scale. For several months now, a large portion of the world’s population has practiced social distancing and isolation, which limits our ability to have positive contact in our lives. Those most at risk of starvation by touch are the elderly and the disabled or sick.
Fortunately, our pets can help prevent or reduce problems with tactile starvation without compromising viral safety protocols.
Pets, such as dogs, cats, and even horses, are a great mechanism for alleviating the symptoms of tactile starvation. Symptoms of touch starvation include anxiety and depression, high stress, low relationship satisfaction, etc. In the current pandemic conditions, our beloved pets are available to touch him without restrictions. Even the simple act of petting a cat or cuddling with a dog for a few minutes can trigger a cascade of positive benefits for our mental well-being.
While research on human-animal interactions is relatively new, it is an area that has grown rapidly in recent years. Researchers have found that the positive effects of interactions between humans and non-humans are increased depending on the strength of their bond. While petting a dog is good for your health, petting your the dog is even better.
For those who suffer from loneliness and isolation, dogs and cats are excellent companions. Although they require more basic care than cats, dogs are known as man’s best friend for a reason. They are very present animals, generally offering undivided affection and touch for long periods of time. Cats, on the other hand, tend to offer affection and touch on their conditions, and often spend their free time napping.
Our pets are our best friends because of the unconditional love and affection they give us. And in these uncertain times, having a companion like this is invaluable to our physical and mental health. So the next time you feel a little touch deprivation, your pets will provide you with the perfect antidote.
Brandon Forder, known as The Pet Expert, is Vice President of Canadian Pet Connection, an industry leader in healthy pet lifestyles. Brandon holds several pet nutrition certifications and has over twenty-five years of experience in the health and behavior of pets. He has written hundreds of informative articles on pets for newspapers, magazines, radio, and the popular Ask the Pet Expert blog. Brandon is highly skilled at solving animal problems and enjoys teaching others about intelligent and responsible animal ownership. For more information, visit www.CanadianPetConnection.ca.