Cognitive Sciences Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for practitioners, researchers, and students in cognitive science, psychology, neuroscience, and psychiatry. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

In the wild, animals may share waterholes, and grazing areas. Some animals have symbiotic relationships one example being the hippopotamus and the oxpecker bird. The symbiotic relationships are based on needs; Hunger, shelter, safety.

Human beings, appear to be the only species that has relationships with other species for pleasure. Companion animals and horses for riding are two examples. Of course, there is also the use of animals to meet the species needs; eg dogs for safety.

In this question I would like to focus on the relationship between human beings and other species as a source of pleasure (or comfort).

What is different within the human brain that allows humans to maintain relationships with other animals purely for pleasure, that is absent in other species?

share|improve this question
up vote 8 down vote accepted

According to Hal Herzog, humans are the only animals that keep pets. Other animals have also kept pets however it was not under natural settings. These other "pet" relationships were observed in zoos, controlled experiments. etc.

One the main reasons Herzog notes that humans are the only animals to keep pets is the idea of culture. Humans have evolved to form a culture with social rules and norms. They can gather social information from others by relying on certain cultural rules. So it is acceptable for humans to form pet relationships with other animals. Some cultures do not have a word for pet. However ultimately these cultures end up forming relationships with animals that are "pet-like." The reason for this is because of memes. That is, the idea of having a pet spreads across different cultures.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.