By Audrey Pavia
Dogs may be man's best friend, but cats are the most popular pet in the U.S. Just over 79 million cats live in American households, compared to nearly 70 million dogs, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Unfortunately, the number of cats in animal shelters is also high. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), 3.2 million cats enter animal shelters each year. Sadly, 860,000 of these cats are euthanized each year.
There is no doubt that many people view their dogs as family members. In fact many of my clients often use the term "four-legged children" when describing their pets. A recent journal article in Science demonstrated that both people and their dogs experience an increase in the natural bonding hormone oxytocin after a period of interaction. Some researchers theorize the familiar canine characteristics of large eyes, playfulness, and retention of other juvenile traits promote a relationship similar to that of a parent and child. Although the interaction is often very strong and relatively peaceful, just like any other relationship, there can be periods of conflict.