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A lot of us refer to our pets as our “kids” or “fur-babies” and consider them members of the family…And that could be the key to keeping us healthy and happy. Because any kind of emotional bonding – whether it’s with a beloved dog or your child – triggers the release of brain chemicals, like oxytocin… That protects us against a variety of health conditions – everything from depression to heart disease. So the next time your friend, the crazy cat lady, talks about going home to feed her “kids,” don’t laugh.

She’s also boosting her odds of living a longer, happier life.