When it comes right down to it humans, like most mammals, are pack animals. We’re sociable, we like to be among our own kind. But crucially, every pack has a top and bottom.
It’s Testosterone’s role to get us as high up that pecking order as possible. Usually by maximizing things like physique, performance, confidence, mood, attractiveness, and libido.
Thankfully, it’s generally not about dominating those around us, more just making the most of ourselves and seeing how far that can take us.
If you want to see the race for alpha status stripped back to its bare bones though, you only have to look at the animal kingdom. When our hairy cousins ‘lock horns’ it’s not an expression. ‘Much wailing and gnashing of teeth’ means more than an argument. When s#%t starts flying in the wild, it’s more literal than in the boardroom. (We hope.)
So what happens when animals and humans share the same space? Millions of us live with dogs and cats on a daily basis. Okay, they’re domesticated, but they’ve still got primal instincts.
Do they automatically respect our ability to balance on two legs as an evolutionary sheriff’s badge and fall in line? Or do owners have a challenge on their hands which our T needs to help with?
In short, do pets affect our testosterone? If so, how and why?
Reigning cats and dogs
Besides, there are lots of great reasons for furry companions. Apart from company and security, studies show stroking a cat or dog releases endorphins, lowering anxiety. Stress remember is seriously bad for testosterone levels. A cat’s purring can even help heal tendon, muscle and bone injuries heal faster.
Dogs are able to sniff out important chemical changes in our body. Potentially life threatening changes such as oncoming epileptic seizures, some developing cancers, or hormone differences. That’s right, they can smell when levels change.
However, if your dog senses a rise in your T levels and it also has pretty high test levels itself, that’s when its competitive nature might appear.
Some canines will respond with more aggressive behavior such as growling, barking or snarling. Even biting. It may also try and keep you away from females, dogs or humans. This may sound worrying, but it’s easily fixed. Either by adopting a ‘this house ain’t big enough for the four of ours’ approach and having Fido neutered or by training him to accept second in command.
Female dogs on the other hand often respond to a rise in our testosterone by becoming more passive and attentive.
Infectious little personalities
Pets can affect our testosterone levels through accidental infection.
Let’s face it, a dog’s hygiene red lines for where they will or won’t go and do are pretty non-existent. That means they often expose themselves to infections. Czech doctor Jaroslav Flegr, a researcher who studies parasites, claims dogs can carry around 400 hundred species of parasitic worms, with not much effect on the animal’s health.
However, owners who don’t mind taking dog ‘kisses’ beware. If humans contract these infections, they can damage our livers, causing a rise in bilirubin, which hurts testosterone output.
The key is probably boundaries with affection and looking after your dog’s health to guard your own.
A common infection in cats, by contrast, is toxoplasmosis.
Another parasitic illness which humans can contract, but that usually does no harm. Occasionally, people suffer a few weeks or months of mild flu-like symptoms.
Testosterone levels drop, as the illness puts the under temporary stress, and given the choice of fight or flight, it’s choosing fight.
It also might be linked to the reason why women find men with cats more attractive. Not that the guys will be up for doing much about it. Dr Flegr says that while test and most of its traits rise, libido does not.
Horses for courses
If any of you are thinking at this point you’ll give those fluffy little blighters the swerve and go bigger, a horse, say, then we might have bad news. It seems frequent horse riding may not be great for T and the reason why doesn’t take a genius.
Think about where most of your testosterone comes from (pssst, your testicles). Now think about the motion they go through riding a horse. They’re a couple of fleshy basketballs up there!
In 1998 Dr Irwin Goldstein of the Boston University’s experiment saw his team recreate 3 different types of pressure on (very) brave volunteers’ testicles. A normal chair, a wide, horse-like saddle and a narrow saddle, similar to a bike.
Results showed blood flow to the testicles with prolonged narrow saddle pressure dropped by 66%. The wider saddle only hurt flow by 26%, but both impaired T production somewhat.
Sidesaddle boys! There’s no shame in it.
Maybe after all this, some of you are thinking it’s not worth the risk. To ensure peak T, we best stay animal free.
Well, we think that’s a real shame.
Remember, cats make us attractive to women, which with any luck will lead to a fun T boost. The exercise you get with your dog should also lift test levels. And if testosterone responds to status, well what’s more look-at-me than a horse?
The infection thing sounds gross, but if you’re hygienic around them and keep them up to date with their shots at the vet, chances of contracting anything from our pets are incredibly slim.
After all, just look at some of the famous animal lovers out there. Dog nuts like Tom Hardy, Dwayne Johnson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Idris Elba. Cat fans like Russel Brand and an in-his-prime Marlon Brando. Plus regular horse riders, such as Clint Eastwood and Indiana Jones himself, Harrison Ford.
Any of those lads ever struck you as short of testosterone?
So go on. We can continue to naturally raise our T and still spend time with one of these magnificent beasts. (Uh…the animals, not the actors.)