Children and Pets: The Perfect Match
How Kids Benefit From Having A Pet Around
Were you one of those kids that begged for a puppy or kitten every single birthday? It's not surprising that so many children yearn for pets since having an animal companion comes with a wide range of benefits.
Having a family pet helps teach important social and life skills. That's why so many parents insist that the condition for getting a dog is "You have to take care of her yourself." Having a pet is a crash course in responsibility, especially with dogs, who have to be walked multiple times daily and trained.
Cats and dogs also show children how to be sensitive to someone else. More than one child has snatched up a sleeping cat only to learn (after a swat) a valuable lesson about respecting personal space. Pets are also a great way for all children to learn about nurturing others. Caring for pets crosses gender lines in ways that activities like playing with dolls and babysitting - activities pigeonholed as "girly" - often don't.
Comfort and Companionship
A 2017 study from Cambridge revealed something that may not surprise you if you have siblings: pre-teen youths with siblings preferred their relationship with their pet! In fact, many children see their pets like siblings, as confidants and sources of comfort who can help overcome isolation, shyness, and stress.
In general, the benefits of pet ownership seen in adults - reduced anxiety, improved mood, and mental health - also extend to children. Animal-assisted therapy uses registered therapy animals (usually dogs and horses) to help children recovering from medical conditions, anxiety, sensory disorders, and more. Some dentist's and doctor's offices even keep therapy dogs on staff!
Sharing the Love
The benefits of the friendship between a kid and their pet run both ways. More and more local shelters are taking advantage of this, from programs that let families volunteer to walk shelter dogs to programs aimed at helping kids learn.
One Pennsylvania shelter, for instance, started a Book Buddies program where children read books out loud to shelter cats - the cats get socialized (and cuddled), while the children get to develop their literacy skills. A true win-win situation!
If your kid is an animal lover, be sure to check in with your neighborhood shelter or your local pet store to find out how you can interact with pets in your community.