Dogs and cats sure are adorable. Aside from making us happy and being the light of our lives, their impact goes far beyond just us pet parents. We’re referring of course to the “every child should have a pet” debate, and we truly believe that pets can positively affect children in many ways.
Accepted as members of the family, our furry friends benefit our kids’ health, social habits, and even emotional development. Pretty amazing for creatures that don’t talk, right? Simply by interacting with and being around our children, they’re extending those benefits!
Here are just five of the many advantages of why it’s beneficial for kids to have pets.
Exposure to pets early on may prevent allergies in kids.
Even though the jury is still out on why allergies have increased over the years, studies show that there is a benefit for kids to be exposed to pets when they’re young. Factors like how many pets a child has or whether the pets are inside the house often with the child may affect this potential protection from allergies though.
For instance, the more exposure to animals a child has, the more allergy protection they may receive well into childhood. Children living with as many as five pets or those raised on farms may have a lowered risk for allergies due to their high level of exposure to animals. If a child has a few cats, for example, but they are usually outdoors, that is a living situation that may not offer much protection from things like asthma or seasonal allergies.
Dogs encourage a healthier lifestyle.
While not all pets need much physical activity, dogs are a definite option for making sure your child stays active. Pet parents (that’s you) and their children can reap the physical benefits of having a pet. Sure, there are certain dog breeds that need exercise more than others - so they can work off their excess energy. Breeds like Spaniels, Retrievers, Pointers, and Dalmations come to mind first. However, all dogs can benefit from a walk!
If your children are young, consider a jogging stroller when walking the dog. You could even turn it into a family affair! Take the whole family for a stroll around the neighborhood to exercise the dog, keeping the entire family active in the process. If you have older kids, such as a preteen or teenagers, exercising the family dog is a responsibility that they may enjoy. It gives them the freedom that they want to be independent.
Pets give kids an understanding of the circle of life.
Sadly, our four-legged friends won’t live forever. We wish they could stay with us, but inevitably they will pass someday. When children experience the death of a pet for the first time in their lives, they should be encouraged to feel how they're feeling in order to properly deal with grief.
It also presents an opportunity to open up the conversation between yourself and your child and answer any of the questions that they have. They might wonder where our pets go when they pass away, or they might be worried about upsetting the family if they continue to talk about the pet in remembrance. There is no "right" way to grieve or heal, so it's important to stay open and honest with your child in these circumstances. The ability to grieve in a healthy way will help them later in life.
Your child has a built-in best friend.
Especially if your baby grows up alongside a kitten or puppy, that pet instantly becomes your child’s first best friend in life. Companion animals can teach your child so much about friendship and emotional development. The connection that children build with their dog or cat early on allows them to establish lasting companionship with human friends when they’re of school age. Much like people, pets have distinct personalities. Therefore, having a pet and caring for them can be a great lesson for a child.
Having that furry friend at home, a child will never feel truly alone. High-stress levels or anxiety melt away when they’re in the company of a friend who will simply just be there for them. And it's easier to learn how to be a good friend when you have a healthy example of unconditional love and friendship.
Pets make better siblings than humans!
It may sound silly, but think about it for a minute! Any potential rivalry or conflict between two or more human siblings would never be an issue with a human and a pet.
For instance, you’ve seen your kids fighting over toys when they play together. When they’re older, they'll often squabble over personal care and who’s getting ready in the bathroom first! Here’s where one of the benefits of growing up with a pet comes in.
A dog or a cat wouldn't have the same toys as a child. This allows the child to play harmoniously with its furry sibling every time - the child tosses the ball, and the dog or cat runs after it. There's no fighting over toys, which makes for a much quieter household!
Furthermore, bathrooms would never be a point of contention. For cats, the litter box is their territory. For dogs, the great outdoors is the bathroom. This way, pet siblings wouldn't share the same bathroom. Crisis averted!
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