The majority of Americans grow up with or own at least one pet in their lifetime. Children, especially, are fascinated by animals and love to play and cuddle with them. Having pets in the home not only provides entertainment and a special friendship for children, but many other emotional, psychological, and physical benefits as well.
- Studies have shown that children are more likely to feel comfortable reading to a pet than to their peers or adults.
- Therapy animals can help developmentally challenged kids to learn.
- Pets are not critical or judgmental. Children will often talk to pets about things they are not comfortable telling another human about for fear of embarrassment or consequences.
- Dr. Melson asked a group of 5-year-old pet owners what they did when they felt sad, angry, afraid, or when they had a secret to share. More than 40 percent spontaneously mentioned turning to their pets. “Kids who get support from their animal companions were rated by their parents as less anxious and withdrawn,” she says.
- Children like to take care of their pets. Whether they are petting, feeding, or walking their pet, they are developing skills that will help them with parenting as adults.
- Pets give children the opportunity to learn caregiving at a young age. “Nurturing animals is especially important for boys because taking care of an animal isn’t seen as a ‘girl’ thing like babysitting, playing house, or playing with dolls,” Dr. Melson says.
- Children who are exposed to more bacteria are less than half as likely to have allergies or other immune system issues. Studies have also shown that children who have early exposure to dogs and cats are less likely to develop asthma
Encourage Family Bonds
- When there is a pet in the house, families are usually playing with it, watching it play, walking it, etc. When a family’s attention is focused on the same thing, more interaction takes place, and therefore develops stronger bonds within the family.