So, your kid wants a pet? Perhaps young Brad has his heart set on a dog, a faithful companion to share adventures and explore the world by his side. Or maybe young Sophia can’t stop begging for a tiny kitten with whom to snuggle. For Jack it might be slithering snake that will help to build his self-identity, while Olivia may be aiming high, with her heart set on a pony to share her love and affection, not to mention hours upon hours of dedicated barn-time!
No matter which animal may have captured your child’s imagination and whichever you decide to bring into your family, there’s one thing for sure – getting a pet is a big commitment. Animals require feeding, walking (maybe), cleaning, veterinary care…. They not only take time and energy, but also considerable financial outlay. A dog can cost anything from about $1,500 to $5,000 per year to keep, depending on his or her size, breed and health status. A cat should cost somewhat less, but if Olivia gets that pony, it will set you back many multiples of Sophia’s fluffy kitten! So, it’s important that you do your research and spend some time working out which type of animal is best for your child and your family.
As Theodore Roosevelt wisely said, “Nothing worth having comes easy.” And, in our view there is no question that pets are worth having. Whether it’s furry, scaly or feathered, the fact is that having a pet is a great thing for a child’s health and development. Here’s why…
1. Children With Pets May Be Healthier
The health benefits of pet ownership are almost too numerous to count. Having a pet encourages a healthy lifestyle and people with pets are reported to have lower blood pressure, less risk of heart disease, lower cholesterol, and are more physically active. These same benefits also apply to kids and with childhood obesity continuing to be a national epidemic, pets are a great way to encourage kids towards healthier life habits.
Research also shows that children who grow up in homes with pets are likely to have a stronger immune system, are less likely to develop childhood allergies and asthma, and can fight off infection such as colds and flu better than those children without pets, so, therefore, have fewer days off school.
2. Caring For Pets Teaches Responsibility
Giving children pet-related chores such as walking Freddy the dog or cleaning out Flossy the rabbit’s hutch teaches children to be responsible, as well as giving them a sense of achievement. Of course, the ultimate responsibility for the family pet lies with the grown-ups in the family, even though little Johnny may have begged and begged to have Freddy join the family! However, by assigning age-appropriate tasks, kids learn how important it is to follow through with their duties.
3. Pets Build Family Bonds
One of the biggest benefits of pets is often unexpected: they can help families grow stronger and closer. In our go-go-go society, it can be hard to carve out time to spend together as a family. But a pet is often the focus of activities that families do together, requiring teamwork and cooperation. Everyone takes the dog for a walk, or shares in grooming and feeding, or gets down on the floor and plays with him. Such activities can bring parents and children closer by coming together to care for their four-legged family members.
4. It Provides Comfort And Companionship And Reduces Loneliness
Pets offer comfort and companionship to kids (and adults!). No matter what mood a child is in, they find support and security from an animal companion, which often means they are less anxious or withdrawn.
5. Pets Encourage Nurturing and Teach Empathy Towards Others
In our modern world, there’s little opportunity for children to provide for other living things aside from pets. In many other countries, siblings look after one another, but in the U.S. that’s not culturally acceptable, so caring for a pet can be a great way to develop your child’s nurturing skills. Animals are feeling, thinking beings with both physical and emotional needs. Children should be taught to treat pets with care, play gently with them, and respect their need for space. When parents teach their children to approach pets with kindness, love, and compassion, this easily translates into treating other human beings the same way.
6. Pets Help With Learning
Pets can help children with their learning. Animals have long been used as a form of therapy for children (and adults) with a wide range of health challenges, both physical and mental. In schools, animals can help developmentally challenged kids to learn and, in particular, can help a child’s reading skills. Research has shown that students who may be reluctant to read out loud at school feel more confident reading to animals as they see them as a non-judgemental pal.
7. It’s Fun!
Just in case you’re still not convinced that it’s a wonderful thing for a child to have a pet, we have one more reason for you… having a pet is
We just can’t imagine our lives without animals in them, it would be a lesser life indeed.
Please do ensure that you never bring an animal into a house with young children where you don’t know the animal’s history or likely behavior and make sure to make any introductions carefully, slowly and under strict supervision.