Owning a pet can mean cute cuddle time with your furry friend, having someone else to love, and having a constant companion. It can also mean a lot more responsibilities, constant care and feeding, and possible messes.
Beyond that, however, owning a pet can have a number of positive benefits for your children. It’s no coincidence that many families choose to introduce a new pet into their home after they have children – not only do kids beg for a new dog or cat, but many parents also see the benefits that pets bring kids.
Read on to learn about 8 reasons why owning pets is good for children.
1. Pets can help children be less lonely
Pets are constant companions, and they can help your kids feel less lonely. This is especially important with children who are having trouble making friends at school, or just moved to a new school. Pets can be an impartial judge that listens to your kid’s secrets and private thoughts. Children often talk to their pets (like they talk to stuffed animals), so having a pet can be a child’s safe outlet to process some of their emotions.
2. Pets teach kids about the circle of life
Pets provide important lessons about life, including birth, illness, accidents, and even death. While every parent would want to shield their kids (and themselves, if we’re being honest) from the heartbreak of losing a pet, the reality is that humans live longer than pets. Helping your child cope with the loss of a pet can help them develop resilience when it comes to more impactful losses later in life.
3. Pets provide a connection to nature and physical activity
Pets, especially dogs, can help children foster a connection to nature, and be more active. Walking a dog is a great way for your child to get a consistent amount of exercise in their week, even if they are otherwise not very physically active. Children will also develop a closer connection to nature as they stroll around with their dog, noticing how excited their beloved pet is to be out and about.
4. Pets can help reduce stress
There’s a reason why dogs and cats are often emotional support animals. Being close to and interacting with a furry friend can help your child self-soothe, and therefore develop more emotional resilience. Science shows that interacting with a pet increases the release of dopamine and oxytocin – two neurotransmitters that have anti-stress and feel-good properties.
5. Pets help your child build empathy and compassion
Pets are completely dependent on humans to take care of their basic needs like food, water, shelter, and even potty. By involving your children in your pet’s care, you can teach them respect for other living things, as well as empathy and compassion. Having pets around can also help children understand concepts like consent, boundaries, and gentle touching. In this way, pets can be a great way for your child to learn these lessons in anticipation of a new sibling arriving.
6. Pets help kids develop their literacy skills
Adults read books to kids, which kids then internalize as a form of play and love. So of course, children then want to read to their pets. Reading to pets is a low-stress activity that can help children develop their literacy skills, because pets won’t constantly correct them or judge them. Reading to pets has been shown to be so effective in developing literacy skills, that dogs are sometimes introduced into remedial reading programs to help children learn. As a bonus, pets seem to love being read to and it’s downright adorable.
7. Pets boost kids’ immune systems
Introducing pets at a young age can help boost children’s immune systems. Early exposure to pet dander and fur reduces the chance of not only pet-related allergies, but allergies in general. Having a pet around the house is also correlated with having less colds throughout the year. While neither of these effects are proven by science or particularly well studied, it is clear that having a pet around doesn’t hurt!
8. Pets teach kids responsibility
Lastly, pets help teach kids responsibility. This benefit of having a pet is most widely known, which is why we put it last. By involving your children in age-appropriate tasks that care for the family pet, you are teaching your children to take responsibility. Again, pets are completely reliant on us, and often let us know (quite loudly) if their needs aren’t being met, which quickly teaches kids that they need to be responsible for their pets’ needs.
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