In case you haven’t heard, May is National Pet Month! We are very excited, so in honor of this, we wanted to explore not only why we love our pets, but also the actual benefits for children growing up with a pet in the home. While the list of benefits is endless (we could probably write a book on the subject), here are a few perks that come with having siblings of the furry variety.
Instills responsibility and self-esteem: Many parents love the idea of teaching responsibility through pet ownership. When another life is literally depending on them, children can learn to be disciplined with giving food and water, cleaning up after a pet, and even walking a dog. Additionally, studies show that pets can actually help with self-esteem. This could be from having a constant friend to play with and talk to, who loves the child and is non-judgmental, according to http://www.whattoexpect.com.
Improves health: Numerous studies point to a variety of health benefits for pet owners of all age, including most kids. Though people have typically believed that owning pets could increase allergies in children, recent studies suggest otherwise.
According to an article on WebMD, researcher James E. Gern, MD, a pediatrician at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says growing up in a home with ‘furred animals’ actually lessens the risk of allergies and asthma.
Also, according to whattoexpect.com, research has found less frequent illnesses in children with pets. “In fact, a 2012 study determined that children who lived with dogs were generally healthier during their first year of life, with fewer respiratory problems and less frequent ear infections than kids without canines,” the article states.
Reduces stress: In that same vein—because we all know lower stress levels improve our overall health—pet ownership can be seriously good for the human body’s overall health! Petting, brushing and snuggling with a pet can reduce stress in both children and adults. According to WebMD, and Blair Justice, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Texas School of Public Health, pet interaction is a healthy activity that can raise feel-good chemicals in the body. According to the article, “Like any enjoyable activity, playing with a dog can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine—nerve transmitters that are known to have pleasurable and calming properties.”
Helps with social and verbal skills: From the time young children are barely old enough to speak, they are often excited to hold a conversation with their favorite pet. A pet’s presence provides a “verbal stimulus” for a child to practice speaking, as stated in an article on http://www.huffingtonpost.com. It also states that pets provide social, emotional, and cognitive language skill support for children. Pets are usually great listeners, so we can certainly see how children would feel comfortable talking to them!
There are many other benefits to pet ownership. If you’d like to know more, we encourage you to do some research or talk to your pediatrician and other specialists. As always, please make sure that you consider a pet that is age-appropriate for your child. While pets encourage responsibility, your child must be able to safely take on the needed tasks for care. If he or she can handle it, we think you should go for it!
We recently asked some of the ISF Youth Division’s MobSTIRS and their parents about their own pets, and why they love growing up alongside an animal. Find what they all said below!
"Having a hamster [has been] beneficial for Ellexia, as it is her first pet. It has taught her to be independent in taking care of an animal and it has enriched her experience as she formed a loving bond with her hamster. Even though a hamster is a small animal, it brings her joy to take care of. [She even reuses] cardboard toilet paper tubes for her hamster’s tunnels.” –Emma, Ellexia’s mom
Ellexia with her pets
“I have five pets! I've had Gunner since I was 4 years old and Twilight since I was 5 (both are chocolate Labradors), so I've been growing up with them since I was little. They are so much fun because they are crazy. I've had my fish, Wave, since I was 1 year old. Yep, he's nearly 10 years old and that is awesome for a fish. Draco, my dragon, is an awesome pet and I've had him for two years. Atlanta, my cat, is adopted and she's the best football player ever! She's also an awesome alarm clock. These are my family members and I love them more than anything in the world!” –Mason
“I love my cat. He's my best friend. When I was born, he was already 7 years old, and had never been around kids before. But he bonded with me before I was even born. He is now 15, and I can't imagine not having him. We are very close. He loves playing with me, sitting on me, and his favorite thing to do is sleep with me. Kozmo has taught me what unconditional love is and what it means to be compassionate. Because of him, I love all animals, especially cats. When I come home from school, he waits for me at the door to pet him and cuddle with him. Every boy and girl should have a pet as special as Kozmo. I'm the luckiest boy in the world because he's my best buddy.” –Austin
“I have never seen such a strong bond between a cat and a little boy. The love that these two share is impossible to put into words. I think that the best thing a parent can do is raise a child with an animal in the house. Never be afraid of letting the two of them be close to each other from early on. If more parents nurtured the relationships between children and animals, we wouldn't have so much cruelty in this world—instead it would be filled with more loving, compassionate and empathetic souls.” –Cheryl, Austin’s mom
Photos courtesy of Katie Mobley, Ellexia, and Austin