Are you on the fence about whether to add a pet to your family? Are you wary of the expense and effort involved? The joys of pet ownership far outweigh the increased responsibility. Here’s what a pet relationship can do for your children:
- Improve speech and cognitive function.
Engaging with a pet develops a child’s verbal and language skills. Even if you have a tyke who isn’t speaking yet, being curious about a pet stimulates brain activity. If you have school-age children, their communication skills will be strengthened by giving the animal praise, commands, and encouragement.
By observing animals, kids learn to interpret nonverbal cues, such as body language and behaviours. Pet care sharpens concentration, planning, and memory. A 2011 Tufts University study found that when a child reads aloud to a pet, the activity improves their attention span and reading rate.
Credit goes to the nonjudgmental nature of pets. Whereas a person might offer correction while a child reads, a pet simply listens. When kids are relaxed, reading is easier.
- Fortify immunity.
Having a pet will reduce your children’s risk of becoming ill. A 2012 study reported in Pediatrics found that exposure to cats and dogs cuts respiratory illness, ear infections, and antibiotic use.
Felines and canines spur an increase in healthy intestinal bacteria, killing infectious germs. This is the finding of a 2017 study cited by Microbiome. Pet contact also lowers the incidence of allergies, asthma, and even obesity.
For you moms reading this, here’s a newsflash! Friendly bacteria first develop while your child is in the womb. Then after birth, pet exposure increases bacterial colonization in your child. Therefore, this immunity boost begins with you, transmitting healthy microbes to your baby!
- Bolster confidence.
When a child contributes to pet care, it underscores their self-worth. Meeting the needs of an animal makes them feel wanted and valuable. The devoted love of a pet also heightens self-esteem, helping kids believe in themselves.
Dogs and cats are especially sensitive to human emotions. The support they provide encourages kids to express themselves and try new things.
A pet in the home is a steadfast friend, promoting feeling secure. A confident kid is motivated to achievement.
- Foster reliability.
In a survey of pet owners by the American Pet Product Association, 58 percent of respondents said that pet care teaches their kids responsibility.
This benefit is independent of pet type, whether you choose a bird, guinea pig, fish, rabbit, ferret, hamster, turtle, kitty, pup, horse, etc. Even preschoolers can join in pet care, aiding with feeding, grooming, and exercising the animal. Older kids can assist in a greater capacity, such as with cleaning and training.
Praising your child’s efforts promotes ongoing responsibility. Allowing them to choose caregiving tasks encourages accountability. With consistent pet care, your child will increase their commitment. They’ll also taste the fulfilment of loving service.
- Invite exercise.
Do your kids spend much of their free time immersed in technology? Is their attention riveted to a screen for several hours daily?
Outside of school, kids are often glued to smartphones, game consoles, video arcades, movies, computers, laptops, and televisions. However, the needs of a pet can break the lure of electronics.
To be healthy, most animals require regular exercise. Dogs will get your kids walking, and cats usually like to play. Even a fish or turtle involves some physical activity on a caregiver’s part.
Are you aware of the activity guidelines for children? Kids age 5 and older need at least one hour of exercise daily. At a minimum, toddlers require 90 minutes, and preschoolers should get two hours.
These quotas might seem high, but dividing them into 15-minute increments makes them achievable. Pet care helps to meet these activity goals.
- Nurture compassion.
Psychological research shows that pets in the home increase empathy in kids. When your child befriends a pet, they learn how the animal feels, thinks, and reacts to things. Then, they can identify with the emotions, thoughts, and responses of other living beings.
Seeing a beloved pal in distress inspires kindness toward the pet. Such tenderness can expand, embracing others in an ever-widening circle. In this way, empathy helps kids develop friendships and caring relationships.
- Ease anxiety and tension.
With a faithful friend at home, your kids have a refuge from daily strife. Contact with a loving animal diffuses stress, whether through cuddling, petting, or murmuring to their pal.
Due to the therapeutic effects of animal interaction, it can work wonders for a special needs child. Studies show that pet relationships can improve symptoms of autism, anxiety disorder, learning disability, depression, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
During pet interactions, several hormonal changes occur. Dopamine and serotonin soar, conferring happy feelings. Oxytocin releases, bestowing calmness. Cortisol, a chemical prompted by stress, decreases.
Additionally, heart rate slows, blood pressure stabilizes, and breathing becomes more relaxed. Overall, pet affection is a blessed antidote to stress.
A pet relationship will enhance your kids’ lives in several ways. It will promote empathy, academic success, reliability, and confidence. It can boost your kids’ defences against illness.
By caring for a pet, your children will become more active. Plus, animal affection makes daily stress more manageable.
You stand to gain, too. Mesmerized by the soft eyes of a pet, you may even fall in love!
Emily Parker is a proud cat mum to two black cats, Gus and Louis. While she’s still debating adding human children to the equation, she loves to educate people about the many benefits of being a pet parent. You can find a fun infographic about how pets help kids on her blog, at Catological.com.