Shared life experiences with a pet dog, cat, rabbit, guinea pig, goat, or horse, bolsters our health, our social and physical development, and enriches our lives. Every child can benefit from having a pet.
7 Benefits Gained from the Family Pet
1. Love & Valued Relationships
A childhood pet is often our first and best friend. Pets teach us how to develop close, relational bonds with those that we spend the most time with. Positive interaction with a pet helps children form good social skills, to value and enjoy interacting with others.
Dogs consistently demonstrate unconditional love to their family of humans. They are happy to see us and enjoy being with us whether we’re relaxing in front of the fireplace, enjoying an ice cream cone, or going for a jog.
Cats have their own way of showing affection. While they might not jump up and down and wag their tails, they too are emotional creatures that form close attachments. They demonstrate their love in more subtle ways. Cats also enjoy companionship by curling up in your lap, lying near when you’re reading or working at the computer, or following you on a walk.
A childhood bond with the family pet can be a rewarding relationship that can last for a decade or more.
2. Lessons of Life
Witnessing the miracle of an animal’s birth is an enriching experience. Children learn first hand, visually and physically about the stages of development, and the complete life cycle. They see the vulnerability of newborn animals, and what is needed for their survival. They learn how essential proper nourishment, protection and care is for an animal to grow and thrive. Whether its watching a new foal, lamb or kid stand on its wobbly legs for the first time or a mother cat clean and nurse her kittens, a butterfly emerge from its cocoon, or a chick peck its way out of an egg, we can experience what it takes for young creatures to enter the world and what is necessary for them to thrive.
Learning to care for a family pet helps children develop responsibility. There’s no better way for children to learn that pets depend on us than to have them take an active role in their care. Filling the pet’s bowl with fresh water or food helps children become consistent in performing important, routine tasks.
While feeding and caring for their pet, your child can learn to openly practice nurturing skills. In families with no younger siblings, a family pet provides an opportunity for the child to show tenderness and carefulness that they might not otherwise have the chance to demonstrate.
Assisting in the care of a pet helps children to feel a sense of accomplishment. Studies have shown that children with pets have a higher level of confidence than those without pets.
6. Physically Active
Owning a dog encourages us to walk daily, and to be more active. Thus, it is no surprise that dog owners, especially were found to be 54% more likely to get the recommended amount of physical exercise.
7. Health Bolstering
Interaction with pets has a positive impact on our health at every age. It helps reduce stress levels, lowers blood pressure, and lessens the risk of heart disease. Children’s health greatly benefits as well. Infants and children living in homes with pets (especially dogs and cats) have stronger immune function, and thus have lower risks of ear infections and respiratory tract infections than children in non-pet households. Researchers comparing children’s school attendance records found that children living in pet-free homes on the average missed more school days per year than those with pets.
While there are many benefits of owning a pet, research the pros and cons before you bring a puppy or kitten home. Make sure that the pet you choose is a good fit for your location, your lifestyle, and the members of your household. If a family member is allergic to fur or feathers, there are land hermit crabs, butterflies, lizards, fish and more to raise.
It is important to convey the joy of loving and caring for a new pet to your child. First demonstrate the tasks and the appropriate behaviors you want your child to mirror. Your presence and guidance will help your child gain confidence and success as they begin playing, feeding and caring for the new pet.
About the Author:
Deborah Tukua is the editor of Journey to Natural Living and the author of the healthy fresh from the blender recipe book, Naturally Sweet Blender Treats. She is a freelance writer for the Farmers' Almanac and Chiropractic Economics magazine and author of the book, Marketing Strategies for Chiropractic Success.
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