There are a number of studies that prove having a pet is beneficial to a child’s emotional, social, physical and cognitive development. One such study that took place in the UK revealed how children who had a dog exercised on average 11 minutes more every day than those who didn’t have one. Another study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics proved that young children who had contact with cats and dogs suffered less from respiratory and ear infections than those who lived without pets.
The Pros and Cons of Pets for Children
As research appears to indicate, having pets for children is beneficial to child development in many ways, which is why it’s important that we take care of our pets as best as we can. This means ensuring that they are fully covered by a pet insurance plan. It also means that we must be fully committed to the responsibilities of having a pet before we make the decision to have one. Even though our children will benefit from having a pet in the house, they might not be able to take full responsibility for its care. Ultimately we need to be ready to take care of our pets in the long-term. We must accept beforehand that the commitment won’t be minimal.
The main benefits
On the upside, running around and interacting with a pet can help children to develop strong motor skills. It can promote physical activity and keep them active. There’s also plenty of evidence to suggest that pets help children to socialize. Interestingly, when Dr. Lisa Wood conducted a study for the University of Western Australia, her findings revealed that cats and dogs are not the only pets that can help children become more sociable. Rabbits and snakes are just two of the household pets that also made the list.
The real beauty of a pet in terms of child development lies in the emotional support that it affords. Animals provide unconditional love and they never judge. They teach children to empathize with others and they provide safe environments in which to make mistakes and express true character without running the risk of not being accepted by others.
An interesting article published by ‘The Week’ also delves into the importance of pets for cognitive development. Children who read aloud to their pets are more likely to develop higher reading skills, according to the results gathered by a study that evaluated a group of second-grade children.
Possible cons to deal with
Even though dogs tend to be a real favorite with children, there’s always the risk of dog bites when small children are involved. There
are a number of breeds that are knowingly gentle with children – including golden retrievers, labradors and beagles – but the possible
risk never goes away and so children with pets must be carefully monitored.
Some parents may find that the death of a pet is an excellent learning curve for children to experience, while others may be concerned about the possible heartbreak that could come from losing a pet at a young age. While children under the age of two might only respond to the pet’s death if he or she senses the stress and sadness in other family members, children between the ages of 5 to 9 already begin to understand death as a permanent state of affairs. As such, the experience could be more traumatic for them.
Choosing the right pet
Choosing the right pet for your child is also very important. Cats and dogs are the most obvious choices, but turtles, birds, gerbils and fish are also great options to consider. While fish don’t offer the cuddly attention that dogs and cats provide, they are really easy for children to take care of and they require very little maintenance.
Birds, on the other hand, are very high maintenance. Their cages need to be cleaned regularly and if your child refuses to take on this responsibility in the long-term, it will become another weekly task to add to your already long list of household chores. The great thing about birds, however, is that they fly. This can be highly entertaining for young children and can get them interested in biology and animal development.
Likewise, Cats and dogs are playful, cheerful and adorable – and kids love them. Their veterinary check-ups, preventive care and maintenance are easier than the other animals.
All in all, there are many benefits experienced by children who grow up with pets by their side; benefits that probably outweigh the causes for concern. The only real question you have to ask yourself is whether you are also willing to make a long-term commitment. Remember… a pet is for life.