Everyone knows that most kids love animals - just look at the number of stuffed animals your child/children sleep with at night ! And the benefits of pet ownership for kids goes well beyond just teaching them responsibility in feeding and caring for the animal.
1) Help with learning
Kids will often read to their pet, be it a dog, cat, guinea pig or whatever! For children who have difficulty with reading, doing it aloud to a nonjudgmental audience can help foster their confidence . Some schools will even bring in therapy dogs to help those children too shy or anxious to read out loud.
2) Psychological support
Animals are a great source of comfort to many kids . They can often help children with anxiety and behavioral issues . Pets can also help kids to make friends more easily, as it gives them something they can talk about with other children, sharing their stories and common interests .
3) Calming influence
Brushing, patting or stroking a furry creature such as a cat, dog or rabbit can lower one’s stress level! This is just as true for moms and dads, as it is for kids!
4) Learning how to nurture (and how to "parent")
Children with pets will learn how to care for their pets , develop compassion and empathy , and learn how to help them when they are anxious or afraid (think about going to the vet for shots, or during thunderstorms).
5) Reduce risk of developing certain allergies
Studies have shown that kids with pets are less likely to develop allergies to pets and dust mites . Some studies have even shown fewer positive skin tests to outdoor allergens for kids living in homes with pets .
6) Building family bonds
When a pet is chosen carefully with regard to the type of animal, and at an age appropriate time for the child, it brings a family together. There is shared time taking care of the pet, playing with the pet and for certain types of pets like dogs, it can lead to family walks together.
6) Many studies suggest that having pets increases children's self esteem, cognitive and social skills. So, when your family is ready, I encourage you to get a pet (or have multiple animals in your home, like me!)
One final, but important reminder…..NEVER leave any baby or young child unattended with any pet, no matter how docile and friendly that pet may be.
Dr. Jodi Natovitz, who received her medical degree from SUNY Buffalo School of Medicine in Buffalo, NY and completed her pediatric residency at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children in Philadelphia, PA, is the proud owner of 2 greyhounds - Petey and Veda, and 4 cats - Iggy, Squiggy, Abby and Momma.