Your children want pets? They are begging for a kitten to cuddle or a rabbit they can feed but you’re not so sure, as it is a big commitment. Discover here the reasons why having a pet is actually good for your children’s health and development.

It decreases allergies

Research shows that children who grow up in homes with pets are likely to have a stronger immune system and less likely to develop childhood allergies and asthma. Research carried out by health psychologist Dr June McNicholas of the University of Warwick and drug company Novartis Animal Health tested the saliva of 138 children aged between four and 11-years-old for IgA antibodies- an antibody found in the immune system that helps fight off infection. Results showed that pet-owning children were able to fend off infection such as colds and flu better than those children without pets, thus having less days off school.

It teaches responsibility

Tasks such as walking the dog or cleaning out the rabbit hutch teaches children to be responsible, as well as giving them a sense of achievement. Looking after a pet also helps children to develop empathy for others.

It helps with learning

Pets can help children with their learning. Educators have long used animals (mainly dogs) as a form of therapy in schools, using them to help developmentally challenged kids to learn. In particular, animals can help children’s reading skills. Research has shown that students who may be reluctant to read out loud at school feel more confident reading to animals as they see them as a non-judgemental pal.

It provides comfort and companionship

Pets offer comfort and companionship to kids. No matter what mood they are in, children find support and security from their animal companion, which often means they are less anxious or withdrawn.

It keeps families talking

Having a pet helps to build family bonds as animals are often the focus of family activities. From walking the dog together to grooming or feeding the pet, these simple but enjoyable tasks allow everyone to slow down, enjoy each other’s company and communicate with one another.

It encourages a healthy lifestyle 

From walking the dog to playing with the family rabbit in the garden, having a pet helps to prompt a healthy lifestyle for their young owners, encouraging them to be outside, running around and increase their Physical Activity.

Able to Build Relationships with Others Easier

Pets help build important social skills in children and promote interactions. They give children a common interest to talk about and can help develop self-esteem and self-confidence when interacting with others.

Significantly children with autism are found to have much more advanced social skills if they own a pet than those without.

Teach Children Empathy

Children who grow up interacting with animals are more empathetic, learning to put their needs above their own. Studies have shown that a there is a correlation between a childs attachment to their pet and their empathy scores. Children are naturally self-absorbed. A pet communicates it’s needs in a straightforward way that is easy for kids to understand and helps them to think about the needs of someone other than themselves.

Provide Life Lessons

Children who own pets are often exposed to lessons about life such as illness, reproduction, birth and death. For most children this will be the first time that they are exposed to these types of experiences. While this is not always easy, these lessons can help to open a line of communication with parents to help children understand and process difficult emotions.

Researcher Kayoko Inagaki conducted a study in 1990 on five year old children and their understanding of animals. They found that children who had kept goldfish had better knowledge of their pets anatomy and were able to apply the same logic to other animals and themselves.

Around 80% of pet owners report that their pet helps them feel less lonely and socially isolated. Owning pets has shown to help reduce blood pressure, stress, anxiety and depression in people of all ages. The use of therapy pets in children with autism has been demonstrated to help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, as well as lowering the stress hormone, cortisol.

Kids that are experiencing difficulties with school, family or friends often turn to their pets for comfort. Pets are great listeners and children will often talk to their pets and find comfort at difficult times.