Having a pet can add a whole other dimension to your family, giving your kids something to play with, something to care for, and something to love. Whether it's a cat, dog, snake, hamster, guinea pig, Gila monster lizard, or a bunny, there are so many wonderful things about pet ownership. Because there are different levels of care for each one, it's a good idea to research which pet might be right for your family, but no matter which you choose, there are many reasons why it's great for kids to have pets.
Pet ownership gives your kids a range of benefits, from making them more responsible and slightly less self-centered to just bringing them sheer happiness. Having somewhat recently adopted two adorable kittens (who have since grown into ravenous, rambunctious teenage cats), I never expected to feel so much love for an animal, even one who pokes me awake at 5:30 a.m. most mornings and has torn up one of our couches. My previously scared-of-animals daughter can't get enough of them. We waited a long time to get anything more ambitious than a hamster or a goldfish and, to be honest, I'm kind of sorry we did.
Dr. Sara Joseph, a veterinarian in Massachusetts who has been practicing almost 25 years, tells Romper that pets can unite a family. "Households can have conflicts," she says, "but what most family members agree about is how awesome, remarkable, and adorable their pet is." Dr. Joseph also cautions that one of the toughest parts of pet ownership is the loss of the pet — it's one of the hardest yet most valuable lessons a child can learn.
Because it's better to have loved and lost then never to have loved at all, here are all the good things to remember when contemplating taking the pet plunge.
1. Pets Help Kids Understand Science Better
Don't sign them up for med school yet, but Dr. Gail F. Melson, a developmental psychologist found that young children who had pets at home have a stronger understanding of biology than their peers, reported Scientific American.
2. They Reduce Anxiety
Kids with pets are more chill and less worried because there's always someone to comfort them when they get home. Dr. Melson found that, "kids who turned to their pets for emotional support were less anxious and withdrawn than those who didn't," as Scientific American reported.
3. Kids Will Learn How To Be Kind & Empathetic
Kids will learn about empathy from animals, Caryn Gray, a volunteer and Social Media Coordinator for the Hi Tor Animal Shelter in New York tells Romper. Animals don't take any BS, so if the kids want the animals to be kind to them, they have to be good to their pet.
4. They Give Kids A Sense of Responsibility
Responsibility for a pet goes even beyond changing the litter, walking, and feeding them. Dr. Joseph tells Romper, "I love walking into an exam room to meet a new pet and hearing how much thorough research the children have done prior to acquiring that animal. They are active participants in the acquisition, training and care of the pet." Because the kids are the ones who often spend more time with the pet, Dr. Joseph says they can be the ones who give the most accurate medical information at vet visits.
5. They Keep Kids Active
Dogs get the kids outdoors each time they need to be walked. Gray says that even cats can make kids more active just by playing with them.
6. And Away From Technology
Bonus points for putting the iPad down. While so much of our kids' lives are filled with screens, interacting with their pets takes them away from that, says Gray. She feels it teaches kids to be more present.
7. Pets Boost Self-Esteem
Who wouldn't want someone in the house who adores you no matter what and comes running every time you come home? This unconditional love boosts confidence, reported Health.
8. They Help Kids Become More Comfortable & Confident Readers
Kids who struggle with reading are often helped by reading to their pets. A study at Tufts University found that second graders who read to therapy dogs in an after school program demonstrated better attitudes toward reading. The kids become more relaxed around the pets and feel they are less judgmental in their listening.
9. You'll See Improved Impulse Control
Having a pet will help teach your child how to interact with other living things. Gray says that children who have an animal in their house learn to curb their impulse control because they quickly come to realize that you can't just grab an animal.
10. They Help Build Immunity
Believe it or not, it's possible that your child's immune system will strengthen if you have a pet by reducing their risk to allergies, according to Medical Daily. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention revealed that pet ownership can decrease blood pressure and cholesterol.
11. They Can Be Best Friends
There's a reason dogs are called "Man's Best Friend." The unconditional love between a child and his pet is irreplaceable.
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