I’m fond of discussing the benefits of pets for kids since I’ve always shared my life with a companion animal. My earliest memories are of snuggling with my cat. I can also still hear my mother reminding me about good pet care and telling me to feed my dog. I know that I’m a better person because I grew up with pets in my life. I didn’t know how much better until I was reading the other day about the benefits of pets for kids.
In 1990, Daniel Goleman wrote for the New York Times about a pet ownership study at Oregon University that found, ”It made the children more cooperative and sharing,” said Dr. Sue Doescher, a psychologist involved in the study. ”Having a pet improves children’s role-taking skills because they have to put themselves in the pet’s position and try to feel how the pet feels. And that transfers to how other kids feel.” I remember the comfort I found when I knew that my secrets were safe with my fur friends, I could even talk to them about how mean my parents were to me when they made me clean my room or do the dishes.
The American Academy of Pediatrics published a study in 2012. The study followed 397 children from before they were born until their first birthday. The study found that children who had contact with dogs and cats in their first year of life had substantially fewer respiratory infections, ear infections and needed fewer antibiotics. The theory is that the more exposure to different germs helps build children’s immune systems, as Amina Khan shares in the Los Angeles Times. Allergies and asthma are reduced in homes with pets. If only my parents knew that by letting me have pets they were making my life much healthier.
My beloved childhood pets, it turns out, were not just good for my heart, they were good for my physical, mental, and emotional health. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry lists some of the benefits of pets for kids as, “physical activity, comfort contact, love, loyalty, and affection.” Pets also teach about nature and the circle of life. Those are all such good lessons to pass on to my children someday.
After reading all the good things about pets for kids, it is hard to think about any downside. Then I remember that children have to be taught that pets are living creatures that deserve to be treated gently and with love. It is also important to remember that little children and babies always need to be supervised when they are with the family pet so that both the child and the pet can remain safe. Supervising the children seems like such a small thing to do in return for all the benefits for having pets in our lives.