We’ve always had animals at home. From cats to dogs to hamsters to guinea pigs to rabbits to fish to chickens, you name them, they’ve all lived with us at some stage and in reality, despite the days, when mopping up after their little mishaps, or swearing “never again” when the children are devastated when they pass on, or cursing madly when the children haven’t cleaned out a cage they promised to when they were smaller, life without our beloved pets just wouldn’t be the same without them in our lives. A couple of years ago our dear cat, Walter, passed on after 20 years and still to this day he is sorely missed. At the present time we are blessed with Hubble, a very gorgeous bouncy eight year old Labrador who refuses to grow up and Geoffrey Oliver, our beautiful Burmese Crossbreed Cat who believes that we live to serve him and in payment for our services will tolerate the dog and even groom her if she worships him daily! Each pet though, joking aside, is very much part of our family, bringing their own personalities to bear on family life and their own little idiosyncrasies but beyond the cute, cuddly exteriors what other benefits are there for children in owning a pet?
Many parents justify having a pet as it will teach their children responsibility. Children can be encouraged to help feed their pets, fill up water bowls, help clean out cages, pick up toys and play with pets. Such small tasks nurture responsibility in children although it needs remembering that an adult ultimately needs to retain responsibility for the animal in question.
Empathy and Compassion
Caring for animals often leads children to question how their pets are feeling. They learn how to be exercise compassion and understand how to be compassionate to their pets. These skills can be transferred to their human counterparts.
There are many health benefits of pet ownership. Children who grow up with pets statistically have decreased allergy risks. Pets can also reduce anxiety and stress levels as well as lower blood pressure. Pets that demand exercise regimes obviously encourage a healthier lifestyle. Stroking animals can also be very calming and relaxing but training them can also be very stimulating and rewarding.
Pet ownership can also alleviate loneliness and extend the hand of friendship. Children can become very attached to their pets and (like many adults) chat to them as though they were human telling them their deepest secrets, sharing their greatest desires and greatest hopes etc. Pets can become children’s confidants and can really lead children to a deeper understanding of friendship than can then be relayed socially elsewhere.
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Pets then can benefit a child’s development physically, emotionally, cognitively and socially. They can help therapeutically and enhance family life. Clearly, it goes, without saying, that the commitment to pet ownership must always be made by a responsible adult who ultimately remain responsible for the animals welfare throughout the years but after that the benefit of owning a pet is something that can be shared by the whole family.