A few years ago, I was a witness to the very unusual scene. Young couple with a one-year-old baby came to the park where people spent time with their dogs. It was a time for big and ‘dangerous’ dogs, and there were no children around.
Young parents casually put their little son on the field before anyone could react. But dogs responded immediately. Four of them including American Staffordshire Terrier, Siberian Husky, Rottweiler, and Cane Corso rushed to the child in a second and arranged themselves around the baby in an almost perfect square. It seemed to me that they realized that the child was abandoned and unprotected in the field and they decided to be his bodyguard.
Table of Contents
- Too Many Questions, Too Little Faith
- What Statistics Say
- Why Having a Pet is Perfect for Your Children?
- 1 – Pets help with learning
- 2 – Pets provide safety and comfort
- 3 – Pets build bonds between family members
- 4 – Children with pets are better off
- 5 – Pets reduce stress
- 6 – Kids with a pet have a more active lifestyle
- 7 – Pets teach our children to be responsible
- 8 – A priceless feeling of being unconditionally loved
- Pets Keep Children Healthy
- My Experiences
Too Many Questions, Too Little Faith
What is that that dogs know, and we can’t understand? Why dogs are sometimes so “notorious” that parents believe they are dangerous for kids? What’s that this couple knows what is unclear to most parents? Why is it important for us to connect our lives and the lives of our children to pets? Why it’s important to stay connected with nature?
There are many questions. Some experts have been looking for answers for years. Well. As a parent of two kids, a vet, and an owner of two cats and the American Staffordshire Terrier (the cats’ ‘mom’ and one of four ‘dangerous’ dog-guardians), I will try to answer some of these questions.
What Statistics Say
According to The American Pet Products Association (APPA) National Pet Owners Survey’s data from the 2017-2018, up to 85% of pet owners feel unquestioning love for their pets and believe that their pet(s) is (are) an excellent source of affection. Also, they are entirely sure that spending time with their pets help them relax and that pets have positive effects on their health.
Every fourth in ten kids in the U.S. begin their lives in a family with at least one pet, and 90% of children have a pet at some point during the childhood. American families take care of 89.7 million dogs, 94.2 million cats, and many millions of birds, fish, reptile, horses, and small animals.
About 60.2 million of U.S. households own dogs and 47.1 million own cats. They spend on their pets about $38 billion every year which is a doubled amount of money regarding the past decade.
Why Having a Pet is Perfect for Your Children?
1 – Pets help with learning
Children like having an audience, and you can often find your child reading a book to their pets. My daughter even stops reading from time to time and shows our cats and a dog pictures, explains to them what happens with main characters. Sometimes she asks them questions about a story pretending to be a teacher, and her pets are very thoughtful pupils.
2 – Pets provide safety and comfort
Do you know that kids who grow up with pets are less withdrawn and anxious? If you ask young children what they do when they felt afraid, sad, or angry, you will get a surprising answer. Many of them mention talking with their pets. Very often children share a secret with their pats, and shy and less-popular kids usually consider their pets the best friends.
Let me tell you a few secrets. There is plenty of evidence that children who have a pet are self-confident and more social skillful because taking care of a pet encourages a child to be responsible. Also, cuddling and playing with a pet reduce child’s loneliness especially if it’s about an only child or very shy one.
3 – Pets build bonds between family members
Everyone who grows up with a pet(s) knows that they help family members to be closer and to build stronger relations. Siblings who have a common pet are much more intimate and are less arguing with each other. They consider pets as family members who they love. Their furry friends connect them and make their family activities more desirable.
Have you ever seen a cat running its tail or a little dog chase the ball? Children can watch them for hours; they laugh together and spend time with each other. You know, such things are never boring. Plus, there are a lot of kids around who want to join them. Playing together with doggies and kitties creates strong, friendly relationships between children.
4 – Children with pets are better off
Most researchers agree that children who live with pets are generally better off than those who don’t have the luck to live with an animal. Generally speaking, a child who spends a childhood with a pet is more obedient and more psychically active on average. They also have fewer problems with their behavior, and they are less moody.
5 – Pets reduce stress
You actually don’t need any research or scientific proof that cuddling and petting a pet helps people relax and release stress. Just hold and hug a dog or a cat and try. You will need only a few minutes to feel much better. Cuddling with a pet will make you feel so good. It lowers your blood pressure and cuts down a stress hormone level.
6 – Kids with a pet have a more active lifestyle
Kids who grow up with pets, especially with dogs live a more active lifestyle. Children who have pets get outside more often and play with their dogs or cats outdoors. Some recent studies show that child with a dog exercises about ten minutes a day more than their peers who have no dog. Doesn’t sound like much? Really? Do simple math, and you will discover that it’s a lot of time on an annual basis.
7 – Pets teach our children to be responsible
Try to include your kid in the care of the pet. It is one of the easiest ways to teach a child how to be responsible and how to take care of someone else. Their commitments should depend on their ages. They could brush a pet’s furry, help to bathe a pet, take them to the vet and so on.
Let your kid feed a pet and spend time with it. This attention will help your little one understand that responsibility includes spending some time in playing and taking care of the animal every single day. They can’t tell a pet ‘I am sorry, but I am not in the mood to feed you or to take you to the walk’. The pet is a pleasure but also an obligation, and it’s good for every child to learn that.
8 – A priceless feeling of being unconditionally loved
Whenever I come home, all ‘gang’ wait for me at the front door. Those who claim that cats are not dedicated to their owners just don’t know what they are talking about. Cats are different than dogs but love their human family.
I may be afraid to leave my child with some people, but I’m never afraid to leave them to their guardian-animals. Our pets have shown their unconditional love so many times.
Pets Keep Children Healthy
1 – Pets decrease chances of having asthma and allergies
Many pediatricians think that living with pets decreases possibilities of having asthma and many types of allergies. Every child who grows up with a cat or a dog has definitely fewer positive skin tests to indoor allergens.
No one knows what our pets do to save us from infection. The logical conclusion would be that they bring different bacteria and allergen in the house and build baby’s immune systems. Also, the possible reason can be their touching. Well, while the animal licks the child, it comes to bacteria transfer. It seems that immune system of kids who are exposed to these bacteria is changing. The children react to allergens differently, and they respond weaker to them.
2 – Cats decrease the risk of getting an infection
According to the latest research, there are many pieces of evidence that cats may help lower baby’s risk of getting a cold during the first year of her life. It’s also confirmed that children who are exposed to household dust from homes where they live with a dog and (or) a cat have fewer chances to catch an infection with a common respiratory virus.
Results of one research implemented in Finland a decade ago showed that the babies who were connected with pets in everyday life are healthier than their pet-free peers. Researchers confirmed earlier results that these babies were 29% less likely to receive antibiotics and 44% less possible to develop an ear infection.
3 – Pets help children with autism
Also, many studies show that children with autism have many benefits from having a dog. There are even places where the ‘therapy dog programs’ are organized for these children. These programs give clear evidence that kids develop better communication and cognitive gains while playing with dogs.
Children with autism rarely engage with other people. But, if these kids establish a relationship with a pet and an adult asks questions related to the pet, there is higher possibility that the child responds. It’s also noticed that other children stop and engage when they meet a kid with a disability who takes a dog.
4 – Guide dogs help blind or visually impaired children
Who doesn’t remember Morris Frank, who was the first American with a dog guides? He brought Buddy, a German shepherd, from Switzerland to Nashville, Tennessee and spent his life with this dog guides. After a while, he co-founded ‘The Seeing Eye’ in his city and traveled through the country talking people about his dog and its help. Today many blind or visually impaired children spend comfortable life tanks to service (guide) dogs.
5 – Pets help children with mental illness
Have you ever heard of Animal-assisted therapy (pet therapy)? This type of therapy is widely used in the treatment of children with mental illnesses including behavioral and emotional disorders. Thanks to animals, these children show less anxiety and depression. There are also evident decreasing kid’s behavioral issues, and improving their participation and social interactions.
6 – Horses as the best solution for kids with disabilities
Equestrian therapy (equine-assisted therapy) is used to help promote the emotional growth of children with delay in mental development, autism, anxiety, trauma, abuse issues, Down syndrome, brain injuries, depression, and many other mental health issues. It’s always easy for a kid to establish a connection with the horse because they socially behave similarly like human beings.
I have a friend who has an Equestrian Club. Once a week he organizes a ‘healing day’ for children in wheelchairs. It is amazing how positively horses influence these kids. Only on the horses’ back, they feel truly free and uninhibited. Actually, only while they are riding, they don’t feel that they are different from other children. On the back of the horse, all of them are the same.
You can find something similar in the US. After his son was diagnosed with autism, Rupert Isaacson from Texas set up a non-profit organization ‘The Horse Boy Foundation’, and he uses horses to help children with mental and physical disabilities. He also goes to Ireland to share his knowledge and effective therapeutic intervention with people in their local education center for blind children.
These days some researchers claim that the influence of pets is minor. I don’t know what do you think about it, but I entirely disagree. When my grandmother passed away, my cat lay-over my chest for days as if she wanted to console me. When the days of everyday crying lagged slightly, she stopped doing it.
When someone of us is ill, our dog doesn’t want to move from the bed until we recover. Many times it happened that my daughter threw her blanket away during the night. During these nights, our cat was sleeping in a baby’s cradle in order to warm her up.
I can tell you stories about my pets for hours, but I believe it’s better for you and for your children to experience all the benefits that a pet can bring to you. Take the abandoned animal, give it home, and make your life beautiful and lovely at the same time.
All things considered, one of the most significant benefits of having a pet in early childhood is the fact that they make your kids happy. Pet will love your child unconditionally, and it’s scientifically proven that their connection leads to rising of dopamine and serotonin levels. But, for me as a mother, the only ‘scientific evidence’ I need is that my children are happy with their pets. Playing with dogs and cuddling cats is fun!
Honestly, I don’t need any research. There are three clear ‘proofs’ in my house that life with pets is wonderful. I genuinely believe that my children couldn’t imagine life without them. No research in the world can affect that fact.
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