Did you know there are 89.7 million dogs and 94.2 million cats currently residing in U.S. households? These statistics are the result of the 2017-1018 American Pet Products Association (APPA) National Pet Owners Survey. The majority of these homes include children, or children are being planned for the future. There are many benefits for the children in homes with cats and dogs as pets.
Pets give unconditional love to everyone in the household. They don't judge anyone, but give joy, comfort, love and support. This is especially important for an only child, a lonely child or one who has sibling rivalry or emotional distress like bullying. Their loyal pet is always there listening and comforting them without judgment or consequence. There is definitely no back-talk from them, just a warm furry body to hold and love.
Some children don't have a safe place to share disruptive emotions, and because of this they may torment, or bully, other children. There is a lot of this going on in today's world. It is becoming a big problem because more and more, the bullied child is taking his own life. Pets can help children with both of these problems. Because a pet loves a child no matter what he says or does, he will give the child a confident safe place where he can verbally release his fears and anger.
Another important benefit that pets help children learn is empathy. This comes from caring for a pet that is dependent on you to be fed, watered and to go outside when nature calls. Pets can also become scared of storms, wind, lightning and thunder, as well as loud noises inside the home. Children learn how to identify these needs of their pets. They are there to feed, water, take them out and comfort them. Children know how it feels to be hungry, thirsty and scared. Empathy is a valuable skill that can be taught, and a skill that bullies often lack.
A pet will teach children confidence and responsibility. These come with learning how and when to feed, water and take care of their pet's needs. Toddlers are old enough to fill their pet's food and water bowls. They can also start learning how to brush their pet's coat, and probably have fun helping to give them a bath. As children get older, they can help walk small animals. Every successful activity they finish will build children's confidence and responsibility while having fun with their pet!
It is obvious that having pets will help socialize children and increase their verbal skills. Children will tell everyone about their pet and the cute things, or maybe the not so cute things they have done. And adults and kids all talk to their pets. Even very young children will "talk" to them in their own little language! This is how pets give cognitive language support, and social and emotional support to children. Just the pet's simple presence will provide the verbal stimulus to help children start talking and socializing with everyone.
There are many therapeutic benefits that pets and animals in general can give to children. Studies have shown how pets can help reduce stress and anxiety, speed up recovery time, and lower blood pressure. It has also been found that having a cat or dog can actually make a baby healthier in their first year of life. They become less susceptible to respiratory and ear infections in their first twelve months. Some studies state that having a pet bring in dirt from outdoors helps a child's immune system. Children need to be exposed to many different things in order to become immune to their surroundings. Overall the benefits of having pets for children is positive for their health, development and happiness!