The bond that develops between children and their pets is undeniable, but taking on this new responsibility can feel daunting. A new personality can pose a challenge or grow seamlessly into the fabric of a family.
Taking the right precautions can prepare you for potential hurdles and improve the lives of your family members in more ways than one.
Benefits of Pets for Kids
1. Reduced Risk of Asthma
According to a study done by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “Children exposed to high indoor levels of pet or pest allergens during infancy have a lower risk of developing asthma by 7 years of age.” Asthma can cause lifelong complications and even death, so why wait until your children are older to get a pet if having a pet while your child is an infant can reduce their odds of developing asthma?
2. Psychological Benefits
There are many psychological benefits that children can experience from having a close relationship with a pet. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), taking care of pets can help kids improve things like:
• Social skills
• Self-esteem and self-confidence
• Trusting relationships with others
• Non-verbal communication
3. Increased Physical Activity
Most dogs and many cats love to play. Playing with a pet could get your child away from sedentary activities and toward increased physical activity by using a teaser toy with a cat or walking or playing fetch with a dog. With the United States facing an obesity epidemic, any reason to help kids get more exercise is a good thing.
4. Experience with Grief
One benefit of having pets that most people don’t like to talk about is that it teaches kids about life, death, and managing grief. Wouldn’t you rather teach these lessons with the death of a pet rather than a human family member?
5. Learning Responsibility
It may be difficult to get your kid to care about making their bed, but making them responsible for feeding and caring for a pet can help them care enough to learn about responsibility with fewer eye-rolls because they understand that their “chores” are for the direct benefit of their furry friend.
Safety Tips for Children with Pets
1. Never Leave Pets and Small Kids Alone Together
Even the friendliest of family pets can act in unpredictable ways, with the occasional tragedy being the sad result. You might think that unpredictable toddlers would be at the highest risk of being bitten by a dog, but children between 5 and 9 are most likely to be bitten.
The best way to prevent an accident is to keep kids and pets separated with baby gates or closed doors when you aren’t around to keep an eye on things.
2. Teach Kids How to Interact with Pets
Kids don’t naturally understand that they shouldn’t pull on an animal’s ears or tail. It’s up to you to teach younger kids how to interact with pets – before your pet takes matters into their own hands.
It’s also a good idea to become an expert in dog or cat body language and to teach your kids how to read animal body language, too. For example, a dog wagging its tail might be showing nervousness rather than excitement based on what the rest of their body is showing.
3. Enroll Dogs in Obedience Classes
A dog that’s well-trained to listen and obey your commands is not only safer around your kids, but it’s also easier to keep your dog safe, too. A dog that knows how to “leave it” is less likely to swallow a random chicken bone they find on a walk, and a dog that comes when called is less likely to get hit by a car if they happen to escape your control.
4. Keep Cats Inside
Not only is it safer for your cats to keep them inside (indoor cats live significantly longer than outdoor cats), but it’s safer for your kids not to interact with cats that are allowed outdoors.
Cats that are allowed outdoors are far more likely to pick up pests like fleas and ticks (which are then introduced to your home) as well as parasites like toxoplasmosis, which can affect humans. The risk of catching toxoplasmosis is the reason pregnant women shouldn’t clean out litter boxes.
If you are interested in adding a new pet to your family, search through adoptable pets by clicking here!
Get more joy out of your relationship with your pet:
Finding the Right (Rescued) Breed