10 Reasons Why Pets Are Great For Kids


This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian, Dr Belinda Stancombe

There are so many benefits to owning a pet and this is especially true for children. If you grew up with pets like I did, these fond childhood memories are likely still with you today and in many ways have shaped the person you have grown into.

So what is it about the relationship between childen and animals that makes it so special?

Our Vets have compiled a list of their Top 10 Reasons Why Pets Are Great for Kids. Can you guess Number 1?

#10: Improve Kids Health

Studies have shown that the presence of pets in a household in the the first few years, can decrease the prevalence of allergic conditions in children later in life. Furthermore this risk is found to be lower in children with a greater number of pets in a household, suggesting that the presence of dogs and cats protects against allergy development.

Particularly for infants and young children, the presence of an inside pet has been documented as a contributor to a stronger immune system. Infants exposed to dogs or cats were found to be healthier and experience fewer respiratory complications and ear infections.

#9: Increased Physical Activity

Pet ownership helps to promote physical activity. For children with pets, this may be through exercising their pet, playing games or daily pet care. On average, dog owners walk more minutes per week and are 54% more likely to meet recommended levels of physical activity than those who do not own a dog. Dog walking may also be linked with a lower risk of obesity.

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#8: Teach Children Empathy

Children who grow up interacting with animals are more empathetic, learning to put their needs above their own. Studies have shown that a there is a correlation between a childs attachment to their pet and their empathy scores. Children are naturally self-absorbed. A pet communicates it's needs in a straightforward way that is easy for kids to understand and helps them to think about the needs of someone other than themselves.

#7: Able to Build Relationships with Others Easier

Pets help build important social skills in children and promote interactions. They give children a common interest to talk about and can help develop self-esteem and self-confidence when interacting with others.

Significantly children with autism are found to have much more advanced social skills if they own a pet than those without.

#6: Help Build Confidence in Novice Readers

The presence of pets has found to be a comforting, non-judgemental tool for kids learning to read aloud. Groups like the Story Dogs use dogs to encourage young readers in reading aloud within a safe, criticism free environment!

#5: Increased family bonding time

Pets will often be the centrepoint of a family and a common interest that everyone can share. They help to bring families together and are often the focus of family activities whether that be through going for walks together, playing with the pets favourite toy or grooming and feeding. Pets give an opportunity for families to slow down their busy lives and just enjoy spending time together and with their pets.

#4: Pets Help Create Conscientious Humans

A study performed by Megan Mueller in 2003 surveyed 567 participants from late primary age to post high school on human-animal interactions and their involvement in the community. Mueller's study found that those who had a greater attachment to their pets were more likely to contribute to the community, help friends and family or take on leadership roles.

#3: Learning to be Responsible

Caring for a pet by feeding and cleaning up after them teaches children how to be responsible. Looking after a pet is a daily commitment that can teach children the importance of dependability and resilience through the hard work of providing for their pet.

Nurturing pets can also help with the development of parenting skills, particularly for boys who see activities like playing house or babysitting as "girly". Caring for a pet helps children to practice the nurturing skills required to be parents later in life.

#2: Provide Life Lessons

Children who own pets are often exposed to lessons about life such as illness, reproduction, birth and death. For most children this will be the first time that they are exposed to these types of experiences. While this is not always easy, these lessons can help to open a line of communication with parents to help children understand and process difficult emotions.

Researcher Kayoko Inagaki conducted a study in 1990 on five year old children and their understanding of animals. They found that children who had kept goldfish had better knowledge of their pets anatomy and were able to apply the same logic to other animals and themselves.

#1: Reduce Stress, Anxiety and Depression

Around 80% of pet owners report that their pet helps them feel less lonely and socially isolated. Owning pets has shown to help reduce blood pressure, stress, anxiety and depression in people of all ages. The use of therapy pets in children with autism has been demonstrated to help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, as well as lowering the stress hormone, cortisol.

Kids that are experiencing difficulties with school, family or friends often turn to their pets for comfort. Pets are great listeners and children will often talk to their pets and find comfort at difficult times.

Why do pets make us feel so good?

When you engage and bond with your pet, it causes the release of the hormone oxytocin (otherwise known as the 'love hormone') in your brain. Oxytocin can have a range of beneficial effects including:

  • Feelings of relaxation
  • Reduced stress response
  • Lowered blood pressure

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While there is more research needed when it comes to the human-animal bond we can confidently say that pets shape happier, healthier little humans.

If you have been thinking of adding a pet to your family then now you have even more reason. It can't hurt checking out your local adoption shelter, you never know who you might find!

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