The Benefits of a Pet for Children

by NDFAuthors

  • Mar 03, 2014

An estimated 4 in 10 children begin life in a family with pets, and as many as 90 percent of all children live with a pet at some point during childhood, says Gail F. Melson, PhD.1

Whether it has fur, feathers or is a fish, studies show children who grow up with a pet grow up with a great set of perks in comparison to those who do not.2  It is important to learn about the benefits of pets for children and determine if a pet is right for your family.

Advantages of Pet Ownership

pet-catPets contribute to a child’s self-esteem and self-confidence, lower stress, aid in the development of trusting relationships with others, develop non-verbal communication and compassion. They provide physical activity, affection, love and loyalty.

The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry says a child who learns to care for an animal, and treat it kindly and patiently, may get invaluable training in learning to treat people the same way.3

Other benefits of owning a pet show include:

  • Providing life lessons, such as birth, illness, accidents, death and bereavement
  • Helping develop responsible behavior in children who care for them
  • Providing a connection to nature and teaching a respect for living things
  • Providing a reason for exercise and activity
  • Creating family harmony by bringing the family together to care for the pet4

Choosing an Appropriate Pet

puppy-love-petIt is important to choose a pet that is right for your family, home and lifestyle:

  • Choose an animal whose needs can be met by your child. Dogs and cats require daily attention while fish, turtles, birds and hamsters require minimal care.5
  • Choose an animal whose temperament fits your family. An easygoing pet is a good match for children.
  • Consider allergies. Some people are allergic to skins, hairs or feathers of some animals so consult your pediatrician or local veterinarian for advice.
  • Buy pets only from reputable breeders and shelters to reduce the risk of taking home an ill or diseased animal.

Caring for a Pet

Once your family has brought a pet home, it is important to discuss the needs of the animal and pet safety with your children. The following are also important to note once a pet is home:

  • Young children under the age of 3 should be monitored with pets at all time
  • Children under the age of 10 need assistance when caring for a large animal
  • Parents should oversee the pet’s care at all times
  • If children do not take care of the pet, parents must take over responsibility on their own
  • Children should be gently reminded that animals, like people, need food, water and exercise
  • Children will learn responsible pet ownership by observing their parents’ behavior

A pet is like another family member and brings so many benefits to children. Not only will it love your child unconditionally, but your child will love it too.