Do children benefit from having a pet?Posted on 26 Jul 2012
A new survey has revealed that owning pets can have a positive effect on children’s health, happiness – and even their homework. Blue Cross editor Natasha Kleanthous discusses why a pet can be such wonderful addition to the family..
For any of us who grew up owning a pet, we know just how fabulous it can be.
Our gorgeous golden retriever Crumble, who I grew up with from a baby, introduced me to pets and the responsibility that comes with them from a young age.
Later on, our cats Tigger and Whisky brought me 19 wonderful years of happiness and friendship, from the age of 10 until they passed away when I was nearly 30.
There are lots of reasons why pets can have a positive impact. Children often prefer to share their feelings with a pet rather than a person, which can help them through difficult times in life – including adolescence.
It also encourages them to develop feelings of empathy and nurturing and can introduce them to the concept of bereavement when a much-loved pet passes away.
Pets and homework
Pet store chain Pets at Home recently carried out a survey of 1,000 animal-owning children aged between five and 16 and found some interesting results.
Nearly 80 per cent believed their pet friends had a positive effect on their homework and schoolwork in general.
Children with rats or mice were the most likely to think their pet was helping them with their homework, with dog owners second and cat owners third.
More than a third said they had become more caring, 34 per cent felt a greater sense of responsibility, and one in five had become better at talking to people.
The benefits of pets for children
Here are some of the top benefits that pet ownership provides for children:
- Greater fitness and higher levels of physical activity
- More stable immune systems (particularly between the ages of five and eight)
- Comfort during recovery and rehabilitation
- Teaches nurturing skills
- A lower incidence of hayfever and asthma, with less likelihood to develop allergies to animals if children are exposed to pets during their first year of life
Getting a new family pet
While children do benefit from having a pet in the family, it’s important that you don’t get one just for your child.
We all know that kids get bored of their favourite toy after a while and pets aren’t all that different.
Despite desperate promises that they’ll feed, walk or clean out their new pet’s home everyday if you let them have one, the novelty can quickly wear off.
So it’s important that if you get a pet, it’s for the whole family and that everyone wants to be involved in their care.
You also need to do some research to find out what kind of pet is right for you and your family’s lifestyle.
Some types of pets are better suited to children than others – for example rats are confident, fun and friendly and can make great friends for children, whereas rabbits are very sensitive and, despite their reputation, aren’t always the best kids’ pets.
You also need to look at the individual personality of the pet and whether they’re a good fit for your family.
Taking on a rescue pet
One of the best ways to get a new pet for your family is to take on a rescue pet.
Blue Cross has a tailor-made rehoming scheme, which means that we don’t have fixed rules about what makes the “perfect home”.
We look at each family individually so we can find them the right pet. Plus, anyone who rehomes a Blue Cross animal gets free advice from our behaviour team for the lifetime of that pet.
We regularly rehome pets to families with children of all ages and we’re more than happy to chat to you about your needs so we can find you a good match.