young girl cuddling a jack russell puppy

Pets and kids

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Kids have a natural affinity for pets. We look at the pros and cons of owning a pet.

The good news for browbeaten parents everywhere is that for once, children may actually know what’s good for them!

Although there are many health and wellbeing benefits for children and families with pets owning an animal is not a decision to be taken lightly. When it comes to our furry, feathered and scaly friends, parents should weigh up all the pros and cons before being pushed into making a decision as - although it varies depending on the species, pet ownership is a big commitment.

But let’s start on the plus side. Most pets are a positive influence and for children the physical and mental advantages of ownership may be more pronounced.

Respiratory health

A recent Finnish study of 397 infants found that having a dog or cat at home during the first year of life might offer young children some protection against respiratory illnesses. The study also found that those with dogs had fewer infections and tendered to need fewer courses of antibiotics than those not exposed to them. The researchers also concluded that animal contact may contribute to improved resistance to infectious respiratory illnesses during childhood.

Ease anxiety

Although more research into effects of animal-human interaction is required, if a close relationship with a pet is experienced, like any good friendship, there is often psychological benefits – such as higher self-esteem, to the child. It has also been reported that pets, in particular dogs, act as good natural stress natural relievers - think fish tanks in doctors’ offices, and for this reason they may also be potentially useful aids for parents of shy or overly anxious children.

Responsibility and companionship

Owning an animal can help children develop nonverbal communication skills as well as encouraging qualities like empathy and responsibility. Getting children - particularly school-aged kids, involved in a pet’s upkeep is also a good exercise in accountability. On the flip side most animals make great, non-judgmental companions.

Active lifestyle

Another happy coincidence of pet ownership is that it tends to keep owners active. Children with pets may be more inclined to spend time outdoors playing with their animal/s than those without. For older children, if encouraged, a daily ritual of walking the dog around the block is a great way to introduce a healthy, life-long exercise habit.

Although benefits generally outweigh the downsides, pets may not be a perfect fit for all families. Here are some things to be mindful of when deciding whether to take the plunge or not.

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