9 Ways Pets Help Raise Good, Healthy Kids [INFOGRAPHIC]

No question about it – pets are great for children! Except … people do ask questions, actually. Plenty of folks wonder whether the natural risks inherent in owning a pet – they’re animals, after all, who may bite or scratch, as well as carrying the possibility of allergies – outweigh any benefits. Well, here’s some scientific evidence that proves once and for all that getting a pet is one of the best things you can do for a kid!

9 Ways Pets Help Raise Good, Healthy Kids

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1. Pets help boost kids’ immune systems

You’re undoubtedly unaware of all that ‘good’ stuff pets bring into the house – dirt on their fur, particles if they’ve been rolling around outside, pollen, etc. Guess what? As much as it may drive you crazy trying to clean up after Fido or Fluffy, exposure to that stuff may help ‘train’ young children’s immune systems for better health.

The Journal of Pediatrics published a study where researchers followed kids from birth to age 1. Kids with a dog at home that first year had 31% fewer respiratory tract infections and 44% fewer ear infections. Cats also had a positive effect on children’s health. Bottom line: Getting down and dirty with any kind of furry friend is proven to be great for kids on all kinds of levels, including the cellular one!

2. They help build confidence

Maybe little Bobby is trying out for a baseball team and is scared of flubbing a flyball. Running around with his favorite furry friend – yes, some cats, like the Maine Coon do play fetch! – will help lessen some of his fear and help him feel more comfortable when he’s actually in the big game.

The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology has published researched on how pet owners have more self-esteem. Knowing that there’s a loving animal at home, whether cat, dog, rabbit, etc., and that the animal will love them no matter what mistakes they might make, is instrumental in helping kids

3. They help kids build friendships

Just think about it. Have you ever walked into a room and had nothing in common with anyone else? People who own pets automatically have a common bond and kids definitely know that. It helps them be more comfortable in their own skins. The shyest little boy or girl will run over to another child with a pet, where they might cling to Mom’s knee if it was just people in the room.

Pets help kids build communities. They may walk dogs together, teach their cats tricks, participate in pet costume contests … you name it, pets are great at bringing people of all ages together.

4. They teach responsibility

If you bring home a feisty feline, no matter how independent said kitty may turn out to be, it has to be regularly fed (even if you use something like a programmable feeder that doesn’t have to be filled so often), have its water bowl refreshed, be groomed, be played with, have its litter box regularly cleaned, etc. These tasks typically fall to kids. They may even be part of the deal before getting a pet – “If we get a gorgeous rescue kitty, she’s going to be your responsibility.”

Kids not only learn concrete responsibilities by caring for pets, they learn how to maintain a regular schedule. Cats are creatures of habit, so kids will quickly learn that certain times of day are when kitty wants to play and eat. Other times, kitty will be far more interested in sleep.

5. Pets (especially cats!) make kids smarter

It’s scientifically proven! A University of Bristol study found that cat owners are more likely to have university degrees. If you think about it, it just makes good sense. Caring for these interesting creatures, finding strategies to outwit their sly ways, coming up with innovative games to keep them entertained and out of trouble – all these things give kids’ growing brains a boost.

Furthermore, kids often develop a fascination with their pets, just as they might with sports or video games. Kids will then spend time researching, reading, and maybe even writing about their beloved animals. They may become fantastic photographers or YouTubers, documenting kitty’s every goofy antic. All of these skills, developed naturally around pets, are building gray matter!

6. They help kids read better

This goes hand in hand with firing up the brain at a young age. Reading doesn’t come easy to all youngsters, and it can be both a frustrating and frightening experience when the letters on the page just don’t make sense. Hanging out with willing pets, whether felines or canines, and reading aloud to them has been proven to help boost children’s literacy.

Pets are endlessly patient, nonjudgmental audiences. Unlike a human teacher, who might correct every single slip, a friendly cat will sit calmly and simply listen while a child reads. This helps the child relax and enjoy reading more, which automatically makes the task easier and less threatening.

7. Empathy

No scientific study is really needed to prove that children learn compassion from pets, but here’s one anyway, by the American Humane Society. It all goes back to how pets help kids learn. By being responsible for another living creature and having to treat it with love and respect, kids become aware of the importance of kindness at an early age. There’s a reason animals are so frequently employed as pet “therapists.”

Pets like cats are such warm, loving presences that a natural bond between pet and child forms, fostering feelings of empathy that the child then automatically practices in places like school, sports, etc. If a child is a kind pet owner, it stands to reason that he or she also will be a kind son/daughter, friend, student, team player, etc. Many kids volunteer at animal shelters, only furthering these valuable lessons.

8. They help kids exercise more

This one may seem like a no-brainer, but it doesn’t just apply to getting exercise by dog walking or throwing a ball around with a canine friend. Cats love to jump, climb, and play as much as any dog, and kids will readily engage with their felines in all manner of games that require a child to get off the couch and move. Cats are also naturally lithe creatures who love to stretch and contort themselves into all manner of positions. Many are the children who have spent happy hours trying to imitate their furry companions’ yoga-kitty moves!

9. They foster young entrepreneurs

You’ve seen lemonade stands, but kids who own pets often also develop other ingenious ways to turn a profit while spending time with the animals they love so much. The standards are dog walking, poop scooping, and cat/or other pet sitting. But some kids also start businesses creating animal costumes or collars, making homes for feral cat colonies, or fostering homeless critters.

In addition to teaching kids about responsibility, running a business also helps kids learn about finances at a young age, lessons which stand them in excellent stead as they grow up.

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  • Updated April 15, 2018
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