If you’ve ever considered bringing a pet into your home, you may initially be daunted by the prospect of another hungry mouth to care for; by the responsibility, expenses and labor involved. But a little research—whether online or simply by talking to pet-loving friends—will reveal that the rewards are likely to far outweigh the costs, particularly if there are children in the home. Here’s why:
- Pets Teach Maturity – Pets are a great way to build habits of responsibility, reliability and trustworthiness. Feeding and caring for a pet puts other household chores in perspective, because kids quickly learn that an animal is genuinely dependent on them, and if they shirk their duties, it matters. Pets are able to communicate their needs in ways that no amount of lecturing can match.
- Health and Fitness – dog owners have a built-in daily exercise regimen that requires getting out and getting active. What’s more, researchers have shown that exposure to dogs and cats may also improve allergies and asthma, with findings demonstrating that children who live with cats or dogs at a young age have a lower incidence of hay fever and asthma, and are less likely to develop animal-related allergies.
- Less-Spoiled Kids – Pets help kids gain some perspective on their place in the world, and make them less self-centered. Growing up with a pet “gives children a much more inclusive sense of self,” according to Dr. James Serpell, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society.
- Lowering Stress – simply stroking cats and dogs has been shown to reduce stress, to the degree that several top universities (Georgetown, U. of Akron) are participating in programs that bring in puppies for students to interact with and hold during finals weeks, and other schools, including Yale and Tufts University allow students to pet licensed therapy dogs.
- They’re Not Just for Kids – for seniors living alone or in groups, interacting with a pet can help reduce loneliness and depression, as well as providing much needed routine and sense of purpose. “Pets live very much in the here and now. They don’t worry about tomorrow. And tomorrow can be very scary for an older person. By having an animal with that sense of now, it tends to rub off on people,” says Dr. Jay P. Granat, a New Jersey psychotherapist.
- Companionship – the bottom line is that pets are good friends. Families come with issues, but pets are a source of Unconditional Positive Regard that is 100% judgement-free. The comforts of sharing your home with another living thing are the main reason why most people choose to keep a pet. What’s more, studies have shown that pets also make you more sociable with other humans. People with pets had greater self-esteem, were more outgoing, and had greater social competencies.
- Adopting is good for them – Not all animal shelters are safe havens. According to the ASPCA, almost 2.7 million companion animals are euthanized in shelters each year, while an equal number are adopted. When you bring an animal home with you, you don’t just save its life, you enrich yours and those of the people you live with.
If you’re looking to adopt a dog, cat or other companion, Kids That Do Good lists a variety of places that can help you, as well as places that can use your help. In Spring of 2017, one of our featured causes is Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, the largest sanctuary for companion animals in the nation.