Why Pets are Good for Kids: Myths vs Facts

Think having a pet will make your kids sick, keep them from doing their chores or have them forgetting to do their homework? Think again. In many ways, pets actually do the opposite

By Emily Parker

Why Pets are Good for Kids: Myths vs Facts

In most families, at some point our little ones come along and ask if they can have a pet. While a few parents have no problem adding a furry four-legged friend to the family mix, others are hesitant due to many misconceptions they may have had over the years.

From being too messy to keeping kids sick or being too much of a distraction from school and other activities, parents can often think of many reasons to say no to having a pet.

But much to their surprise, there is actually a variety of scientific evidence showing pets can be very positive influences in the lives of children. To learn more about this, here are some common myths put forth about pets, along with the facts that prove otherwise.

Myth #1: Pets Keep Your Child Sick

Fact: Having pets in your home when your child is very young can in fact be a big boost to his immune system. According to research published in the Journal of Pediatrics, a study was conducted by following children during their first year of life. For those kids who had dogs or cats in the home during that time, researchers found they had 31 per cent fewer respiratory illnesses and 44 percent fewer ear infections.

Myth #2: Pets Keep Your Child From Making Friends

Fact: While some parents may think their kids will spend more time with their pets than they will making friends, research has shown pets help kids establish friendships and build self-confidence. According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, having pets in the home helped kids build self-esteem and be more comfortable in establishing friendships. The biggest reason for this is thought to be that by having a pet that loves them unconditionally no matter how many mistakes they make, kids gain more confidence in their own abilities.

Myth #3: Spending Time With Pets Makes Kids Irresponsible

Fact: On the contrary, taking care of pets will actually make children more responsible. Since they learn to properly take care of a pet by feeding them, grooming them and cleaning up after them on a regular schedule each day, the behaviour learnt by doing this, carry over into their own lives. Suddenly, kids are making their bed, cleaning their room, taking out the trash, and mowing the yard without being reminded over and over.

Myth #4: Pets Will Make Make Your Child Neglect School Work

Fact: If you're worried that your kid will neglect her studies while taking care of her dog or cat, the truth is you've got nothing to worry about. According to an article published in The Telegraph, researchers at the University of Bristol found that cat owners possessed more college degrees than non-cat owners. This is thought to coincide with the reasoning that by having kids spend lots of time trying to outwit their cats and play interesting games with them, their brains get a big boost from their felines.

Pets also seem to help kids become better readers. For kids who find reading doesn't come easy to them, having pets around who they can read to seems to help. According to researchers, since pets are non-judgmental and patiently sit there and listen to the kids reading, children become more relaxed and find learning to read far less threatening than they imagined.

Myth #5: Pets Won't Teach Children How Other Humans Feel

Fact: By caring for pets and learning how much love and affection they need to give their pets to help them feel good, children start to learn how important it is to think about the feelings of humans as well. According to the American Humane Society, caring for pets makes kids aware at an early age, how important it is to be kind to both two-legged and four-legged creatures. Treating their pets with love and respect results in a virtually unbreakable bond, and they carry this behaviour over to their relationships with humans. This helps them when they want to play team sports or participate in other activities.

So, while many parents may think twice about getting a pet, researchers are discovering the benefit of one. Whether it is teaching kids how it feels to walk in another's shoes, helping them become better students in school or keeping them healthy and happy in numerous ways, it's clear -- adding a furry friend to your family will pay off handsomely.

The author is a animal lover who blogs at www.catological.com