Many of us have fond memories of growing up with the family cat or dog. As it turns out, 62 percent of households in the United States include companion animals. Dogs are the most popular choice coming in at 39 percent, while cats take a pretty close second at 33 percent. For those of us lucky enough to fall into that 62 percent, childhood included some pretty awesome memories with our first best friend. Playing in the yard, cuddling in pillow forts or dressing our rescue lab like batman to match our Joker costume for Halloween – it’s hard to think of a childhood moment that Brownie didn’t play a featuring roll in.
Aside from building great memories, having a pet in the house actually serves some pretty incredible purposes when it comes to the emotional development and even physical health of kids. Multiple studies point to the positive impact that companion animals have on our kids, but don’t despair if allergies, building policies or finances keep you from being able to add to the family at the moment. There are plenty of programs and volunteer opportunities out there that allow kids to engage with animals one-on-one and reap many of the rewards that having a companion in the home would provide. Either way, kids and animals alike benefit from each other’s company, and they enjoy some pretty valuable benefits along the way.
1. A study in the Journal of Pediatrics shows that kids who had a dog during the first year of their life had higher immune response, with 31% fewer respiratory tract infections than those without.
2. Children with a companion animal in the home have higher self-esteem.
3. Living with and interacting with a family pet increases empathy and compassion.
4. Having a furry friend in the house can help instill a sense of responsibility in kids.
5. Children with autism, other spectrum disorders or ADHD can experience lowered blood pressure and better cognitive and communication gains when able to participate in therapy dog programs.
6. Kids with a dog are more likely to get out and play, taking the dog on walks and throwing a ball or toy for some catch is always fun.
7. Kids who find reading a challenge have higher success when reading to their pet. Researchers believe that this can be the result of lowered stress when in the presence of Mr. Whiskers.
8. It’s important for a kid to have a partner in crime to share special life moments with.
9. Pets can be there for comfort when things become challenging.
10. Feeling loved unconditionally? Priceless.