According to the RSPCA there are about 25 million pets in Australia living in 63% of our households. That’s one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world. Here at Cat Habitat we of course have a bias towards cats, however we are equally enthused by dogs (or pretty much any animal) when it comes to the benefits of pet ownership generally. Pet ownership is especially beneficial for children’s development for a range of reasons, and we’ve come up with the top 5 reasons you should have a pet if you have a child.
Why you should have pets if you have kids:
- Responsibility: An obvious one. My mother grew up on a property and when she was young her job was to look after the chooks. As you’d imagine this included making sure that their coop was shut up tight every night. You can probably also guess that there was one night this didn’t happen. The foxes capitalised on my Mum’s oversight and, well, let’s just say that things didn’t end well for the chooks. Mum’s in her eighties now, and she still remembers that. The ongoing care for pets such as feeding, exercising, cage cleaning etc is a fantastic way of teaching responsibility to kids and the responsibility given can increase as your child matures. This will happen until they become teenagers after which all bets are off and the entire care for said pet will revert to you. Just so you know;
- Stress Relief: While this is applicable both to adults and kids, pets can be a real sanctuary for kids. Sometimes kids find it easier to talk to their pets rather than another person if they’re feeling anxious, upset or angry. Pets won’t offer unwanted advice or think that they’re silly or stupid….they’ll just give back unconditional love. When I was young I had a horse called JJ that I would talk to. I’m pretty sure that he was instrumental is resolving the many crises of my 8 year old self;
- Consequences: Kids will work out pretty quickly the consequences of actions, or more accurately inaction, of basic things like not feeding a pet. Beyond that though it also teaches them lessons about how their behaviour impacts on others. If they pull the cat’s tail, or try to take away the dog’s dinner, there could be swift but hopefully not too severe consequences. Often these consequences will be a behaviour that is counter to that which your child would normally associate with their pet. These types of experiences are a good way to learn that if you provoke someone that they will react. This will help your child learn to read the signals being given by their pet and determine how to respond. In our adult world we refer to this as someone’s EQ, which is widely considered to be a key characteristic many good leaders possess;
- Improve Reading Skills: Yeah, probably not a benefit of pet ownership that immediately springs to mind. The ABC recently aired a great series called Revolution School which was shot over 12 months at Kambrya College, a secondary school in south east Melbourne. Spoiler Alert: they implemented a recommendation given by a literacy expert for students to undertake 10 to 15 mins of “independent silent reading” before class. The end result was a significant improvement in the student’s academic results across all subjects. In early childhood, one way of improving kid’s reading skills is by reading aloud. Reading to their pet will mean they aren’t interrupted or made to re-read a passage – a sure fire way to kill enthusiasm for reading. With this kind of reading practice, it will also give them greater confidence when it comes time to speak in front of people. They will have greater fluency, better control of tone and a wider vocabulary;
- Reduced Incidence of Pet Allergies: A study done by Clinical & Experimental Allergy published in 2011 found that children who lived with a cat or dog in the home during their first year of life had up to a 50% reduced risk of sensitisation to that animal later in life.
Pet ownership is definitely not for everyone and there are too many examples of humans neglecting or mistreating animals. But hopefully if you’ve deemed yourself responsible enough to have a human child, that you consider yourself equally responsible enough to have a fur child. Choose your pet wisely taking into consideration your lifestyle, living arrangements and all the other commitments that there are on your time. I guarantee though, the rewards from matching the right pet with the right human are beyond words.