Summertime is in full swing and while I was enjoying the beach and quality family time a debate broke out amongst team Robinson. A fierce debate that grips most Australian families: what pet were we going to get? Thankfully I married a dog-lover and I am allergic to cats so our choice of pet was narrowed….or so I thought.
Out of left field my daughter Ruby exclaimed she had been saving for a rabbit, and unbeknown to me we suddenly had a new mammal contending for backyard pet at the Robinson house.
Laura caught up with Petpert (pet-expert) Dr Gail Melson from Purdue University, a leader in the field of Human-Animal Interaction, to find out what are the benefits of owning an animal for our children.
Originally my argument was “Because I want one!”, but thanks to Dr Melson, I now have legitimate benefits to fuel my case:
Pets Provide Companionship and Comfort
Apart from companionship in the form of a new best friend, “pets can be a comforter when your child is stressed. Kids often confide in pets so they are also a confidential counsellor”.
Pets Help with Learning
Dr Melson also pointed out the benefits for a kid who is learning to care, a skill that is nurtured by owning a pet.
“We hope that when our children are older they will be willing and ready to care for people, but that ability needs to be taught and developed in a child’s life,” she said. “Pets help to teach this discipline but also help to grow a child’s empathy as a result.”
Pets Keep Kids Healthy
Finally for very young kids, there is the potential benefit of helping with allergies before they are formed. “In the first year of life, particularly when children have exposure to a variety of potential allergens, they can build up immune responses. Allergens that might come from the fur of a cat or that sort of thing, can be built up from that early exposure.”
Other studies have suggested that early contact with pets may decrease a child’s risk of developing asthma.
Now when someone asks me “Why do you want a pet?” I can offer more than just “because”.