Apart from the general joy and happiness that comes with growing up with a pet, there are many benefits that having a cat can have on your child’s physical, emotional and mental health. Here are five ways that having a pet can help your children in their development:
1. Help to develop empathy
Learning how to behave around a new pet can be difficult, especially for young children, but it’s crucial that they understand that a new animal in the family should be treated with gentle handling and quiet voices. Having a pet encourages children to think about things from a perspective other than their own, and helps them to be more considerate of the feelings and needs of others. Once they start to think about how a new pet must feel coming into a new, strange place, they start to learn empathy and sensitivity, along with patience and tolerance.
2. Teach responsibility and boost self-esteem
Caring for another living creature means doing the things that your new pet can’t do for itself, such as feeding, providing fresh water, grooming and cleaning up after them. Children should always be given some responsibility for a new pet, exactly what will depend on their age and maturity. Having this responsibility is a wonderful start in life for any child – it helps them to understand that they have a certain job or task that’s up to them to do. It instils a sense of pride in their ‘work’ which will help them develop into well-rounded adults, and the sense of achievement that comes with a job well done can be a fantastic boost to their self-esteem. The fact that they’re trusted to play such an important part in their pet’s life will bring them even closer to the new family member
3. Reduce stress and anxiety
Many scientific studies agree that pets reduce stress and anxiety, and it’s just the same for children, who are likely to suffer from stress or depression. The act of physically stroking the soft fur of a purring cat will lower your child’s blood pressure and slow their heart rate when they’re stressed out, and they’ll know that they have unconditional love from their beloved pet. Younger children can sometimes struggle to articulate their feelings when they’re stressed or frustrated, but with a pet there’s no need to try – they have a furry friend there who’s there to give them a snuggle, no matter what.
4. Help to develop reading skills
It may sound strange to some people, but reading out loud to a pet can actually help children who struggle with their reading. Reading out loud on a regular basis is known to improve reading skills, and a cat or dog will always be a non-judgemental listener.
5. Help to express emotions
Often a child’s first experience with death is the loss of a pet, and although very sad, it helps them to get a handle on different emotions, such as grief, sadness and anger, at a young age. It’s a good time for parents to discuss what these feelings are and help the child learn to express them in a healthy way, rather than bottling them up, which is beneficial for their emotional development.
Has having pets in your home helped your child’s development? Please share in the comments below…