Did you have a pet when you were growing up? I did. In fact, I had several. Looking back, I’m so grateful I was able to spend my early years with animals. Not only do I have many wonderful memories of my childhood pets, but they also taught me important lessons that I still carry with me today. My love for pets has wiggled its way into nearly every aspect of my life and career.
As an adult, I love seeing the same thing happen with my nephews and their pets. The bond they all share is so sweet and magical, and I know those boys will treasure it their entire lives. Not surprisingly, I think every child should have a pet, and here are five reasons why.
- Caring for pets teaches responsibility.
Including children in pet-related chores is a terrific way to impart the lesson of responsibility. By assigning age-appropriate tasks like playing with the dog or feeding the cat, kids learn how important it is to follow through with their duties. After all, certain four-legged furries are counting on them! (Of course, the ultimate responsibility for the family pet lies with the grown-ups in the family.)
- Kids learn respect and empathy for others.
Animals are feeling, thinking beings with both physical and emotional needs. Children should be reminded to treat pets with care, play gently with them, and respect their need for space. When parents teach kids to approach pets with kindness, love, and compassion, this easily translates into treating other human beings the same way.
- Children with pets may be healthier.
The health benefits of pet ownership are almost too numerous to count. People with pets are reported to have lower blood pressure, less risk of heart disease, lower cholesterol, and are more physically active. And those same benefits apply to kids! Plus, research has shown that children who have a pet during the first year of life are actually less likely to develop asthma.
- Animals boost self-esteem and provide mental health benefits.
Let’s face it, the business of growing up is tough! But having a pet makes it easier. Pets never judge, never tell your secrets, and always look at you as though you are the smartest, most important person on the planet. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that kids with pets are less likely to suffer from anxiety and have more self-confidence than those that don’t.
- Pets bring the family together.
In this go-go-go world, it can be hard to carve out time to spend together as a family. But having a pet can actually bring parents and children closer by coming together to care for their four-legged family members. All the activities that revolve around Fido or Fluffy – from exercise to grooming to feeding – require teamwork and cooperation. Even something as simple as taking the dog for a walk together or telling a funny story about your cat can help build and strengthen the family bond.
3 Paw-some Books for Kids Who Have or Want Pets
Caring for a pet can teach kids so much! These books can help kids understand exactly what their fur family needs from them and can strengthen their bond along the way. Plus, if adopting a pet is in your family’s future, you’ll want to involve the kids in the decision and in the care of their new furry family member. Books can help prepare kids for the responsibilities that come with bringing a pet into the family.
101 Dog Tricks: Step by Step Activities to Engage, Challenge, and Bond with Your Dog by Kyra Sundance and Chalcy. Once you’ve got the basics down, you and your children can have some fun teaching your dog some entertaining tricks. Training a dog is great for him mentally and physically, and it’s an amazing way for kids (and grownups) to bond with their tail-wagging friend!
What to Expect When Adopting a Dog: A Guide to Successful Dog Adoption for Every Family by Diane Rose-Solomon. This book offers expert advice from rescue specialists and organizations, veterinarians, dog parents, and pet business owners. It can guide your family through the adoption process, prepare you to welcome your new family member, and point you in the right direction to find relevant articles on dog parenting and useful products too!
I Just Got a Kitten. What Do I Do?: How to Buy, Train, Understand, and Enjoy Your Kitten by Mordecai Siegal. There’s no question that kittens are adorable, but they’re also a handful! This book was written to help families find the kitten that’s right for them and introduce their feline friend safely and successfully into the family. It answers questions about understanding your new kitten’s personality, socializing and bonding with her, as well as kitten behavior, training, and how to solve common problems.
3 of the Best Toys for Kids and Dogs
Playtime with a dog is great for kids and pups alike. It promotes physical activity, gives them a fun way to fill their time, and strengthens the dog-child bond. Check out these toys that kids and dogs can use together!
Chuckit! Ultra Tug. This sturdy tug-of-war toy is built for tough play and chewing. Kids will have fun trying to keep the dog from taking the toy away, and dogs will have fun trying to steal this ball from their kid! This ball also features an easy-to-clean smooth rubber surface so you can easily get rid of dirt and slobber.
Chuckit! Kick Fetch Ball. After a “ruff” day at school, your kid is probably ready to blow off some steam. What better way is there for your child to relax than by punting this floating fetch toy for your dog? Chuckit! Kick Fetch is made of durable canvas, rubber, and foam and is designed to stand up against even the hairiest playtime.
Chuckit! Paraflight Flyer. Ready to teach your kids frisbee golf? This dog toy will get your pup running and jumping while giving your child a mean throwing arm. Aerodynamically designed for long-distance, high-flying games of fetch, this flyer toy features soft rubber edges that are gentle on your pup’s teeth.
3 of the Best Toys for Kids and Cats
Dogs aren’t the only pets with tricks up their sleeve – cats, too, love to run, jump, catch, and even fetch! With time, patience, and love, the family cat can become your kid’s best friend. Consider investing in a few toys that your kids can use together with your cat, like these:
Ethical Pet Skineeez Wand Toys. Wand toys offer a great way for kids and cats to bond. Your kitty will be enticed by this catnip-filled, stuffing-less forest friend while your kids can experiment with teaching your cat to stalk, hunt, and jump.
Hugs Whack-a-Mouse Cat Toy. This cool puzzle toy offers infinite options for playtime. Your kid can poke a wand toy into the holes, swap jingle balls and mice in and out of the hollow center, and watch your cat go crazy!
Tempcore Pet Cat Tunnel. Your kid will have hours of fun playing with their cat in this kitty tunnel. Add a few smaller toys to the interconnected tunnels, and these tunnels will become your cat’s new favorite nest.
The bond kids form with their childhood pets lives far beyond the early and formative years. And the treasured memories last a lifetime!
If you had a pet or pets when you were a child, tell me all about them in the comments below!