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Pets And Children: A Pawesome Pairing

February 15, 2024

Pets and kids are a timeless and adorable combination. It’s always heartwarming to see pictures of our beloved animals with their little humans. the majority of American households—more, specifically 70%–have pets. This figure is based on statistics provided by the American Pet Products Association. It shows an increase compared to 1988, when the percentage was only 56%. Aside from bringing love, joy, and laughter into our homes and families, pets can also have positive effects on children. However, as with any relationship dynamic, there are important considerations to keep in mind. An article by a local Glen Ellyn, IL veterinarian delves into this topic further.

Keeping Pets And Kids Safe

The safety of both your child and the pet should be the top priority here. Choosing the right pet would be the most important thing here, but it definitely isn’t the only one.

Here are some other suggestions:

  • Keep your pet’s nails trimmed to prevent scratches. (Note: if you have a cat that goes outdoors, this will jeopardize her safety, as she won’t be able to climb or defend herself.
  • Take your pet to the Glen Ellyn, IL veterinarian regularly
  • Make sure children wash their hands thoroughly before and after handling the pet or its belongings.
  • Make sure you supervise interactions closely. Never leave children or pets unattended until you’re sure they’ll be okay.
  • Educate your child about pet body language, such as the fact that a dog’s tail wagging is a sign of happiness, but a cat’s tail ‘wagging’ is a sign of anger. 
  • Describe the importance of treating pets with kindness and empathy. We all want to be treated well! You also don’t want your little one finding out the hard way that Fluffy does not like having her tail pulled.
  • If you have a small pet, have your child sit or kneel when holding or playing with it. That way, if the pet jumps or falls, they won’t be far up.

For more information, contact your Glen Ellyn, IL veterinarian. 

Do Children Benefit From Having Pets?

Absolutely! There are many ways in which pets benefit children. In fact, you may be surprised at how much of a difference they can make!

Here are a few reasons:

Provide Comfort Fluffy’s soothing purrs and Fido’s affectionate kisses, snoot boops, and tail wags can be an excellent source of comfort for children in troubled times.

Better Immune Systems Children who grow up with pets are less likely to develop allergies than those who don’t? All of that dust, fur, and dander strengthens their immune systems.

Improve Cognitive Skills It seems that having pets can help develop children’s cognitive skills, but more research still needs to be done. When your child is learning to read, they can practice reading to Fido or Fluffy. Our furry pals are always great listeners. They’ll become accustomed to nonverbal cues.

Unconditional Love In addition to unconditional love and friendship, pets offer endless cuddles and hugs. They give children a steady, loving presence.

Teach Responsibility And Empathy Even small children can help care for a pet, whether it’s giving a goldfish flakes or gently petting a hamster. This helps teach responsibility to them. Kids can also learn a lot about kindness and empathy from pets.

Support System Pets can be great therapists: Did you know that pets can help children overcome a variety of issues? Fluffy and Fido make great listeners, as well as helping kids with autism.

Companionship Our animal companions can also make great playmates and napping buddies. They can also be protective of our children.

What Is The Ideal Age For Children To Get A Pet?

This one depends both on the individual child and the type of pet you’re getting. That said, children younger than five are still developing motor skills, so it isn’t really a good idea to get pets for them. They are also susceptible to toddler tantrums, which can frighten pets.

That doesn’t mean you can’t get a pet if you have a toddler: just be prepared to take care of the pet yourself.

Is It True That Children With Pets Are Happier?

We don’t have official word on this one, but that sounds right to us! Our animal friends can transform a house into a home. They also complete our families, giving kids a sense of belonging. It’s only to be expected that pets can boost kids’ happiness. All those cuddles, purrs, and tail wags are good for the soul!

For one thing, it’s hard not to laugh at pets’ playful antics. Whether it’s watching Fido run after a ball, watching Fluffy pounce on a catnip mouse, or seeing a smaller animal play with a toy or treat, pets often serve as live entertainment. Furthermore, animals can make us smile just by being their adorable selves.

How Can My Kid Help With The Family Pet?

It’s important to determine how much responsibility your child will have. Will they walk Fido, fill Fluffy’s bowl, or change her litterbox? You’ll need to supervise, and be ready to take over if necessary. Even young children can help.

Here are a few things kids can help with:

  • Fill water dishes
  • Play with the pet
  • Brush the pet
  • Clean cages/bowls
  • Change litter
  • Feed the pet
  • Make DIY toys
  • Make DIY houses/furniture
  • Walk Dogs
  • Read to the pet
  • Name the pet

In some cases, children can even help choose the pet. Older kids may also be able to help with training, such as teaching Fido to Sit. 

What Is The Best First Pet For A Child?

Many individuals tend to begin with smaller animals, such as gerbils, hamsters, and Guinea pigs, which are all great choices. While these tiny furballs do have some similarities, there are also some variations among them. Among the three options we mentioned, Guinea pigs stand out as the largest and are probably the most charismatic. However, you’ll need at least two: they are social creatures and should not be kept alone. Hamsters and gerbils are also good options. You may even want to look at certain reptiles, such as frogs, green anole lizards, or turtles. However, your child will have to be diligent about washing their hands before and after touching a pet reptile. Other options include solitary fish, such as a goldfish or Betta fish. (Please note: we do not see fish.)

Dogs and cats can be wonderful companions, and are the most popular pets in the U.S. Keep in mind that Fluffy may be frightened by a loud, clumsy toddler. You may want to wait until the Terrible Twos are over, or get a bombproof, laid-back cat that is good with kids. Fido can also make a great pal, but you’ll need to choose one that is pretty hardy.

Do plenty of research to determine what type of pet will work best for you and your household, and ask your Glen Ellyn, IL veterinarian for advice as well. No matter what pet you choose, you’ll need to supervise their care.

How Can I Tell If My Child Is Ready For A Pet?

This is a tricky one. Children often switch their favorite interests rapidly. It’s not uncommon for them to plead and implore for a pet, only to later lose interest. This is dangerous, because they may neglect the proper care needed for the animal.

There are certain signs to keep an eye out for. For example, if your child has consistently expressed a desire for a pet, they may truly want an animal’s companionship. Another way to assess their readiness is by observing their responsibility levels with tasks like chores and homework. Do you have to constantly remind them? Or do they willingly complete their duties without being prompted?

Pets and kids are a great match: pets can teach kindness, friendship, and empathy, offer unconditional love, and make great playmates and cuddle buddies. However, it’s important to choose the right pet, and to monitor interactions carefully. 

Get in touch with us, your local Glen Ellyn, IL pet hospital, if you have questions about caring for your pet! We are happy to help!