Insights » Pets and Kids

Pets and Kids

pets gifPet owners might already know the special bond that humans and animals share- animals can offer very special companionship. Whether you do or not, you’ll undoubtedly have seen children’s fascination with animals. 

 

You may have already said no to it, but making the choice to make a pet part of your family has many wide-ranging benefits that might make you reconsider.

 

Benefits of bringing up children with animals

 

Health

Allergy and immunology studies have shown that children exposed to pets meant they had decreased risk of developing allergies, and in certain studies, suggested early exposure decreased risk of developing asthma. 

Empathy

The act of caring for another living creature that is dependent teaches children empathy in many cases; if you let them, children can learn how to read the needs of a pet. They can learn when an animal is frightened or hungry or in need of attention. 

Understanding the core needs of all living things can teach children compassion for others, and encourage protection of the vulnerable.

Wellbeing

For adults and children alike, plenty of research supports that having a pet can help reduce blood pressure and relieve stress and anxiety. Playing with or petting an animal can boost levels of the hormone oxytocin, which is known to reduce stress, as well as decrease production of the hormone.

For many children (and adults), animals are free of judgments that other people may have. Dogs, and to a lesser extent, cats, are loyal companions that form complex attachments to their owners who they rely on.

Learning

A judgment-free companion means a lot to someone finding their way in the world. Many pet owners with children (or parents with pets) will tell you of the absolute joy that is children talking to animals. 

Toddlers will happily chatter away to the family dog, who most often happy of the attention. Older children can practice reading aloud to cats, which are indifferent to the lives of their humans in any case and probably won’t object. Children can practice telling stories, or reading aloud to animal companions, which, as silly as it sounds, is probably less intimidating that reading to you. 

Responsibility and nurturing

People should start to understand what it is to be a caregiver when they’re young through practicing nurturing. It isn’t a quality that appears to us as adults when we need it. Larger families may have older siblings that take on the roles of caregivers, or leaders. This becomes apparent, as they get older. 

For single child families, or with boys, they have less need to take on the role of a caregiver- they don’t learn the role in their household. Pets are a wonderful way of introducing responsibility to lots of children- responsibility can instill confidence, and definitely teach valuable social skills.

 

What type of pet is best for your family?

 

So you’ve been sold on the idea of getting a pet, but the question is what kind. All sorts of practical considerations come into play. Perhaps someone in the family is afraid of dogs, or you are living somewhere on a limited contract. 

Families that live in villas have the space to allow a dog to play in the garden, or even spend most of their time out there (in better weather conditions). This doesn’t mean that apartment dwellers cannot take in dogs- it’s just a lot more work. People that may find dogs conflict with cultural values, or that someone is afraid of them might prefer another pet like a cat, or a gerbil. There are also snakes, frogs, birds, and other rodents. 

You might be limited by cost- caring for your pet properly can wind up costing money, with vaccinations, neutering, emergency care and food. Dogs and cats will be expensive, even more so if you choose to purchase a dog from a breeder. 

There are plenty of dogs and cats that need homes that don’t cost; they might not be pedigree but they’re no less of an addition to your household. Contact K9 Friends, RAK Animal Shelter who constantly are faced with families leaving the UAE, and are unable to bring them along. 

This is another important point to consider for expatriates: are you prepared for the chance that you leave the UAE with your children having formed a bond with these pets? 

 

Who will be looking after these animals? 

  • Are your children old enough to understand what needs to be done?
  • Does the apartment you live in allow pets?
  • Do you or your partner have time to spare in walking a dog, or feeding live food to a snake? 
  • Do you have the space to keep birds, or the patience to care for a longhaired cat? 

 

All these are examples of questions you should ask before introducing a pet to your family- they are living beings, and not toys for quick amusement. Teaching children to be compassionate humans through encouraging these bonds can be a lifelong gift to them.  

As such, be prepared to coach your children through what proper care and responsibility is- not to be rough with the animals. Be responsible yourself and do the research, as it’s likely that you will get just as much out of the companionship as them. 

You may have felt this article set out to talk you into, and then out of having a pet in your family: truthfully, as with much of life, you will get out what you put in. Some children will take to it more than others; every family is different. But a beloved pet can make a childhood all the more special.

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