Still unconvinced about the benefits of bringing a canine or feline companion into the household? There's a lot to weigh up, and that includes choosing between one or the other (while cats are fairly independent, for example, dogs can't be left alone for very long). But despite the commitment involved, a pet can bring a great deal of joy into your family's world - plus loads of other benefits. Here are just some of the reasons why it could be time to start the New Year with a new member of the family! Check out your local animal adoption shelter or pet shop to see which furry friend you can best adopt.
1. An injection of joy
Sharing their space with a cat or dog brings a fun factor to your child's daily life because animals do a lot of crazy things - and children love silliness! A furry friend makes even the most mundane kids' activity more exciting, plus the experience of nurturing a pet creates lifelong memories. Playing with a pet has even been shown to enhance feelings of pleasure and tranquility.
2. Teaching responsibility
Children learn compassion and empathy by caring for a pet, as they start to understand the emotional and health needs of a family member more vulnerable than they are. Learning to be kind and gentle is a valuable life lesson, so giving them responsibility for part of your cat or dog's care is good parenting; doing small but important jobs such as keeping the water bowl full or your dog's coat brushed is an excellent way for them to get their first taste of accountability. Having a pet can also be a way to get the kids more involved in general household chores, whether it's keeping their room tidy, doing the dishes or getting their homework done. Use a reward chart, adding stickers every time they complete a task: if they fill out the whole chart, they can spend more time with their pet. For other clever ways to get the kids to be more helpful, check out these tricks.
3. Constant companionship
Childhood can have its difficult moments, and animals can be an enormous source of unconditional love and comfort to a child who's getting to grips with life's tricky lessons. When your son or daughter has had a bad day at school, an upset with a friend or a row with a sibling, a cuddle with the family pet can be a great comfort and stress reliever, helping him or her process difficult emotions.
4. Self-esteem boost
Having a non-judgmental companion who loves you no matter what is a great boost to a child's self-esteem. Dogs tend to be loving and attentive towards their human family; a friend your child can talk to, confide in and play with when there's no one else around. As your child grows up, the dog's love is a constant in their life, and a support they can always rely on. This unconditional love helps your child believe in him or herself as much as the loyal pet does.
5. A more active lifestyle
It's no secret that many of today's kids don't get enough outdoor time or physical activity, and a dog can help immensely with that. Dogs love joining in with kids' activities, and daily walks and garden play time gives your child a good run-around - in fact, one study showed that kids with dogs' exercise 11 minutes a day more than those without them.
6. Social perks
Not only do cats and dogs make great friends themselves, they can actually help your child make human friends, too. Pets can be a wonderful catalyst for socializing, because children are more inclined to approach and interact with another child who is playing with an animal. If you have a shy child, your pet can be the bridge between them and other potential playmates.
Important things to consider
Of course, pet ownership has its downsides. Pet insurance is strongly recommended, as veterinary bills can hit you when you least expect them - and an ill pet can be eye-wateringly expensive, not to mention emotionally taxing. And for all the positives they bring into the home, muddy, wet paws and shedding fur can leave things a little the worse for wear. It's always a good idea to wash your hands with a gentle yet effective soap that targets germs. Encourage the entire family to wash with Safeguard after playing with the family pet.
How do you feel about having pets in the home? Share your insights and tips with us in the comments section below!