Laura is a 36-year old mom who has a 5-year old son named Robert, a husband, a senior adopted dog, a black cat, a full-time job and is expecting a daughter. When Robert was born, she already owned the pets and had no second thoughts about keeping them. They all live together and are doing great. But did Laura make the right decision? Are pets really good for children? How about for babies?
What Scientists Say
It is a controversial subject. In the 90s, scientific studies showed that newborns living with pets in their first three years of life were tested positive for certain antibodies that are made by the immune system while having an allergic reaction. This actually led to the theory that young children who live in the same houses as pets were more prone to developing animal allergies.
Later, in the early 2000s, other studies have proven that young children’s exposure to pets actually offers protective benefits and it prevents the development of allergies, asthma, and eczema (a skin condition).
In studies on children from their early childhood to adolescence, one example is the “4-H Study of Positive Youth Development” initiated by 4-H, a community made up of more than 100 public universities across the U.S., including Tufts University. It proves that adolescents and children who interacted with animals were more likely to take on leadership roles in their organizations and to do community service.
Advantages of Having a Pet Around
Among the advantages of having a pet around, the most important ones are:
• Decreasing allergies: As shown above, more recent studies underline that children who grow up with pets are less likely to develop allergies or skin conditions, as well as to fight infections or colds.
• Lower blood pressure: Because of the calming effects it has, petting animals lowers blood pressure and decreases anxiety, helping kids deal with homework and exams more effectively.
• Healthier lifestyle: Having a pet to play with in the back yard or park always helps in improving a child’s lifestyle as they spend more time outdoors and stay active while chasing the rabbit, dog, or even cat.
• Better social life: Pets facilitate interaction with other children and they help them make new friends in the blink of an eye.
• Emotional development: Taking care of pets teaches children to be more responsible and calm, since this requires controlling one’s aggressiveness and gestures.
Things to Consider When Having Children Live With Pets
When having a child around pets, it is extremely important that the furry pal is healthy and has all the necessary vaccines up-to-date so that it does not transfer any illnesses or parasites to the kid. Also, do not let the child go near the cat’s litter and always wash your hands after dealing with pet poo.
In this regard, make sure to have your pet enrolled in a pet insurance plan that covers most unexpected illnesses, so that if they do get sick, you can have them treated without breaking the bank.
It is also advisable, if you can afford it, to choose a wellness insurance plan for your pet that covers expected visits to the vet for vaccinations, spaying, neutering, or wellness care. This way, for only a few extra dollars monthly, your furry friend will be covered and his or her routine care will cost much less.