These Are The Benefits Of Raising Your Kid Around A Cat
Besides how adorable they are together 👶😸
As a parent interested in adding a cat to your family, it’s understandable that you might have a few questions. Is a cat the right pet for us? Are allergies going to be an issue? Are there any true benefits to raising your kids with cats?
Of course, any animal lover will tell you that bringing a cat into your growing family is an awesome idea, but you probably want some hard facts. So, The Dodo spoke with Dr. Kurt Venator, Purina’s Chief Veterinary Officer, and Dr. Angela Hughes, a veterinarian with Mars Petcare, about the psychological and physical benefits of raising kids with cats — and why having cat siblings can be such a great thing.
Having the companionship of a cat can lower stress levels in children.
Turns out living with a cat in your home can actually make you healthier.
“When spending time with a cat, production of serotonin, a chemical that boosts feelings of well-being, goes up, and cortisol levels go down,” Dr. Venator told The Dodo. “Cortisol, along with high blood pressure, is a result of stress and can lead to high cholesterol and hypertension. This means that spending time with a cat can keep a person healthier in the long run.”
Those health benefits may be even more important in a year like 2021, when many kids are dealing with stress from having lots of unusual changes in their lives.
“A recent market research found that 83 percent of the parents who responded felt having a pet helped their child cope with the stresses of remote learning during the pandemic,” Dr. Hughes told The Dodo.
Dr. Venator noted that kids only need to spend about 15 to 30 minutes per day with a cat to feel an improvement in their mood and calm nerves. Talking to, playing with, petting and cuddling a cat are all easy ways for kids to instantly feel better, no matter what’s weighing them down.
Kids can learn the value of responsibility by helping to take care of a cat.
“Having a pet is a great way to teach responsibility to kids,” Dr. Venator said. “Making sure that the family dog or cat has food and water gives children a first glimpse of accountability and obligation.”
While a family pet is ultimately the parents’ responsibility, depending on the age of a child, parents can assign them specific duties related to cat care, such as feeding, cleaning the litter box or even weekly grooming. And if responsibilities are shirked, reasonable consequences can be issued in order to remind kids that being responsible is an important part of living with an animal!
Having a cat helps improve interpersonal skills and empathy.
“Children also learn empathy and compassion by caring for their pet, while developing a higher level of self-esteem by taking care of their pet-owning responsibilities,” Dr. Venator told The Dodo. “When kids imagine how a dog or cat feels, it helps them learn to empathize with their peers and take their feelings into account.”
“In fact,” Dr. Hughes added, “‘cat’ and ‘dog’ are some of the most frequently occurring words in infants’ vocabularies, demonstrating the power of animals to motivate and stimulate children’s interest in learning.”
A cat can be a much-needed 'confidante' to a child who needs emotional support.
Sometimes kids don’t feel comfortable going to their parents, siblings or friends about specific things they’re worried about. So their pets can be an emotional-support sounding board.
“Children often seek out their pets when they are upset and view their pets as confidantes that provide them support and comfort,” Dr. Hughes said. “A review of the scientific literature found evidence that having companion animals in the home can provide a wide range of emotional health benefits to children, particularly self-esteem and [reducing] loneliness.”
She added that, in one study, youngest children and children without siblings showed greater attachment to their pets than other children in the study, “suggesting that pets may be particularly important companions for these kids,” Dr. Hughes said.
Children raised with cats may get sick less often than their peers.
“Studies have found that babies raised in close contact with a pet get sick less often in their first year of life, meaning fewer visits to the doctor's office,” Dr. Venator said. “Exposure to pet dander and the microbes that pets carry into the home from the outdoors is suggested to improve babies' developing immune systems. Research has also found that children who grow up with dogs and/or cats experience a reduced risk of allergies.”
Convinced that a cat is a great idea? It’s important to work with a professional if and when you decide to introduce a cat into your family so you can make sure both your kid and your new cat will get the absolute most out of their new family situation.
But once that bond between child and cat is formed, it’s there for life and grows stronger every day.