When you have a baby or toddler at home, the thought of adding a pet to the mix might seem overwhelming. After all, owning a pet means having another living creature to feed and clean up after. But, trust us on this one, the responsibilities associated with having a pet will dim in comparison to the joy of watching your little one grow up alongside a furry best friend. Read on for a list of light-hearted benefits you can expect from welcoming a pet into your home.
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1. Pets Are Good Snugglers
As a parent, you know that having your little one give you a hug, cling tight to your leg, or sit on your lap can be the sweetest feeling in the world…but it can also lead to feeling touched out. You know, that cringe-y feeling you get when you’ve been cuddled with, laid on, stepped on or whacked by your toddler 389,752 times in the last 60 seconds. Well, good news! If you’re suffering from touched-too-much syndrome, there is an antidote. The right family pet—a particularly affable dog or unflappable cat or guinea pig—will not only take over a fair share of cuddles from your little one, they will love every minute of it. And, bonus: Your brain will get a blast of feel-good dopamine from watching the two cutest creatures in your house snuggle together.
2. Pets Provide Entertainment
It’s no secret we all love watching cute animals. There’s a reason why cat videos rule the internet! But while observing animals online is fun for a while, getting a dose of the warm and fuzzies from the real thing is even better—especially for babies and toddlers, who are supposed to avoid screens until after age 2, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. If not yet mobile, your little one will enjoy watching the movements of your pet from the safety of a bouncy seat or exersaucer. Once crawling and walking, your mini-me will squeal at the fun of chasing (and catching!) their four-legged family member. Plus, with all of the adorable entertainment in real life, you’ll be less likely to get sucked into an endless loop of Internet cat videos the next time you log on to "check email really quick."
3. Pets Teach Responsibility
While your child may not be old enough to solely manage pet care, even the youngest toddlers can contribute. Young children love to deliver treats to thankful pets, brush their fur (also develops fine motor skills!), and toss a toy or ball for a game of fetch. Bonus: They don’t even seem to mind the slobbery ball, probably a result of recently having been prone to drool themselves.
4. Pets Are Good for Your Health
If you need another reason to welcome an animal into the fam, consider this: Household pets can have a real, measurable impact on your child’s health. Studies show that playing with a dog releases oxytocin, which lowers cortisol, the stress hormone. As a result, children who live with a dog are less likely to suffer from anxiety. In addition, children who are exposed to a dog in the first year of life have reduced rates of asthma and allergies.
5. Pets Make Great BFFs
We've all heard the story of the little boy who, when asked by his parents whether he wanted a baby brother or a baby sister, responds with, “I want a puppy.” Well, it looks like he was on to something, after all. A University of Cambridge study found that children reported having higher levels of satisfaction and lower levels of conflict in their relationships with their pets than with their siblings. They may say “a dog is a man’s best friend,” but as it turns out, a pet really is a child’s best friend.