Making the decision to bring home a new furry family member is an important one with many factors to consider.
On top of becoming constant companions and an important part of our history, research shows there are also a number of health benefits to pet ownership, including a U.S. Department of Health study that found that having pets can lead to a lower risk of heart attack.
Often, though, owning a pet can have the biggest impact on kids.
“The bond between a child and an animal can be even stronger than one between the parents and the animal,” says Louise Hindle, founder of the Ottawa-based Cat Rescue Network.
“I think that this is, in part, because children are always coming up with interesting games to play, and they have more time to spend with the family pet. This does not only apply to young children – when teens are going through the stage where they feel nobody understands them, the unconditional love of a pet provides them with some calm during a period when their emotions are turbulent. I recall that my son, in particular, tended to hide the fact that something was troubling him, but the dog always knew. If I noticed the dog spending a lot of time with him, even sleeping with him, I knew something was bothering my son.”
The Ontario SPCA points to an American study of university students that found those who had pets when they were young were more self-confident. Further research by the University of Queensland in Australia showed that animals can even help children with autism spectrum disorders display more social behaviors, like talking and making physical contact, as well as laugh and smile more.
Of course, picking the right fur baby for your family is key. When it comes to adopting your first pet, there are a number of reasons why you should consider a rescue.
Helen Schur of Sit With Me Dog Rescue, an Ottawa-based organization, says adopting a rescue animal means your pet comes with a lot of useful information, which can help you choose the perfect pet for your family.
“The great thing about rescues is that they are living in private homes, so we really get to know their personalities,” she explains.
“We know the things that they excel at and we know the challenges that they have. We know their temperament, their energy level, we know whether they’re house trained, crate trained, whether they can live with kids or other dogs, if they counter surf, or if they’re good in cars. All these things that you don’t get when you see a dog sitting in a shelter or in a pet store.”
That’s a sentiment that Hindle shares.
“Matching animal to family is very important – that is something rescues do very well. A good rescue would not adopt out an unpredictable animal to a family with a child and they often do not adopt out a small, vulnerable one to a family with toddlers either. Businesses that breed animals for profit are sometimes less apt to focus on matching (and) less apt to do any ongoing support,” Hindle says.
“Simply knowing the characteristics of a breed is not enough – knowing the characteristics of a particular animal is far more effective in the determination of a good match.”
For more resources on what to consider before bringing home a new pet, check out the Before You Get a Pet Future Pet Parent Guide, which covers everything from introducing new pets to children and budgeting for your new furry friend to how to socialize them properly. Visit beforeyougetapet.com for more information.
Beyond cats and dogs
In some cases, a smaller pet might be the best option for your family. Small animals – like fish or hamsters – require significantly less of an investment of time and money and most of their basic needs (feeding and cleaning, for example) might be easier for a child to manage on their own or with minimal supervision.
Source: Animal Planet