North Country Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Essex County, New York
If you ask Sevi, my 10-year-old daughter, who her best friend is, she would name Jasmine, a Maine Coon mix we adopted three years ago from the NCSPCA. Sevi and Jasmine bonded immediately and over time they have become inseparable. Jasmine sleeps with Sevi, lies near her during homework time, and follows her around the house. My daughter has been through some difficult times over the last year due to relocating and changing schools but Jasmine was always there to offer unconditional love.
Research has found that children and adults can both benefit from having a pet in the home. Some of the many benefits include lowering high blood pressure, preventing heart disease, and combating depression. Often people assume that children do not feel as much stress as adults but in fact children are just as vulnerable to anxiety and depression. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry indicates that developing positive feelings about pets can contribute to a child’s self-esteem and self-confidence. Some of the specific benefits of pet ownership for children are: pets can be safe recipients of secrets and private thoughts; pets can help develop responsible behavior in the children who care for them; and pets can teach respect for other living things.
Caring for a pet is a big responsibility and some pets require more attention and care than others.
Children under the age of 3 or 4 do not have the maturity to control their aggressive impulses; you will need to supervise them when they’re with the pet. They will also need the most assistance in caring for the pet. Children between 4 and 10 years can participate in caring for a cat or a dog but they will need your help. Teenagers may neglect their beloved dog or cat if they become preoccupied with extracurricular activities, dating, or friends. So, if you want to adopt a pet for your child, keep in mind that you are the ultimate caretaker. You still need to oversee the pet’s care even if you believe your children are old enough to do it themselves. Are you willing to accept this responsibility? Parents serve as role models. Children learn responsible pet ownership by observing their parents’ behavior.
Adopting a companion animal for your child brings lots of potential benefits. As long as expectations are clear and the child is committed to his or her pet, your new friend will become a valued and loving member of your family.
Kathy Wilcox is a former NCSPCA Board Member. Kathy, Sevi and Jasmine live in Essex Junction, VT.