Children and Pets


By: AACAP

Pets are part of many children's lives. Parental involvement, open discussion, and planning are usually necessary to help make pet ownership a positive experience for everyone. A child who learns to care for an animal, and treat it kindly and patiently, gets invaluable training in learning to treat people the same way. Careless treatment of animals is unhealthy for both the pet and the child involved.

Choosing an Appropriate Pet

While all kinds of pets can bring children pleasure, it is important to choose a pet that is right for your family, your home, and your lifestyle; and one that your child can help care for. Parents should be cautious about having aggressive animals as pets. Remember, even trained and domesticated animals can be aggressive. Also, exotic and unusual animals may be difficult to care for and should be considered carefully.

Caring for a Pet

Taking care of a pet can help children develop social skills. However, certain guidelines apply:

Advantages of Pet Ownership

Children raised with pets show many benefits. Developing positive feelings about pets can contribute to a child's self-esteem and self-confidence. Positive relationships with pets can aid in the development of trusting relationships with others. A good relationship with a pet can also help in developing non-verbal communication, compassion, and empathy. Pets can serve different purposes for children:

Other physical and emotional needs fulfilled by pet ownership include:

Although most children are gentle and appropriate with pets, some may be overly rough or even abusive. If such behavior persists, it may be a sign of significant emotional problems. Any child who abuses, tortures or kills animals should be referred to a child and adolescent psychiatrist for a comprehensive evaluation.

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