The relationship between rescue pets and children is mutually beneficial – here’s why.
Most parents know that at a certain age, pretty much every child has one request: they want a pet. What we might not realize is that the child has a really good point: the benefits of sharing your life with a pet are endless. Animals improve our mental and physical well-being, provide unconditional companionship, and give us a sense of purpose. While children and pets can be a great combination, the connection goes deeper than you know. Below are just a few reasons why rescue pets and kids can make great buddies.
“Pets add a steadying, calming element to kids’ lives that can help them cope with their own personal challenges as well as those they face in the outside world, from grappling with grades, to peer pressure, to social media, to social rejection,” says Carol Novello, founder of Mutual Rescue.
Recent children’s psychology studies have shown that animals can ease children’s anxiety, provide them with a sense of responsibility, and give them a safe outlet for sharing their fears and worries.
Exercise is good for everyone! For kids who are less inclined to run and play, adopting a pet is a great way to motivate them to get moving. On the flip side, the natural playfulness and exuberance of children often means more playtime and exercise for a pet.
A number of recent studies have also shown that youngsters raised with dogs or cats have a reduced risk of allergies, asthma, ear infections, and upper respiratory infections.
Social and developmental
Of all the areas of the human-animal bond currently being explored, among the most well-researched is the benefits for children with autism. Pets have the uncanny ability to reach children with developmental issues and lure them out of their shells.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry reports that children who are given the opportunity to bond with a pet may experience increased self-esteem and self-confidence as well as boosts to nonverbal communication skills, compassion, and empathy.
Finding the right pet
Before heading to the shelter, it’s important to consider what type of animal you’re looking for. Do you want a pet that can stay active with you and your child, or a pet that’s more into quiet time cuddling together? (And many pets provide both!) Talk to the shelter staff and let them know what kind of personality and energy level you’re looking for, and they can help you meet pets that best match your needs.
You’ll also want to be sure that the new pet gets along with all members of the family, including other pets. Bring all family members to the adoption center to meet the new animal, and talk to the adoption counselor to make sure the new pet is a good fit for the whole family.
Mutual Rescue’s Jade and Trubs – a success story
One beautiful example of the impact a pet can have on a child is the story of Jade and Trubs. Jade is a fun-loving, playful girl, but because of her autism, she has a sensitivity to things in her environment. She struggled socially, and the roughest part of her day was bedtime. At night, all of her senses would kick into overdrive and Jade would be overwhelmed. Sensitivity to light, temperature, and loud sounds would send her into a frenetic state.
One day Jade said she wanted to pet some kitties, so she and her mom Jessica went to visit a local animal shelter. There, they discovered a cat named “Double Trouble” hiding under a blanket. He had been in the shelter for five years and suffered from a viral disease that required him to get regular IV treatments. He looked miserable and alone.
While Double Trouble had a reputation for being antisocial, there was an immediate connection between the little girl and the elderly cat who climbed into her lap and started purring. So much so that there was no way the family was leaving without him. Renamed ‘Trubs’, he joined the family immediately.
That night, when bedtime began to overwhelm Jade, Trubs stepped in. The formerly antisocial cat came into the room, hopped up on her bed, and began kneading her chest. Jade smiled and fell right to sleep. Every night after that, it became a routine — Trubs would wait for Jade in her bedroom to put her to bed.
From there, according to Jade’s mom, she became a totally different kid. Nothing really bothered her much anymore. “Adopting this little cat that no one wanted was the best decision we ever made,” says Jessica. You can watch their amazing story at mutualrescue.org/films.