s ludicrous as it sounds to our pet-loving ears, a recent study from the RAND Corporation has thrown into doubt the widely held view that having a cat or dog improves a child’s mental and physical health.
The analysis, based on pet-owning households in California found that “there is no evidence that children from families with dogs or cats are better off either in terms of their mental wellbeing or their physical health”.
However, this study contradicts a wealth of evidence from other medical institutes and healthcare associations which suggests otherwise. Research published by the British Medical Journal for example highlights that it’s the lifestyle associated with having pets which brings benefits for families by enhancing both their physical and mental wellbeing as well as levels of social interaction. The research found that “over 90% of pet owners regard their pet as a valued member of the family”. Who can dispute the benefits of companionship, exercise and play?
We asked our experts what they think
Canine Behaviourist Mark Bridger comments: “If you have a well behaved dog, with no issues, then the benefits are huge as you will be more confident walking him out, going to new places, sitting in a dog friendly cafe etc. The dog will now add health benefits to you as you will become more active”.
Dogs encourage you to lead a more active life
Feline Behaviourist Celia Haddon says: “One theory is that pets are particularly valuable to children as “stress buffers.” That is: when children are feeling stressed or unhappy or anxious, the family pet can help them cope with their feelings. Do pets make children feel better? Well, when you ask the children themselves, the answer is a resounding yes.”
"Do pets make children feel better? The answer is a resounding yes!"
Gabrielle Hase, Founder and CEO of CatDogFish, strongly advocates the emotional and physical benefits of having pets: “Scientifically proven or not, I have never doubted the very real mental and physical health benefits of being a pet parent. When I’ve had a dog, I’ve never been fitter; when I snuggle my cats and take pride in looking after them, I’m a better human being to everyone around me. Think about the most well-adjusted and nicest people you know, and chances are they are a pet parent. Go on, ask them. The proof is there.”
"When I snuggle my cats and take pride in looking after them, I’m a better human being to everyone around me."
Which animal do you think makes the best childhood pet? Let us know in the comment box below.