FAMILIES AND PETS

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Over the years, human-animal interaction studies have shown that pets such as cats and dogs can have incredibly positive effects on all areas of child and teen development.

A kid's best friend

Pets and children: what a beautiful friendship. Studies into the role pets play in developing children's social networks have revealed a great deal about human-animal interactions. A number of children were asked who they would turn to in certain emotionally-charged situations - like the divorce of their parents or an argument with a sibling. An overwhelming majority said they would seek out their pet for companionship.

It was also discovered that children confide in their pets, talking to them, expressing fears and emotions in much the same way we interact with a human confidante.

Teacher's pet

Kids love animals - and it seems the feeling is mutual. Pets can help facilitate learning and have a number of positive effects on a child's development. Schools are now promoting the benefits of pets into their community, by creating pet clubs, special pet days and offering pet education programs. For children, pets at school foster a sense of responsibility and respect for life.

Programs like the 'Operation Safe: Kids 'n' Pets' run by the Animal Welfare League of New South Wales offers wonderful learning programs to teach all levels of school children about responsible pet ownership and animal behaviour. Topics include: pets in the community, the basics of pet care, what happens when people don't want their pets and pets and the law.

Pets and allergy prevention

Children who have contact with cats or dogs during the first year of their life may be less allergic later on. Researchers discovered that early exposure to pets is associated with a reduced risk of asthma and other allergies. Good grooming, hygiene and diet can reduce cat owners' asthma symptoms by up to 95 per cent.

Pet allergies can be triggered by 'dander' better known as tiny skin flakes which fall off cats and dogs.

 

DR. CHRIS BROWN

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