“Pets are mood-enhancing and benefit adoptees in many ways by improving mental health, cheerfulness, feelings of psychological well-being, and self-esteem. The presence of animals fosters positive social, cognitive, emotional, and physical development. Pets relieve stress by lowering blood pressure, feelings of isolation and loneliness, and increase opportunities for exercise and socialization. Pet ownership is associated with better physical and psychological health, and fewer doctor visits. Pet owners feel closer to nature and all living creatures.” —Judith Land
Everyone knows that kids love animals because they offer companionship. Animals are the focus of storybooks, music and movies. Children confide in their favorite pets, whether real or imaginary, because they are nonjudgmental. Bedroom decor and clothing honors them. Closets, shelves, and toy chests are typically littered with toy collections—fuzzy stuffed animals and critters of all shapes and sizes. Children love animals because they teach and delight and offer a warm special kind of friendship.
The emotional benefits of pets are well known. It is impossible to stay in a bad mood when petting a soft kitten or playing with a small puppy. Children learn that pets enjoy love and attention; they are excellent huggers. Animals rely on their owners for food, water, shelter, and exercise and the accepting of responsibility triggers empathy. Pet therapy opens tremendous options for adopted children who have experienced psychological trauma. Educators have long known that therapy animals help challenged kids relax and become better readers. Pets offer love and companionship. They are good listeners. They keep secrets and enjoy comfortable silences.
Pets make children more approachable and give others a good reason to approach and communicate with them and make new friends. All of these benefits can reduce the amount of stress children experience in response to feelings of social isolation and a lack of confidence and moral support.
When I was a child my dog Toby had a very positive effect on my personality because he gave me something to be temporarily passionate about. He was unpredictable and fun. I enjoyed crawling after him on my hands and knees through the doggy door. He stepped on my dolls, tracked dirt into my room, jumped on my bed, licked my face, and cleaned up any food I dropped on the floor. He provided random excitement that reduced my social inhibitions and triggered feelings of being spontaneously joyful. His unpredictability caused me to smile and his easy accessibility gave me a friendly warm body to hug.