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Toddler with a kitten

Pets offer lots of opportunities for your children to learn, develop emotionally, bond and have fun.

Health benefits of pets

They’re good for children in other ways too. A study supported by the American National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases found that children with pets are 66 to 77% less likely to develop allergies than pet-free children. In addition, a Finnish study reported that babies living in the same home as a dog suffered from fewer ear infections and chest infections than those babies in pet-free families.

Pets and autistic children

One of the most uplifting aspects of pets is how they can transform the lives and experiences of children with autism spectrum disorders. Researchers at the USA’s University of Missouri found that autistic children with pets had better social skills than those without them.

Safety first

It’s always important to bear safety in mind when it comes to children and animals. Little kids are just learning about empathy, and may not be very dexterous or gentle. Cats and dogs make a better choice of pet for a young child than tiny mice and hamsters, which can be easily injured.

Do remember that even bigger pets can be tormented or hurt by children so it’s important to make sure that both pet and child are happy and being treated gently. This is a great early lesson in empathy and gentleness for your child and will help to keep them safe.

Obviously, babies and toddlers should never be left alone with dogs or other large animals – irritating the pet can end in injury. Sadly, children are bitten and maimed by dogs every day and they need to be protected around pets.

You will also need to keep your child away from your pet’s poo as it can cause upset tummies and some nasty – though thankfully rare – infectious diseases, like toxocariasis which is caused by roundworm parasites (toxocara) found in cat, dog and even fox poo.

To avoid this infection, regularly worm your pets and make sure your child washes their hands with soapy water before eating.

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