Dear Researcher: Should I get my child a pet?
Recently, a parent reached out to me with the following question: Dear Researcher, my daughter has been asking for a pet for several years now, but I have been hesitant. What does the research say on the benefits of owning a pet? After receiving this question, I decided to dig into the research on the benefits and drawbacks of owning a pet. I have often heard of the positive emotional impact that owning a pet has, but I had not reviewed what the research said on this topic until receiving this question. So, thank you for your question reader!
Before viewing the benefits of pet ownership, I think it is important to first focus on the possible drawbacks. Research has shown that the biggest drawbacks of pet ownership is the stress caused from a pet’s death or worry about the pet’s safety (Bryant, 1990). While the death of a beloved pet is eventually inevitable, worries about safety could be reduced by having a pet safe environment within your home.
While the drawbacks are important to consider, there are also many benefits given to pet owners, such as increased emotional well-being. A recent study has shown that pets are an essential source of social support to their owners and their owners have an increased sense of emotional well-being associated with their pet ownership (McConnell, Brown, Shoda, Stayton, & Martin, 2011). Pets also have been shown to offer support to people facing a significant stress in their life (McConnell et al., 2011). The study conducted by Bryant (1990) that listed the drawbacks to pet ownership also agreed that pet ownership offers the owner emotional benefits.
Along with the emotional benefits, there are also important health benefits to owning a pet. People who interact with pets while in the hospital have better health outcomes (Friedmann, Barker, & Allen, 2011). Pet owners also have better medical outcomes on the whole when compared to non-pet owners (Friedmann et al., 2011). In addition, pet owners make fewer annual visits to the doctor’s office and are on less medications associated with sleeping issues and heart problems (Headey, 1999).
Overall, the research is in strong support of the benefits to owning a pet. From the health benefits to the emotional benefits given to a child, owning a pet definitely has its perks. However, the research is focused on cat and dog ownership, so these benefits may not apply to more low maintenance pets such as fish. Please be sure to consider if your house can accommodate the needs of owning a pet before adopting or purchasing one! This list of ten considerations may be helpful to view before you purchase a pet of your own. As a proud pet owner myself, I wish you the best of luck on your new pet journey! Feel free to ask any further questions about pet ownership below.
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