Pets provide life lessons in empathy and responsibility, foster curiosity about the natural world
PHOENIX, May 05, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) --
Whether they're furry, feathered, scaled or finned, pets can play a vital role in a child's overall development, not only offering companionship and social support but also valuable teaching moments around empathy and responsibility.
"There is no doubt that the relationship children have with pets has positive effects on their attitude and behavior," says Gail F. Melson, PhD, professor emeritus of developmental studies at Purdue University and author of Why the Wild Things Are: Animals in the Lives of Children. "Additionally, on a broader level, pets help develop a child's natural curiosity about the world. With this in mind, May is 'National Pet Month' and marks a great time for families to consider adding a pet to their household, as summer break approaches and kids have extra time to start a new pet relationship."
Here are some specific ways pet ownership benefits children, according to Dr. Melson's research:
- Pets are like a "best friend." Children often see their pets as confidants with whom they can freely share their feelings. Whether a fish, guinea pig or leopard gecko, pets are a strong source of ever-present emotional support for kids. According to one of Dr. Melson's research studies, five-year-olds who regularly confided in their pets had an easier time adjusting to the move to kindergarten because they had a way to express their thoughts, whether it's excitement, nerves or speculation.
- Pets show children how to care. Taking care of a pet encourages children to think outside of themselves and become responsible for another being's welfare. Children who are involved in caring for pets are more empathetic and feel better about themselves. Additionally, because animals cannot speak, children learn to pick up on their pets' non-verbal cues.
- Pets spark a love of learning. Children who have pets tend to become more interested in issues such as animal welfare and the environment than those without pets. In other words, pets are a starting point from which children begin to learn about the natural world.
Choosing the Right Pet for Children
While dogs and cats are often the first pets that come to mind, parents may also want to consider small animals, reptiles or fish especially if they have younger children.
"Small animals such as hamsters and guinea pigs tend to be easier to care for and interact with, which makes them better suited for children 10 and under," said PetSmart's Specialty Pets Expert, John Gerstenberger. "Other animals like fish and reptiles are also good options for children who have allergies." While these pets are more manageable for children, PetSmart recommends that all interactions between children and their pets be supervised by an adult.
Ultimately, selecting a pet depends on each family. According to Gertstenberger, key considerations should include the age and personality of the children, available living space and the family's overall lifestyle. Families can learn more about selecting the right pet for their child by visiting their local PetSmart store and speaking with an associate or going online to the PetSmart(R) Care Guides, which provide important background information on pets, from behavior and nutrition to habitat set-up.
PetSmart, Inc. (NASDAQ: PETM) is the largest specialty pet retailer of services and solutions for the lifetime needs of pets. The company employs approximately 47,000 associates and operates more than 1,187 pet stores in the United States and Canada, 180 in-store PetSmart PetsHotel(R) cat and dog boarding facilities, and is a leading online provider of pet supplies and pet care information (http://www.petsmart.com). PetSmart provides a broad range of competitively priced pet food and pet products; and offers complete pet training, pet grooming, pet boarding, PetSmart(R) Doggie Day Campâ" pet day care services and pet adoption services. Since 1994, PetSmart Charities, Inc., an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit animal welfare organization and the largest funder of animal welfare efforts in North America, has provided more than $110 million in grants and programs benefiting animal welfare organizations. Through its in-store pet adoption partnership with PetSmart Charities(R), PetSmart has helped save the lives of more than 4.4 million pets.
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SOURCE: PetSmart, Inc.
GolinHarris for PetSmart
Anuradha Koli, 972-341-2578
PetSmart Media Line