Pets not just playmates, they educate

Pets are not just cute and  cuddly companions for your  children, they  can also teach valuable life lessons.
Photos: IStock
Pets are not just cute and cuddly companions for your children, they can also teach valuable life lessons. Photos: IStock

For as long as we can remember, human beings and pets have gone hand in hand.

Some pets are even considered as man's best friend.

But did you know that some pets can play an educational role in the lives of your kids? Yes, this means kids learn some valuable life lessons in taking care of furry little animals.

Patrick Bailey, the co-owner of the Snoop Doggie Dog pet shop in Beacon Isle in the west of Johannesburg, says that a child having a pet to take care of begins to have a sense of responsibility from the outset.

"An astonishing 95% of parents with pets in their homes believe that the pet brings positivity within the home and teaches their children responsibility. So your child having a pet definitely does more good than harm," he says.

Bailey does caution that it all depends on which pets you get for your children.

He says the ideal pets include rabbits, dogs, cats, hamsters, birds, goldfish and guinea pigs.

According to Bailey, parents can expect their children to learn the following from their pets:

Dogs: they teach your kids how to relate and care about other living beings. They are similar to human beings in that they need food and water, and have to be taken for walks fairly regularly. So having a dog is like having a companion. Plus they are fun to have around, and are great playmates.

Cats: they are very playful and kids can learn how to open up around them. They want to be showered with love and affection and can teach your child how to be affectionate to others. They also need to be taken care of, so your child will learn a sense of responsibility.

Hamsters: they come with the daily duty of cleaning out the hamster cage, as well as the daily responsibility of providing food and water.

Goldfish: having a goldfish has a certain calming effect. One has to ensure that they are fed and that water in the bowl stays clean - this can teach your child to pay attention to detail.

Bailey says there are several reasons why your child having a pet is good for them:

Improvement of one's health: There is substantial evidence that having a pet in the home can improve one's health, be it physical or psychological.

Comfort: Pets are a source of comfort. The companionship that comes with owning a pet is the main reason some people enjoy having pets within the home.

Making friends: Pets provide a valuable means of bonding. If you have a pet, you tend to get more visitors or people wanting to talk to you.

Aesthetics: Pets are aesthetically pleasing, and kids can take great pleasure in grooming them or watching them run gracefully when taking them for walks in the park.

"All of these qualities teach the child to take care of the less fortunate, and to reorganise their priorities, to put others first and to be more socially responsible and compassionate," says Bailey.

"Children with pets will not need as many antibiotics. They will be healthier, they get a boost of self-esteem and gain a sense of responsibility. More than that, they will become more active and develop better social skills, as well as being calmer and less aggressive."

Bailey does caution against certain types of pets, which he he says can be dangerous and can carry diseases like herpes and rabies, while some contain venom. These include snakes, bearded dragons, monkeys, spiders and parrots.