Pets make life better in so many different ways
Your little one has been begging for a cat...a dog...a fish...a lizard--anything she can call her own pet. Have you been on the fence about another creature to care for in your already busy world? Here's why pets make life better, and why you might want to think about that lizard after all!

Okay, okay...I'll be honest. I have told my son we will never have any 'caged' animals in our house because frankly? I sort of feel bad for them. I mean, I know that in their very cushy home habitats, many a gerbil, bearded dragon and even (gasp) snake has found a lovely life as the beloved pets of families everywhere. Just not in my house.

Related: 10 Books to Help Kids Cope With the Death of a Pet

But in my house, we DO have pets and always have. We have dogs (even though we're a bit allergic) and if we weren't *really* allergic, we'd have kitty cats too. For many reasons, but mostly because I just can't get over how adorable and loving dogs and cats are as family members. (I guess gerbils and iguanas can fit in the family member category too!) Here are five reasons why pets make life better:

1. Pets make life better by promoting healthy emotional and cognitive development.

A 2017 review of over 22 studies about the effects of companion animals on children's cognitive and emotional development showed that pet ownership was beneficial to the emotional, cognitive, educational, behavioral and social development of children. In my own house, with my less-then-empathetic child, having dogs allows my son to show emotions and sensitivity he often finds difficult to do with humans, and that sympathy and love continues to move into his human interactions on a regular basis. Children with pets can learn healthy boundaries, selflessness, generosity and sacrifice as well as the importance of utilizing self-control and wise choices when it comes to caring for their pets.

2. Pets make life better because they're good for your heart in more ways than one.

According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, having pets in your family can do so many things for your heart (in addition to making them nearly burst with love). Some of those heart-happy benefits include decreased blood pressure levels, decreased cholesterol levels and decreased levels of triglycerides--all things that help your tickers work at their very best levels!

3. Pets make life better because they can increase activity levels in families.

So, no, walking your bearded dragon may not include quite the physical activity that a dog might, but...there's nothing saying your kids couldn't try! That said, families who have pets that require consistent exercise and fresh air also are families that seem to get more consistent exercise and fresh air. Funny how that correlates, huh? Your child may find going outside and playing by himself a little boring, but send him out with Fido and encourage him to help her learn new tricks? Win-win!

Related: What to Consider When Getting Your Child Their First Pet

4. Pets make life better because they decrease loneliness and increase self-esteem.

A 2017 study found that children who had pets appeared to have greater levels of self-esteem than when compared to peers, and found to be less lonely as well. The study author believes that dogs and cats generally were the best givers of social support in that they had higher levels of reciprocity and engagement than other pets, but across several cultures, pet ownership was correlated to positive self-image and psychological support.

5. Pets make life better because they make your kiddos healthier.

Yes, yes, it seems sort of wonky: having a dog may reduce my risk of being allergic to or suffering an asthma attack because of a dog? More and more studies are showing that to be just the case. In fact, a recent study funded by the National Institutes of Health found that children who lived in homes with high indoor levels of pet allergens during their infancy may have lower risks of developing asthma. Again, in our own home, we hoped this to be the case as I suffered severe asthma attacks as I grew up and feared my son would also. He's definitely an 'allergy kid' but because he's been exposed to dogs since he was born, I believe he's better for it.

In fact, pediatrician and researcher Dr. James E. Gern with the University of Wisconsin-Madison says that because dogs are dirty animals, babies who have more exposure to the dirt and allergens have stronger, better immune systems. Score more for the dirty dog!

6. Pets make life better because they build responsibility in children.

It does. Really. I know, I may be like I was and think, "Oh...this is just going to be more work for me," and maybe as you're teaching your kiddo about how to care for your pet, it might be. But as you mold and shape their understanding of what it means to care for another living creature, you'll be able to watch the magical transformation that comes with the realization of the power of their care. It's pretty life-changing, and heart-warming at the same time, and the whole family (pets included) is better off for it.

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