Why Pets are a Must-Have for Little Kids


Most of the parents in my circle have at least two kids under the age of seven.  Their lives are busy.  They balance their family obligations, relationships, jobs, school schedules, extracurriculars, weekends away, and more.  They have limited free time, less free space, and usually have to contend with a budget that’s already strained under the pressures of modern-day American family life.   That’s perhaps why so few of our friends – particularly in the cramped and pricey Bay Area – have pets!  When I think about it, I’d say that fewer than 10% of the families we know have pets. 

I get it!  There are a bunch of reasons not to add critters to your lives.  Time, money, space.  Vet bills and boarding fees can make you think you have another kid in daycare.  Pets are a lot of work (especially dogs!) and are a big responsibility.  Even the smallest pets, like lizards, fish, and mice, require regular upkeep and attention.  Animals can be messy.  They might smell.  Some people just don’t like non-human creatures in their homes.  Some people may have safety concerns.  And… well… everybody poops.  Parents in young families deal with enough poop on a daily basis; there’s no need to add more to the pile (so to speak).

In fact, if forced to make a list of pros and cons, I might conclude based on the lengths of the respective sides that having a pet at the same time that you have small kids is not the rational choice.  And yet, mine is a family of six: two adults, two kids under five, a dog, and a cat.  Here’s why I wouldn’t change that decision, and why I always support other families adding to their broods:

  • Pets are cute. Does this need further explanation?  At night, I push my husband across the bed to make room for our cat to snuggle by my side.  During the day, our dog is my office-mate, and cheers me up when I need a lift.  Pets are the best.
  • Pets are an excellent way to teach small children a whole array of values.  They learn to care about – and be responsible for – someone other than themselves, which is hard for little kids.  Even at 3 and 4 years old, my children understand that our dog and cat rely on us for food, water, shelter, and affection.  They have learned to treat living creatures with kindness, and to be gentle (both physically and otherwise).  They’ve learned about boundaries (no sneaking the dog a bite of your sandwich, even if she begs!) and have a better understanding of physical limitations (no, you can’t ride the cat like she’s a horse).  They’ve learned empathy and know how to read non-verbal cues (“She looks sad!  She wants to go into the bedroom but can’t open the door herself!  She’s mad, watch out or she’ll scratch you!”).  These examples are the tip of the iceberg.  Would they have learned all of this without living with pets?  I’m sure.  But there is something to be said for exposing children early and often to situations where they have no choice but to internalize these lessons.  And, it’s taken minimal effort on my part, to do the teaching.  So much is pure intuition, driven by their affectionate relationships with their animals.
  • Kids love animals.  Sure, not all kids love all animals.  But I guarantee, there is a type of animal that will suit every kid.  That special relationship is pure and it is simple.  It’s a love and (hopefully) mutual affection that can transform a child’s understanding of their place on the planet.  I’m not exaggerating!  Plus, animal playmates are super fun.
  • It’s gratifying to see your kids interact with your pets.  We recently went away for a short weekend getaway.  On the way home, my kids were not disappointed that the trip was over; they were looking forward to getting home and seeing our pets again!  I couldn’t have been happier.  And let’s be honest- The best videos on the internet involve cute kids interacting with cute animals.  There are funny videos and videos so sweet that your heart grows three sizes watching them.  Now, imagine that you are watching a cute kid-pet video unfold in live action, every day, and that you love all the players in the game.  That’s what it’s like to see your kids interact with your pets. 

Adding a pet to your young family might seem daunting, and it might be easy to talk yourself out of it (…hmm kind of like deciding whether to have another kid).  But I am willing to bet that if you take the plunge, you won’t regret it!  Instead, you and your family will experience the rewards in meaningful ways that you never would’ve imagined.

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Lorrie lives in Cupertino with her husband, two small children, crazy dog, and obese cat. Originally from the Chicago area, Lorrie headed west in 2010, and hasn’t looked back. She loves exploring the Bay Area, and finds that even after six years, there is always something new to discover. Lorrie is a licensed and practicing attorney in both Illinois and California. She is proud to represent employees in all manner of work-related disputes, and partners closely as Of Counsel with Caffarelli & Assoc. Ltd., a Chicago-based firm. When she is not working or chasing her kids around, Lorrie likes to tinker with home improvement projects, walk around on sidewalks and trails, zone out on the internet, and “Netflix and chill.” She also likes to run, and aspires to one day make it to a yoga class.


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