Pets and Kids: How Growing Up with a Pet Makes Life Better

We all remember the love we had for our pets growing up. But is there more to it than that?

Does having a pet actually offer emotional, mental and physical benefits for kids? Research suggests it does!

There’s an ever-increasing breadth of studies about the benefits of human-animal interaction (HAI) – more commonly known as the human-animal bond. Let’s take a look…

Stress relief

Research funded by a National Institutes of Health/Mars-WALTHAM Public Private Partnership looked at whether pet dogs affect stress responses in kids aged 7 to 12. It found that having a pet dog present reduces how stressful a social test is for kids. The stress relief of being with their dog was even greater than being with their parents.

Child development

Another study found that growing up with a pet can bring social, emotional and educational benefits to children and adolescents. Kids with pets tend to have greater self-esteem, less loneliness and enhanced social skills.

Career skills

A survey of C-suite executives from BANFIELD Pet Hospital™ found that 93% of them grew up with a pet, and 78% attributed their career success in part to having a pet as a child. The execs said their pets helped them learn about responsibility, empathy and creativity, and develop leadership skills including discipline and organization.


Research also suggests pets in classrooms can help improve interactions and learning. When a pet is in a classroom, kids tend to follow instructions and pay more attention. They ask appropriate questions and have more positive behaviors – partly so they can get to spend time with the pet!

Social Behaviors

A study from the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and several partners recently explored the benefits of animal-assisted activities for kids who are in psychiatric hospitalization with autism spectrum disorder. The research suggested activities with a dog could promote more social and communication behaviors like talking, gesturing and making eye contact.

Emotional support

Kids often talk about their pets as their “best friend,” and that may be even truer than most parents realize. Another WALTHAM supported study found that kids report stronger relationship with their pets than they do even with their siblings. The researchers suspect that since pets can’t talk back, kids may feel especially safe sharing feelings with them.

For these reasons and so many more, pets make us happier and healthier at every age. That’s why the BETTER CITIES FOR PETS™ program of Mars Petcare is helping cities be more pet-friendly – so more people can enjoy the benefits of a life with pets. Find out more about the human-animal bond here.

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