How Pets Can Help a Baby’s Development

  • By: Millie Zeiler
  • Date: March 11, 2023

The discussion of how pets can help a baby’s development begins with the acknowledgment that a family doesn’t always mean it has to be a human-exclusive membership. For as long as human beings have roamed the earth, the value animals bring into their lives honestly has no price tag. Like people, animals have their own personalities, as well as their own quirks. It’s easy to develop a bond with them as pets, especially with cats and dogs who are often regarded as fur babies. Members of the human race all share the same need for social companionship. Even among the anti-social, the desire to have at least one person they can form a bond is what keeps them going. Since the dawn of time, most human beings share the common desire to find that special someone to spend the rest of their lives with as a soul mate. Together, the two decide to start a family. Whether or not that family also includes a pet in the equation is entirely up to them.

Getting Personal

Speaking on a personal note, I know first-hand how pets can help a baby’s personal development. Unfortunately, many parents assume having a pet in their lives as they welcome their firstborn child into the world is a bad idea. Many parents will get rid of their pets, thinking this is in their baby’s best interest. To be honest, unless there are extreme circumstances involved, nothing can be further from the truth. My parents were deaf/mute when I was born. I recall my earliest childhood memories of having cats around until my mother died when I was seven years old. I learned as I got older how those cats actually worked with my mother as a go-between whenever I had an issue as a baby while she was in another room. I guess whenever I cried, one cat, in particular, would run from my room, meet with my mother, and lick her hand a few times before darting back to the room I was in. My mother was smart enough to understand the cat was behaving like a messenger, letting her know I required attention. This was the story she shared I’d later learn about as I got older.

The story I just shared isn’t much different than other stories told by parents who’ve discovered having a pet around really came in handy with their own babies. Those benefits also included certain cats and dogs either acting as sounding alarms to get a parent’s attention or doing as our cat did, visually capturing one’s attention in a frantic effort to get help. Granted, events like these are rather extreme. They were brought up as examples of how beneficial pets can be whenever there happens to be a crisis. Apparently, before I was born, my mother was told by family and friends to get rid of the cats as they heard of some horror stories where a cat’s jealousy of a baby led to tragic events resulting in death. Thankfully, my mother was smart enough to ignore those old wives’ tales and go with her own judgment. She did, however, keep a close watch, which I’m aware of as my father’s paranoia at the time was heightened. When he learned how the cats actually worked with my mother when it came to me as a baby, that paranoia was kicked to the curb with stories he told those same family members and friends about how off-base their fears were.

The Paws Effect

The moment a baby opens up their eyes, they’re fixated on a world loaded with visual stimulants. A pet in your home becomes one of them, whether it’s one that’s already a member of your family or joined you at approximately the same time as your baby. It’s not uncommon for new parents to get a cat or dog at the same time their baby is born or shortly thereafter. The idea of a firstborn growing up with a new pet has become increasingly popular among parents who’ve learned about the benefits that come with this. For the most part, children tend to love pets, especially when they’re in the form of a tiny kitten or puppy. Among babies who encounter pets, not only are they visually drawn to these creatures but intellectually intrigued.

As babies, their minds are like sponges as they learn at a rate much faster than any other stage we experience as human beings. If there is a time to have your baby exposed to as many positives as possible to ensure optimal development for them, having a pet in their life is one of the best ways to do it. History and studies have consistently shown children who’ve grown up with pets from the beginning have an advantage when it comes to learning abilities and social skills. While in the baby stage, babies interacting with pets will learn how to treat them before becoming toddlers. As toddlers, they’re less likely to abuse or mistreat the animal as they’ll already have an understanding of what’s acceptable behavior and what’s not. Animals don’t lie when it comes to reacting to any given situation. As a parent, pay attention to the body language of your baby and your pet. Use this as a learning curve for everyone involved to move forward in a positive direction.

Usually, the bond between babies and pets will boost your child’s ability to exercise empathy, responsibility, trust, and understanding. This is especially true among families that have opted to raise one child instead of at least two. Again, human beings are social creatures. Without someone we can relate to, there is a void. Granted, neither a cat nor a dog can quite measure up to the social interaction we get with other people, but among babies and toddlers, they serve as the closest thing they’ll have as a best friend. Because of this, they’ll make an effort to maintain a healthy relationship to the best of their ability. As much as you’d like to be that best friend yourself, you’re a giant in their eyes. Cats and dogs are closer to their size, so they’re usually going to be more drawn to them.

Pet Pros

Among babies and toddlers, playtime with a pet close to them encourages them to be active. Along the way, they also learn to adapt behavior that works to their benefit as they get older. For you, as a parent, it makes it easier for you to raise your child, even as they enter the “terrible twos” stage. Studies have repeatedly established babies who’ve grown up with pets in their lives grow as children with more promise as opposed to children who haven’t. Their ability to learn and adapt, as well as maintain a more disciplined lifestyle makes it easier for them to live a happy, healthy life. However, the key to ensuring this happens is to teach your babies as soon as they become toddlers how to care for their furry best friend.

As is the case with all relationships, there is always the risk of something unpleasant happening. This is no difference between babies and pets. Should there be accidents, allergies, and jealousy involved, the key is to understand there is no such thing as a perfect family. Things happen, both the good and the bad. The key is to reach a mutual understanding of the needs of every family member involved, including the pets. By working as a whole family unit, the positives that come from your pet’s influence on your baby will go a really long way to boost confidence in themselves. A happy, confident baby will become a happy, confident toddler easier to manage. That toddler then becomes a child that won’t be so adversely affected by a world that often seems too confused for its own good. Ideally, you want to help your baby become a child who knows exactly who they are and what they are. Having a family pet around will help you and your baby out a great deal.

Does it have to be a cat or dog as the family pet of choice? Those are usually the two most popular, especially if you live in an urban environment. While there are other animals that make good pets for kids, usually it’s either a cat or dog that works the best with babies as the bond develops between them is much more likely. Ideally, keep them as indoor pets, not outdoor ones. Also, make sure they’re fixed as this makes them less territorial. It also tends to make them more affectionate as their attention will be focused on loving the family it’s already a part of, including your baby.

How Pets Can Help a Baby’s Development article published on BabyCareGuru.com© 2023

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