Over the years, it has been noticed that many people have pets with a child or either choose pets over children. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (2019), “A child who learns to care for an animal, and treat it kindly and patiently, may get invaluable training in learning to treat people the same way.”

Based on the Academy, children that grow up with pets can have many benefits. Self-esteem and Self-confidence are characteristics that may be achieved when a child develops positive feelings about pets. The pet relationship can also help build empathy, non-verbal communication and compassion. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (2019) states that “Pets can serve different purposes for children:
They can be safe recipients of secrets and private thoughts, children often talk to their pets like they do to their stuffed animals.
They provide lessons about life, including reproduction, birth, illnesses, accidents, death, and bereavement.
They can help develop responsible behaviour in the children who care for them.
They provide a connection to nature.
They can teach respect for other living things.

Other physical and emotional needs fulfilled by pet ownership include:

Physical activity
Love, loyalty, and affection
Comfort contact
Experience with loss if a pet is lost or dies.
However, many guidelines must be followed to ensure that the relationship between pets and children is beneficial and safe. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (2019) points out some important parameters that can help take care of a pet while developing children's social and emotional skills. They state that “Taking care of a pet can help children develop social skills. But, specific guidelines apply:
Since very young children (under the age of 3-4 years) do not have the maturity to control their aggressive and angry impulses, they should be monitored with pets.
Parents must oversee the pet's care even if they believe their child is old enough to care for a pet.
Children should be reminded gently, not scolding, that animals, like people, need food, water, and exercise.
Parents serve as role models. Children learn responsible pet ownership by observing their parents' behavior.
Young children (under ten years) cannot care for a large animal, a cat or a dog on their own.
If children become lax in caring for a pet, parents may have to take over the responsibility.
If a child continues to neglect a pet, a new home may have to be found for the animal.

It is essential to reinforce that keeping a hygienic environment is crucial to avoid child risk exposure. According to the Health Service Executive (2012), “Most safety and health risks posed by pets can be significantly reduced by:

Careful supervision of children around pets
Teaching your child how to:
Play safely with pets
Avoid dangerous situations
Respond to danger signs
Wash their hands carefully after all contact with pets and other animals
Recognising when your pet is sick
Keep sick pets and other sick animals away from children.
Following good hand hygiene practice
Always modeling safe behavior around pets – children copy what they see parents and adults do.
Getting immediate advice from your vet - the earlier you get advice and treatment, the less chance of the illness passing on to you or your child.

It is essential to reinforce that keeping a hygienic environment is crucial to avoid child risk exposure. According to the Health Service Executive (2012), “Most safety and health risks posed by pets can be significantly reduced by:


The joy of pets: how animal companionship can impact our health and wellbeing 


American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP). Pets And Children. No 75. January, 2019. Available on:


American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Respiratory Tract Illnesses During the First Year of Life: Effect of Dog and Cat Contacts. August, 2012. Available on:


Health Service Executive. Child Safety and Health around Pets – Responsible Pet Ownership. Mar, 2022. Available on:


Jama Network. Early Exposure to Dogs and Farm Animals and the Risk of Childhood Asthma. Nov, 2015. Available on:


Orlando Health. Get a Pet To Boost Your Child’s Immune System. June 17, 2021. Available on: