About two years ago, my nephew got a cat. We went to KSPCA, looked around at the cats that they had there and my nephew chose the cat that he connected most with. It was this tiny grey cat that was scared of everything and for days after, hid whenever anyone got close.
It has since grown into this big cat that thinks of someone lying down as an invitation to play and uses the couch as a scratching post. Why do pets do this? How do they become so embedded in our hearts that we sometimes let them take over our houses?
Two years on, what has having a cat taught my niece and nephew? Why should you get pets for your children?
- It teaches children responsibility
Pet ownership by children helps teach them responsibility.
Every morning, my niece cleans the cat’s bowls. She then puts in fresh food and water. My nephew on the other hand is in charge of the litter box. He empties it and puts in fresh litter. The two children know to watch out and let the adults know when we are running out of supplies (cat food and litter) so we can get some more in. They also know and are always quick to remind anyone who comes into the house not to leave the door open. This is so that the cat doesn’t leave the house. This is a lesson that they learned after the cat left the house and it took about two days to find it.
2. Teaches children to be more caring
This daily routine that the children go through means that every morning they are thinking about the cat, its needs and seeing to it that those needs are met. The time that they spend playing with it or petting it as it purrs, that is caring. This is a lesson that will extend to those around them.
3. It promotes learning
Even though the two children share equally in the cat’s care, the cat was initially my nephew’s. My niece wanted a dog. Her brother was concerned about the dog – when it came – not getting along with the cat. So for days, they researched dog breeds trying to find one that my niece liked and that got along with cats. Along the way, they learned so much about both cats and dogs and the different breeds that exist. Without having a pet, they would not have learned all this. They happily share this knowledge with anyone who cares to listen.
4. It can help your children to make friends
The learning to care that has been previously mentioned, this can then be extended to those around them including their peers. The children learn to be better people and consequently, better friends.
I have seen this happen with my niece and nephew. Children from the court usually come to the house because they know that there is a cat there and they want to pet it. So having a pet is a good way for your children to make friends.
5. Pets are linked to better mental health
When I started writing this, I asked my nephew how having a pet has benefited him. His response was that it made him happier.
Having pets has been shown to make the pet owners happier, more trusting and less stressed. This coupled with making them more social as mentioned above leads to better mental health, as studies have proved.