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The Family Pet: Best Friend or Big Brother?

Petmate Academy

October 25, 2017


Pets have been and always will be a crucial piece to a family. They are each family member’s own unique escape; to unburden from the day, to play and have fun, to hold and cry. A recent study has uncovered that kids view pets as their best friends, not a brother or sister. This study, published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, was conducted in collaboration with the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition.

The study found that children appear to get along better with their pets than with siblings while also gaining more satisfaction from their relationship with the pet than with a brother or sister.  For young children, befriending the family dog or cat is a very healthy and helpful relationship to their growth and maturation. The pets are safe recipients for the children to confide their secrets and private thoughts too. Matt Cassells, the psychiatrist who led the study at Cambridge, aptly said: "the fact that pets cannot understand or talk back may even be a benefit as it means they are completely non-judgmental1.” 

Along with being a child’s best friend, pets provide many great lessons for young children such as:

– Teach respect for other living things

– Develop responsible behavior in the children who care for them-Life lessons from birth, illnesses, accidents, death, and grieving2 

Pets are also a source of unconditional love and support and have been scientifically proven to help with stress reduction and other physiological benefits such as lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels. One of the most important reasons why pets are such great friends for children is the laughter and joy they bring to a family. Children may have this same relationship with a stuffed animal or action figure, but a pet can grow with them and children typically don’t outgrow their dog or cat as they would with a toy. These furry friends help children feel secure and safe, which is why they’re such great cuddle buddies for naps and lazy days on the couch.

With approximately 75% of U.S. households with children also having at least one pet3 it’s easy to understand how pets now, more than ever, are part of the family. Even though research shows that most children see pets as best friends, there is still a lifetime of a bonding and fun family memories to be made together.


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