Having Pets Won't Make Your Kids Healthier—But There Are Still Benefits

Pets may not necessarily improve our physical or mental health, but what's wrong with spending time with someone cute and cuddly?
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I grew up in a pet-loving home, and when I became a parent, just assumed owning pets would benefit my kids. Our dog teaches them responsibility and compassion, and her active puppy personality may even get them to run around a bit more. Right? Wrong, according to a new, large-scale study conducted by the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research organization.

The study, which was published in the journal Anthrozoos, found no correlation between pet ownership, and kids' overall well being. Researchers write that while "there is a widely held belief that children's general and psychological health benefits from owning and/or interacting with pets," their findings indicate these perceived benefits can actually be attributed to other factors.

In the largest-ever study to look at whether having a pet benefits children both physically and psychologically, researchers looked at over 2,000 kids in pet-owning households, and 3,000 kids who lived in dog- and cat-less homes.

"We could not find evidence that children from families with dogs or cats are better off either in terms of their mental well being or their physical health," explained the study's co-author Layla Parast.

Interestingly, at first, the researchers noted that kids with pets did have better general health. But upon adjusting their findings to account for other variables, like income, housing and language skills, the link between pet ownership and better health disappeared.

So should you kick Fido to the curb in light of these findings? Of course not! I contend that even if no scientific proof exists that having a furry friend living in your house leads to better health, this relationship still provides benefits. Our dog makes us laugh, gives us love, and is just cute. How can a cuddly, sweet dog possibly be anything other than beneficial for a family? Except when she has an accident on the rug.... but then again, doesn't a moment like that teach kids that even mommy can't always control her temper?

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Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger/mom. Find her on Facebook and Instagram where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of coffee.

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