It’s not just a coincidence that children are fascinated by pets. There’s now overwhelming scientific evidence to show that growing up with pets is likely to be beneficial for a child, in terms of both social and emotional development. When young children typically see a pet as a protector, in what at times can be a frightening world, it provides them with reassurance. This then develops into a bond of trust, and stimulates the child's interest in the world around them.
Imagery starts to become important, as the child incorporates the pet into their stories. A pet can also be confided in, without making judgments, and can allow a child to rationalise right from wrong, free from adult pressures.
As the child grows older, and can start to accept more responsibility for a pet's care, this creates a sense of responsibility. Furthermore, the end result can provide a measure of confidence in a task carried out independently. At times, there will be a need to place the pet's needs first - attending to a rabbit in an outdoor hutch on a wet day perhaps, when the child would rather be inside, encourages more thoughtful behaviour.
Human situations can be mirrored through pet-ownership as well, although in less emotionally charged ways. This in turn can help children to deal with situations that they will inevitably face in life. Sex, illness and death are all likely to be features of pet ownership.
The deep imprint of our childhood experiences with pets continues right through adulthood. It’s clear that children who have kept pets relate better to animals, and have less fear of them in later life. Those who have been brought up with dogs, for example, usually remain attached to them throughout their lives.
Sadly of course, there are children who suffer allergies, and so cannot have a dog or cat, whereas in other cases, it simply may not be possible to have a pet of this type anyway, because of family circumstances. But there are other types of pet that can bring a great deal of pleasure without requiring a lot of space, and will be inexpensive, both to acquire and keep.
Stick insects definitely fall into this category, as do giant land snails. It’s interesting that based on a RSPCA survey a few years ago, the unheralded stick insect ranked at number seven, out of the country’s most popular pets.
So if you’re considering obtaining a pet of any type, do check out Rosewood’s sponsored Choosing Your Pet e-book, to help you make the right choice. You can find it online on Amazon, and download it for free if you are signed up to Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited scheme.
- David Alderton
* Having trained as a vet, David is now well-known as a writer about pets, and his books have sold nearly seven million copies worldwide in 31 languages. He also takes part regularly in television and radio programmes, and has just launched a magazine called The World of Pets.