Every child needs a dog or a cat – not just for fun, but studies find that having a pet in the house actually has some benefits for children.

Still not sure about a pet-child relationship? I am sure that these 8 reasons will convince you:

1. Babies who grow up with pets are less likely to get sick

A Finnish study finds babies who grow up with pets are less likely to develop colds and other respiratory infections. Babies who had early contact with dogs or cats were significantly healthier and 30 percent less likely to experience coughs, ear infections, runny nose and sneezing. Similar results have been found with cats but the effect was a bit weaker.

2. Children with pets are better readers

Children rarely get a chance to read without someone telling them they mispronounced a word – meaning that they are not given the chance to just enjoy reading. Reading aloud in school to a whole class, might be terrifying for some children Dogs, however, never interrupt and correct – they listen. Reading to a pet might calm down children who are struggling with reading. Without worrying about being laughed at, children can read good-night stories for their pet and, thereby, practice their reading skills and strengthening their self-confidence. Of course dogs won’t, by itself, make a child a better reader, but they are a great motivation and a great help help.

3. With a dog or a cat a child is never really alone

A pet is always there to give love and to listen. Especially, in those situations where children do not want to talk to their mum or dad.

4. Children learn to be responsible

Children who take care of pets learn what it feels like to have a living creature rely on them, and that teaches responsibility in a way nothing else can. With a pet in the household children have responsibilities too and they learn how to take care of the pet – feeding it, cleaning the supper dish, washing it and cleaning up toys. Caring for a dog or a cat creates a sense of empathy and a respect for life.

Pets are not just good for children emotionally, but for their health as well

5. Children have a lower risk of eczema

A newly published study show that young children who were allergic to dogs and lived in homes with dogs had a lower risk for developing eczema. However, be aware that this is not the same with cats. Children with cat allergies whose families had cats are more likely to develop eczema.

6. Pets are good for the heart

Pets, especially dogs, are not just good for children emotionally, but for their health as well. Children with dogs often get more exercise than pet-free people. Additionally, pets can help lower stress, blood pressure, cholesterol and obesity – good for children as well as adults.

7. Children with pets are spending more time outside in nature

If dogs run outside to play, children often run with them to join the playing. They also often join the daily dog-walks with their parents. Studies show that people who spend more time in nature have an increased sense of well-being and more energy. Even just 20 minutes outside per day can boost energy levels. And, in general, movement and fresh never hurt anyone.

8. Dogs and cats help children with autism

Pets often have a relaxing impact on children which can help reducing the stress hormone, Cortisol. A reduction of stress is very helpful for children with autism as it calms them down. Additionally, living with dogs, cats or other pets may help children with autism acquire social skills. Children with autism don’t always engage with others right away, but if there’s a pet in the house, that the child is bonded with, and a visitor starts asking about the pet, the child may be more likely to respond and interact.