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Pets are good for us. We, pet owners, know this. Living with a cat in childhood undoubtedly provides many benefits. It seems, however, there may be a disadvantage. Researchers are now uncovering a link between anxiety in children and cat ownership. Read more about kids and cats…

Could cats cause children's mental health issues?

Before we look at cats and kids, let’s look at dogs and their effect on children’s anxiety…

Kids and Dogs

Having a pet dog in the home is associated with a decreased probability of childhood anxiety. Great news! But how does this work? Do dogs make children more psychologically robust or do families without problems acquire dogs?

We often talk about the benefits of pets in getting children to be active and to get off their technology devices. Interestingly, however, this particular study found no difference in children’s body weight, screen time, or physical activity according to whether they had a pet dog in the home or not. Children with dogs, however, were less anxious than those without a canine companion.

Could cats cause children's mental health issues?

So, how do dogs help with childhood anxiety?
Well perhaps it’s due to:

  • The social catalyst effect. Dogs help you start a conversation.
  • The companionship that dogs bring.
  • Interacting with dogs decreasing stress hormones such as cortisol.
  • Interacting with the dog increases oxytocin, the feel-good hormone
  • A combination of all of these and more.

So, onto cats and their effect on children’s mental health…

 

Kids and Cats

Cats are popular, up there with dogs as the world’s most popular pets. Household cats are generally thought to have a positive effect on health but there are always some negatives. Cats, for instance, may transmit toxoplasmosis, although this risk is small.

Cat-owning parents of 4 to 10-year-old children (643 of them in total) rated their child’s mental health. After controlling for issues such as poverty and parent depression, household cat ownership was associated with more attention problems.

Could cats cause children's mental health issues?

Cat behaviour problem

Why should owning a cat result in more attention issues in children?

  • Well, again perhaps it’s the opposite and parents of children with attention problems actually acquire a cat as a pet, to somehow, albeit unintentionally, help their child’s issues. Could cats help children focus?
  • Could cats actually cause children to be less attentive? Are they a distracting influence?
  • Could exposure to toxoplasmosis cause attention issues?

The answer is still unknown. There may even be no link between cats and mental health issues in children but there is certainly need for future research.

Based on my children and the number of cats that they have grown up with, I am surprised that they are able to concentrate at all!!

Could cats cause children's mental health issues?


Sources of information
Household cats and children’s mental health
Pet Dogs and Children’s Health
Pet owners are healthy
5 Ways pets help with mental health
Cats and children: The benefits
Toxoplasmosis


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