Kids Prefer Their Pets to Their Siblings, Study Says -- Moms Say 'No Kidding'


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There's something undeniably sweet about watching kids grow up with pets. A new study has found that children may actually prefer their furry friends to their siblings -- which is probably not a surprise to any mom who has watched her child bypass his brothers to embrace the family dog. But just what is it about man's best friend -- and his feline counterparts -- that makes him preferable to a live human being? 

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According to new research from the University of Cambridge, kids get more satisfaction from relationships with their pets than with their brothers or sisters.

The study was led by Matt Cassells, a Gates Cambridge Scholar at the Department of Psychiatry, who explained that the reason for this is actually pretty simple: Pets love us unconditionally.

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''Even though pets may not fully understand or respond verbally, the level of disclosure to pets was no less than to siblings," he said. "The fact that pets cannot understand or talk back may even be a benefit, as it means they are completely non-judgmental."

That last part is key. Therapy dogs are widely used in schools and at libraries to help young, often-reluctant readers gain more confidence. Stumble over a word? It's okay, a dog is never going to snicker or mock you.

Plus, in terms of disclosure, pets are amazing secret-keepers. Many times I've whispered in my cat's ear things like, "Shoot, I have no idea what to make for dinner," or, "Damn, I forgot to sign that permission slip." And, he never rats me out. It feels good to confide and know your words are safe.

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Kids no doubt feel the same way. Pets can provide a huge sense of comfort, especially for little ones who sometimes have trouble expressing their feelings. For those who may have had a rough day at school or a tough time at ballet class or on the baseball field, being welcomed home by a pet -- without having to say a word or explain their troubles -- is priceless. 

Plus, don't you just sometimes feel happier around your pet? Studies have shown that pets are stress-busters who have the ability to lower blood pressure. Simply gazing into your dog's eyes causes a release of oxytocin. It's tough to beat that.

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Also, a pet is never going to steal your ball or your Legos and refuse to give them back. He's not going to give you a wedgie, either -- though that would be viral video material right there!

While it might be hard for some parents to hear that their kids prefer animals to siblings -- especially knowing that pets, sadly, don't live forever -- this study might be music to the ears for moms and dads of only children.

If you were on the fence about getting a pet, this study will undoubtedly help you make up your mind.

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