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Science: Pets better siblings than people

Approx Reading Time-10The brainiacs at Cambridge have discovered that kids form stronger bonds with their furry siblings than their human counterparts.


Truth time. As a kid, I didn’t have any pets – save for a pet slug I barely remember – thus, I have no friends as an adult.

It seems now, that the torrid story of my tortured youth is the subject of science.

The increasingly de-startched shirts at Cambridge University (yes, quite) have discovered something galling, albeit obvious for those who grow up with too many siblings (which is to say more than nil). It seems that we as children form stronger bonds with our pets growing up than our less furry (read: biological) siblings.

Published in the rivetingly monikered Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, the study was enabled by Cambridge scholar Matt Cassels, among others, who “wanted to know how strong these relationships are with pets relative to other close family ties. Ultimately this may enable us to understand how animals contribute to healthy child development.”

In order to prove this, the researchers surveyed 12-year-old children from a large number of families with one or more pets of any type and more than one child at home. After the data was collated, the children reported strong relationships with their pets relative to their siblings, with lower levels of conflict and greater satisfaction in owners of dogs than other kinds of animals.

To sum up the study, Cassels says “Even though pets may not fully understand or respond verbally, the level of disclosure to pets was no less than to siblings.”

Dr Nancy Gee, Human-Animal Interaction Research Manager at WALTHAM, takes that point further, stating that “the social support that adolescents receive from pets may well support psychological wellbeing later in life but there is still more to learn about the long term impact of pets on children’s development.”

Which, in my humble uneducated, untenured opinion, is a fair cop. I’ve only recently welcomed my first doggo member into my family, and the therapy gained from her stupid, understanding face cannot be charted, only smooshed.



I wish I knew this earlier. The benefits of my own furry therapist. Who knows what kind of person I could have been with a childhood of meaningful doggo analysis under my growing belt.

Thanks, Mum.


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