How Pets Can Teach Us Empathy

Pets are great companions and teachers. They love us unconditionally just as we are and do not expect us to change. One lesson pets teach us is empathy. The following excerpt is from “In one study, we found that 3- and 4-year-olds with pets were better able to understand the feelings of other children than those without pets,” Poresky says. He also says there are life lessons to be learned from taking responsibility for a pet. “A dog or cat won’t always do what the child wants them to do, and that can be very important,” he says. “This helps kids learn that there are other perspectives and ways of looking at things.”

Perhaps the world would be a better place if all of us were given a pet to care for when we were kids. Studies show that children who are given pets learn how to understand the feelings of others, learn responsibility, and life from different perspectives. They also learn loyalty and how to selflessly give of themselves. Sometimes these lessons need to be re-learned when we become adults.

My kitten Salem taught me how to practice non-judgment and empathy. Even though his life was short, he will always be with me. Salem had a rough start in life. God only knows how long he sat on the patio of the first floor apartment that is below me. He probably was there at three weeks old; I took him in when he was five weeks old. It was not easy for the both us. The poor thing had issues and so did I.

Being away from family and friends and transforming my life was taking a toll on me. I was too wrapped up in myself that I did not see what a gift he was to me. Truth be told when I looked at him I thought “how am I going to take care of you?” Were we supposed to live on love alone?

As the saying goes “you don’t know what you have until its gone.” To say that I made a mess of things would be an understatement. I handled the situation as best as I could. This was the first time I had a kitten, let alone a stray. I could have had more empathy and compassion for him. It was quite an experience, one that I will never forget.

The good news is that I received the second chance I prayed for. Things are going to be different. Benny, a short hair Tuxedo kitten came into my life on July 21, 2008. He’s a very affectionate kitten and is totally different from Salem. Benny seems to be well adjusted emotionally, physically, and mentally. The differences between Salem and Benny are very noticeable. But, so are the similarities. Both kittens like to pounce and jump on the kitty fishing rod.

To learn more about how pets teach us empathy, visit Dr. Michael Fox’s website at Tedeboy.Tripod and read the article “Animals’, Altruism, and Empathy.”

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