We look at the positive impact pets can have on a foster child’s life

Whether it is a cat curling up in your lap, a dog sliding across the kitchen floor to jump into your arms, or a goldfish staring balefully out at you from its watery palace – there is nothing quite like the love of a pet.

At Orchard Fostering, we’re often asked whether it is possible to foster a child when you have a pet. Maybe you have concerns about safety, or about how your pet will react to a newcomer in the house. Thankfully, our policies don’t rule out pet-owners – provided the proper precautions are in place.

We believe that having a pet in a house can help foster children relax, make connections, and, most importantly, have a whole lot of fun. Read on and find out just how beneficial a pet can be to your foster child.

  1. Pets are therapeutic

We’re all familiar with the therapeutic effects of a good hug from a dog, or a cuddle from a cat. Our warm and fuzzy friends have been making us feel warm and fuzzy for millennia. While this anecdotal knowledge is all well and good, there is a scientific basis for the happiness you feel when Fido decides to snuggle up beside you.

It’s called the biophilia hypothesis, and it was first popularised by Edward O. Wilson in his 1984 book, Biophilia. Wilson’s theory is based on the premise that human attachment to animals is linked to survival – in pre-historic times, early humans relied on animals to alert them to danger. Therefore, if an animal was upset, humans knew danger was afoot – in the same way, if the animal was content, humans felt safe.

This connection is why animals are good to have around – they have an innate connection to human happiness and contentment. The biophilia hypothesis is the basis for all animal-assisted therapy – from emotional support animals to service animals. While your household pet might not be a trained therapy animal, their very presence can be enough to relax a foster child as they enter the new environment of your home.

  1. Pets help with forming connections

We’ve covered off many of the anxieties facing first time foster carers before, and one of the issues we often hear about is a fear of a lack of connection with your foster child. Crafting a stable relationship with your foster child is vital for ensuring their continued development and well-being. However, beginning to build this relationship can be daunting. Sometimes, if a foster child has come from a difficult situation, they will be reticent to reach out and connect with another person – especially a parental figure.

This is where the pets come in. While it may be difficult for a child to connect immediately with an adult, they find building a relationship with a pet to be much easier. The biophilia hypothesis comes into play here, as children feel immediately connected to an animal – because they feel that it has their best interests at heart.

Pets can help foster children – especially those who have come from situations where trust has been broken – to begin to trust again. Once they have formed a connection with your pet, they will, in time, come to trust you just as much.

  1. Pets are fun!

We can talk all day about the scientific side of things – but the biggest benefit of welcoming a foster child into you and your pet’s home is that it’s a whole lot of fun!

There are tonnes of fun things to do with pets and children – even something as simple as going for a walk in your local park becomes an adventure. These activities provide moments where you and your foster child can create a bond – using your love for your pet as the building blocks to a healthy, fulfilling, trusting relationship.

Here are a couple of our favourite pet activities:

  • Go on an adventure walk in the woods
  • Play fetch in the back garden
  • Do a photo shoot
  • Dress up for Halloween
  • Teach them a new trick

These activities provide moments where you and your foster child can create a bond – using your love for your pet as the building blocks to a healthy, fulfilling, trusting relationship.

At Orchard Fostering, we believe in building brighter futures for foster children – and your pet can be a fundamental part of that brighter future. If you’re interested in learning more about fostering, contact us today. We’d love to hear from you – and Rover, too!