The animal-empathy connection in children

It has long been understood that animals can play an important role in our lives from providing devoted companionship to helping the visually impaired navigate the world. Animals have also been shown to provide health benefits from lowering blood pressure to increasing physical fitness by encouraging multiple daily walks and active playtime. But animals can also play a very significant role in helping children develop their EQ – Emotional Quotient, and their ability to feel and demonstrate empathy.

The importance of empathy…besides the obvious!

Children who develop empathy skills early in life may enjoy many rewards down the road from increased ability to handle stress to developing stronger interpersonal skills which can lead to career and relationship success. Children who are taught empathy also learn how their actions affect others and are therefore more likely to treat the people, and animals, they meet with kindness.

A pet is great…but not the only option

Having a family pet is a great way to teach children that all living beings have feelings, emotions and needs, but having a pet may not be practical for every family. There are many things to consider when you take an animal into your home because that is a commitment for life! For example, there are expenses and lifestyle considerations. Of course, if opening up your home to an animal works for your family, that’s a great way to teach your kids empathy! If a pet isn’t something you can consider, there are other ways for children to interact with animals that can have the same empathy-boosting results:

Visit a local animal shelter or sanctuary

A quick Google search will help you find a shelter or sanctuary in your area. Visit often so your child can get to know the residents as individuals with a range of emotions and personalities.


If your child is old enough, volunteering at a local shelter or sanctuary is another great way to foster a sense of empathy as your child learns about the physical, and emotional, needs of the residents.


Every little bit helps when it comes to shelters and sanctuaries who are caring for rescued animals. Consider having your child donate a part of their allowance to the organization, or let them pick an item out from the organization’s “Wish list” to donate, so they can be an active participant in helping provide for the animals.