"Can Fido and Whiskers enrich children’s lives?" a New York Times blogger asked recently. For plenty of pet-owning parents, the logical follow-up question is: "Was there ever any doubt?"
Studies cited by the Times found that "perinatal pets, especially dogs, may reduce the development of allergic disease" and "walking a dog may contribute to a physically active lifestyle" -- but mostly, "research is still limited." However, many believe there are broader lessons kids (and, let's face it, even adults) can learn from animal interaction.
It's hard to grow up persnickety about your appearance if there's a mud-loving, fun-seeking dog traipsing in and out of the house. A loyal cat can teach kids the value of quiet companionship, while a friendly pet (of either sort) sets a good example by purposefully seeking out and winning over uncomfortable guests. And don't forget that living with a pet makes children mindful of the neatness and relative safety of their surroundings -- since pets, like toddlers, are likely to get themselves into trouble if you give them the tools they need.
Below is a list from the HuffPost Parents community of the most important values children can draw from household dogs and cats (based on fairly nonscientific observation) along with their adorable photos. Click to add your own or tell us what we missed in the comments!