Pets are a child’s best friend, not their siblings, says a new research from the University of Cambridge. Apparently, children are more satisfied and get on better with their pets than their own brothers or sisters.

The study published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology supports the idea that having pets influence child development. The findings also suggest that having animal companions can be beneficial to a child’s emotional well-being and social skills.

”Anyone who has loved a childhood pet knows that we turn to them for companionship and disclosure, just like relationships between people,” explains lead researcher Matt Cassells, a Gates Cambridge Scholar at the Department of Psychiatry, Science Daily reports. “We 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”

The study involved children the age of 12 years from 77 families. The families also had pets and more than one kid. The researcher found that children have stronger relationships with their pets than their siblings. Meanwhile, the greatest satisfaction was found in owners of dogs.

”Even though pets may not fully understand or respond verbally, the level of disclosure to pets was no less than to siblings,” adds Cassells. “The fact that pets cannot understand or talk back may even be a benefit as it means they are completely non-judgmental.

The researchers also found that boys and girls are equally satisfied. However, girls reported more companionship and disclosure with their pets, suggesting that girls could be interacting with their pets in different ways.

“Evidence continues to grow showing that pets have positive benefits on human health and community cohesion,” states co-author Nancy Gee, Human-Animal Interaction Research Manager at WALTHAM. “The social support that adolescents receive from pets may well support psychological well-being later in life but there is still more to learn about the long term impact of pets on children’s development.”