They are better than family at times......
As far back as I can recall in my life as a developmental psychologist, I have included pets as part of the family when I teach psychology courses.
Maybe it's because I have always had pets and loved them or maybe I always knew that pets were important members of the family psychologically.
Anyway I was very happy to see this research on pets:
Children who are facing adversity, such as illness or parents splitting up, are more likely to confide in their pet than brothers or sisters, according to research.
This does not surprise any of us with pets.....and it fits with what we know about service dogs - especially service dogs for those with issues like PTSD such as ex-military personnel.
The researcher added that the children turned to their pets more than they did to their friends or family even though they knew that the pets did not understand what they were saying.
Many of us, including myself, would not agree with the part about the pets not understanding - we think they do. Dogs and cats seem to know exactly what is going on with their humans.