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Published: Aug 30, 2012

Having a pet, such as a cat or dog, is a big responsibility for people of all ages. After all, a pet requires time, attention and regular trips to a veterinary hospital, among other things.

However, a new study conducted by French researchers suggests introducing a pet into the home of a child with autism may help improve his or her social behaviors.

According to HealthDay news, researchers from the Autism Resource Center of Academic Hospital in Brest, France compared the social interactions of autistic children in three different situations - households that had never had a pet, homes that had had a pet since the child's birth and households that had acquired a pet after the child turned 5.

In total, 260 autistic kids between the ages of 6 and 16 were involved in the study.

The research revealed that kids who got a pet after age 5 showed improvement in their abilities to share with others and to offer comfort, Fox News reports. Youngsters who had a pet since they were born and those who never had a pet showed no such improvement.

Experts say that having a pet may help improve kids' social behavior by distracting them.

"When a human and a pet are interacting, each partner uses signals emitted by the other to adjust their behavior," researchers said, according to Fox News.