Best small pets for depression (Our top 4)

We've all heard about therapy dogs, and although dogs can sometimes cause stress issues, it's generally agreed that dogs can be great companions for anyone feeling depressed. But what if you don't have the space or time for a dog? So many of us have busy lives in cities, and couldn't properly look after a dog. Luckily, there are lots of great smaller pets that can be great companions for anyone suffering from depression. We wanted to round up the best pet choices, let's get into it:



Cats - best for a low-key dog alternative

If you're looking for an animal that is most like a dog but way less hassle, then you can't get much better than a cat. They don't need walks, but the great thing about cats is that if you feel like taking them out for a walk, many cats are quite comfortable being put on a lead and taken outside. Cats are independent and can generally survive without human help, but they'll still rely on you for food and shelter so give you a responsibility without taking over your life. If you're feeling depression creep into your life, definitely consider getting a cat!


Rats - best for intelligence and easy to care for

So many people have the completely wrong idea about rats - not only are they actually very clean when kept as pets, but they're also highly intelligent, so much so that they can recognise faces and learn lots of skills and tricks. They're ideal for people with depression because they don't require huge amounts of attention, but if you want to engage with them when you're feeling lonely then they'll be up for it. Plus, you can walk about with a rat on your shoulder like some kind of pirate!


Ferrets - best for a bit of a challenge

If the idea of having a pet which doesn't require much attention actually sounds like a bad thing for you (maybe because you'd like something to distract you from depression), then perhaps consider getting ferrets. Firstly, we say "ferrets" plural because you always have to get 2 of them, otherwise they get very lonely. So straightaway, you've got double the work to do. Secondly, ferrets require quite a bit of attention and cleaning, because they can tend to smell a bit. You can keep them in the house but they're probably best kept in a warm shed or similar. Obviously none of this really compares to the attention that a dog requires, but ferrets will still keep you on your toes. Oh, and one other great thing about ferrets - they love to be taken on walks, so you can be known locally as the person that takes their ferrets out on a lead. Not sure if that's a positive or negative, to be honest.


Chickens - best for giving you a bit of responsibility 

Ok, so bear with us here. Chickens might not be very cuddly, and they might not chase balls (in fact, they might not even be pets). But in terms of giving you a purpose without taking over your life, we don't think there are many better pets to adopt than chickens. There are so many reasons that we think chickens can help people with depression - first of all, they require some attention. You'll have to change their beds and trim their beaks, plus collect their eggs. But all of this work is very low-key and very rewarding. You might start to feel a bit like a farmer! Keeping chickens will give you a reason to get out of bed in the morning, and we think that is key for people suffering from depression. Even if all you have is a small garden, you could still keep some chickens. Plus, you can often adopt chickens that have been kept in bad conditions on battery farms, which is really rewarding.


Finn is the editor of You Well and has been writing about travel, health, and more for over 10 years.

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