What Small Pets Are Good For Depression? [A Complete Guide]

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Animal companionship eases loneliness, stress, and depression. However, high-maintenance pets could require more time and effort than you’re able to devote. This can leave you wondering which small pets are best for depression.

The best small pets for people with depression are gerbils, rats, dwarf rabbits, and some lizards. These animals offer a similar emotional connection and comfort as dogs and cats. Most rodent pets provide you with intelligent, fun interactions. Rabbits and lizards are relatively low-maintenance while still being emotionally present.

Animals ease depression symptoms by providing emotional comfort and unconditional love. Additionally, they give their owners physical contact through petting, nuzzling, and cuddling. They may even serve as motivation to keep going since pets need your care and attention.

Do Pets Help Mental Health?

Many pet owners say that having a companion animal lowers their stress levels. This helps manage the symptoms of mental health problems, including depression.

Surprisingly, however, this can be a contentious subject for academics, psychiatrists, and psychologists. Harold Herzog, for example, argued that the ‘pet effect’ is simply an unproven hypothesis. This was shown in his research for Current Directions in Psychological Science.

In contrast, many studies show that animal companionship is beneficial to the mental health of people of all ages. A study in Professional School Counseling, for example, found that small animals were excellent companions. This was specifically for young children experiencing emotional upheaval or trauma. Researcher Barbara Flom found that young children were more likely to open up to counselors with animal support.

Likewise, Pauline Hall offered pet-positive research in the British Journal of Nursing. It showed that interaction with companion animals is beneficial to long-stay psychiatric patients.

These individuals, of course, do not have the opportunity to personally own pets, so the contact was limited. Nonetheless, Hall found that interaction even with small animals helped those having severe depressive episodes. Afterward, they were able to have more positive social interactions.

Psychology of Having A Pet

Of course, long-stay psychiatric patients are not representative of most people who have depression. Helen Brooks published research in BMC Psychiatry which showed that pets, small or large, are very good for people with depression.

In fact, she found the emotional support and connection offered by a pet was the most important element. This was especially true for those who have difficult relationships with those closest to them. Pets in the home can help people with depression:

  • Ward off loneliness
  • Enjoy emotional support
  • Manage their own symptoms more effectively

As a result, Brooks argued that pets should be seen as a major part of a person’s support network. This may seem strange, but evidence suggests that pet ownership offers the following benefits:

  • Lower stress levels
  • Reduced symptoms of anxiety compared to non-pet owners
  • Boosted self-esteem
  • Social connection
  • A strong routine
  • Companionship and affection
  • Reduced depressive symptoms (compared to non-pet owners)

Emotional Support

Pets offer unconditional love. This affection, untroubled by day-to-day concerns, is comforting for many people. Owners can also speak freely to a pet without fear of judgment. This is paired with the sensation that someone – or something – is still listening. That can be therapeutic.

Outside Motivation

Having a pet ensures that you have something outside yourself to think about. You are responsible for:

  • Feeding it
  • Giving it water
  • Cleaning its cage
  • Seeing to its emotional and social needs

When a depressive episode strikes, it can be hard to get out of bed. Having a small pet to look after motivates many people.

Of course, keeping pets, even small, low-maintenance ones, works best when a depressive disorder is mild to moderate. Severely depressed people may be unable to take care of themselves, let alone an animal.

For example, owning a dog is known to promote regular exercise. Exercise has been shown to alleviate and manage symptoms of depression and anxiety. However, those who deal with severe depression may be unable to even feed themselves.

Physical Comfort

Human beings are tactile creatures. People often talk about the comfort of having ‘another heartbeat’ in the house. Playing with, petting, and interacting with companion animals can release the same chemicals in our brain as hugging a family member or friend.

This means that owning a pet is good for people with depression on a biological level. Physically touching another living thing regularly is essential to reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Most studies focus on larger, more popular companion animals, like dogs and cats. However, small pets can be better for people with depression.

  • Small Pets Are Accessible. It is more likely that small pets will be allowed into rented accommodation.
  • Small Pets Require Less Rigorous Daily Care. Unlike a dog, a gerbil doesn’t need to be walked regularly. Its food may only need refilled once every few days.

Choosing Small Pets To Help with Depression

The best relationships are mutually beneficial. This is true for humans and their animal companions. By choosing a small pet that suits your personality and living conditions, you will improve its life as well as your own. After all, life in a shelter is not exactly relaxing for most animals.

However, if you deal with depression, it’s important to make sure your pet will be properly cared for, even during your bad days.

Ask for Outside Advice

Sometimes it’s difficult to choose a pet objectively. You may feel like a high-energy companion is what you need, but is it really? It may help to ask your therapist or friends about suggestions. Based on your:

  • Routine
  • Personality
  • The frequency of your down days

Get A Pet During Good Times

It’s smart to buy your pet at a time when you feel relatively ‘up’ or when your symptoms are under control. It will be easier to bond with your pet when you have the energy to do so. Likewise, it’s easier to get into the habit of fulfilling your pet’s needs during good days.

Consider Your Own Needs

With so many small pets you choose from, consider your needs.

  • Are you a morning or night person? This will influence if you want a nocturnal animal, or one that’s up at normal human hours. If you happen to suffer from insomnia during bad days, a night-time animal might help you.
  • What are your living conditions and budget? While rats and bearded dragons may live in habitats of roughly the same size, rats are substantially less expensive to care for.
  • How much time and attention can you give? Parrots need more intellectual stimulation and emotional interaction to be happy and healthy. If you know your depression hits hard, it may be wise to get a less interactive pet.

Best Small Pets for Depression

Once you have your ground rules, you can start looking for an animal companion. Here are small animals that best help people with depression:


Rodents are common pets because of their intelligence and charisma. Among all your choices, gerbils are one of the best for people with depression. Why?

They are also fairly cost-effective pets. Gerbils need specialized habitats, but the appropriate bedding and food are very affordable.

Of course, gerbils are intelligent, high-energy creatures. If you don’t give them the right toys or enough attention, you should expect bickering and chewing at the bars.

If you want mental stimulation, however, these gerbils will keep you on your toes. Bonding with them takes time and patience, but the payoff is well worth a gerbil’s ability to:

  • Play games
  • Recognize its owners
  • Remember mazes and patterns

Furthermore, if you hit a rocky patch, you will find that gerbils are comfortable being left alone for days at a time. They only need food, water, and each other’s company. Gerbils are also quite good-natured and not likely to bite. However, they are also not the cuddliest animals. They’re very small, so don’t expect relaxing afternoons on the couch.


Rats are some of the largest and most intelligent rodents. As pets, they are affectionate, energetic, and love interacting with humans. Like gerbils, they need a special habitat. Unlike gerbils, they need space to climb rather than dig, so their cages can be huge (and a little expensive). On the flip side, they’re relatively low-maintenance for those who are depressive.

  • A rat is a clean, hygienic animal.
  • Its bedding and food is easy to find (and affordable).
  • You only need to add food to the cage every other day
  • The bedding should only need changed once a week.

Due to its size and affectionate nature, a rat is far more likely to snuggle. You can cozy up with it if you are having a down day. However, there is a downside to owning a rat if you’re prone to major depressive episodes. The rat can quickly become lonely if you don’t play with it often.


Hamsters are the most common small pet. Cute, chubby, and cheap, they are also fairly affectionate. These nocturnal creatures can be kept alone or with others. However, be sure to buy them together to avoid cannibalism. They may not take well to new hamsters being added to their enclosure.

These are fiercely independent little creatures. Be prepared to spend the necessary time with them to form a bond. This can make it a large investment for someone who struggles with frequent depression. However, if you’re prone to more infrequent episodes, you’ll find the bond lasts in between these times.

Hamsters can live in relatively compact spaces. However, you should offer them as large a habitat as possible and place toys inside for enrichment. Their bedding and food are very easy to find and incredibly affordable. Plus, most rental properties will allow a hamster. Just make sure it doesn’t cause any damage if allowed to roam free in your living space.

The downsides are that hamsters can be a little feisty. They’re more likely to bite than gerbils or rats. They’re also a little more independent and may not always want you to handle or pet them.

Guinea Pigs

Like rats, guinea pigs are intelligent and affectionate rodents. They enjoy human company and interaction. Unlike rats, however, they are very vocal and will tell you how they are feeling.

They do need large cages and should be kept in pairs. A rabbit hutch is a good size for a guinea pig. However, these pets must be kept indoors, protected from the worst of the weather. This makes it hard to find an indoor habitat that really works for them.

In any case, be sure to let your guinea pig out regularly and play with it. These pets need exercise to stay happy and healthy. If you leave your guinea pig unattended for a day, you may find it vocalizing its discomfort. This can be a great motivation for certain people with depression. For others, however, it may be overwhelming.

If you choose a guinea pig, the most expensive part will be buying the necessary habitat. Guinea pig food and bedding are easy to find and very affordable. Guinea pigs also have a longer lifespan than many rodents, at around 7 years. As such, one will make a perfect long-term companion.


A chinchilla is considered an exotic pet, but it’s fairly easy to find in pet stores. It’s an intelligent, happy, and interesting animal. Chinchillas require intellectual stimulation and emotional connection, so it is best to keep more than one.

Chinchillas need large cages with plenty of toys. They should be let out of the cage for exercise every other day, at least. That’s especially true when they’re young. Once you have the correct habitat, owning chinchillas is not overly expensive.

However, it can take some getting used to. Most of all, a chinchilla will need a dust bath for its hygiene routine. The process can be energetic, so expect some mess, too.

Chinchillas can be very affectionate once they have bonded with a person. You can expect a cuddle or two if you take the time to forge a strong connection. On the whole, they can be comfortably left alone for a day or two at a time. So long as they’re provided with food, water, toys, and a dust bowl, they’ll self-entertain. With another chinchilla for companionship, this can be even longer.

Like guinea pigs, chinchillas have long life spans. In fact, a chinchilla in good health can live up to 15 years. This makes it a perfect companion but also a big commitment.


Rabbits are often seen as quintessential small pets for children. However, in truth, rabbits are more comfortable in a home with adults. Rabbits are the ultimate prey animal. As a result, they are not overly comfortable being lifted or kept in habitats where they have nowhere to hide.

House rabbits, too, like to run around and hide in small, dark spaces. When you get one, it is recommended that you research toilet training. Rabbits can be trained to return to their hutch to urinate and defecate. With this habit ingrained, you can let yours run around the house.

Once you form a bond with a rabbit, it is likely to be quite affectionate. All this takes is time and affection. If you’re having a bad day, well-bonded rabbits are happy to rest in your lap and accept petting.

While they will grow lonely if neglected for several days, most rabbits enjoy alone time. If you struggle with moderate depression, you shouldn’t find a rabbit’s need for attention to be overwhelming.

With a life span of 6 to 8 years, a rabbit can be a big commitment. However, bunnies do make perfect small pets for those who want a companion animal. Their affectionate and gentle nature will no doubt make you feel comforted and loved.

Exotic Therapy Animals for Depression

Of course, you don’t have to stick with rodents or even mammals. The only real requirement is that you choose a pet with a baseline level of intelligence. It must actually benefit from human interaction.

Animals like spiders or snakes, for example, aren’t great pets for depression. They can find over-handling stressful, and they have trouble bonding with humans. Other reptiles, however, can be great fits.

Bearded Dragons

A bearded dragon can create a very strong bond with its owner. Once properly bonded, it may even start sleeping on you or cuddling with you. However, as a slightly exotic pet, bearded dragons are not for everyone.

  • You may find it difficult to source one from a pet store.
  • With a life-span of 10 to 15 years, on average, bearded dragons are long-term companions.
  • If you get a bearded dragon it will need a heat/UV lamp to stay healthy.

It will also need a varied diet which includes:

  • Insects
  • Plants
  • Vegetables
  • Supplements

Once you get into the routine of what it needs, you will find that a bearded dragon is a fairly low-maintenance pet. It’s pleased with sunbathing, hunting crickets, and lounging around its enclosure. If you have severe depression, you’ll find your bearded dragon happy to entertain itself for several days.

As it grows, however, it may need a larger vivarium. Those who are left isolated for a week or more will need a companion. Of course, food and water should always be provided. Despite having a slower metabolism, it still needs to eat regularly.


All birds can be affectionate and loving to some degree. However, parrots really make the best pets for those living with depression. A parrot of any kind is an intelligent and complex animal with a long lifespan. In fact, some parrots can live upwards of 50 years. This means any parrot you get will be your lifelong companion.

The benefits of owning a parrot are many. These birds are very clever and can often learn to mimic people. Even if yours can’t, it will still form a strong bond with you. In fact, you could grow to understand each other. That’s because parrots can get depressed as well. Loneliness, stress, or substandard living conditions will make your parrot:

  • Depressed
  • Anxious
  • Potentially aggressive

While it may feel nice to share a common problem, be sure you are ready to commit to it. The parrot will need a large cage and a varied diet. Additionally, lots of toys and attention are a part of its everyday needs. On the whole, if you want a pet that is your partner in crime, a parrot should really be your first choice.

Taylor Bennett


Roy Wilkins spent more than four decades at NAACP and held the top job at the civil rights organization for 22 years, beginning in 1955.


Born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1901, Wilkins grew up with his aunt and uncle in St. Paul, Minnesota. While attending the University of Minnesota, he worked as a journalist at the Minnesota Daily and the St. Paul Appeal, a Black newspaper where he served as editor. After graduating with a degree in sociology, he became the editor of the Kansas City Call in 1923, a weekly newspaper serving the Black community of Kansas City, Missouri.

His journalism turned into activism as he challenged Jim Crow laws, and in 1931, he moved to New York City to become the assistant NAACP secretary under Walter Francis White. Three years later, he replaced W.E.B. Du Bois as editor of The Crisis, NAACP’s official magazine.


In 1950, Wilkins cofounded the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, a coalition of civil rights groups that included the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council. The coalition has coordinated the national legislative campaign behind every major civil rights law since the 1950s.

“The players in this drama of frustration and indignity are not commas or semicolons in a legislative thesis; they are people, human beings, citizens of the United States of America.” — Roy Wilkins

In 1955, Wilkins was named NAACP executive secretary (a title later changed to executive director), holding the position until 1977. One of his first actions at the helm of the organization was to support the Black-owned Tri-State Bank in Memphis, Tennessee, in granting loans to Blacks who were being denied loans at white banks.


Wilkins helped organize the historic March on Washington in August 1963 and participated in the Selma-to-Montgomery marches in 1965 and the March Against Fear in Mississippi in 1966. Under Wilkins’s direction, NAACP played a major role in many civil rights victories of the 1950s and 1960s, including Brown v. Board of Education, the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act.

A staunch believer in nonviolent protest, Wilkins strongly opposed militancy as represented by the Black power movement in the fight for equal rights. He wanted to achieve reform through legislative means and worked with a series of U.S. presidents toward his goals, beginning with President John F. Kennedy and ending with President Jimmy Carter. In 1967, Wilkins was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Lyndon Johnson.


After stepping down as NAACP executive director in 1977 at the age of 76, Wilkins was honored with the title NAACP Director Emeritus. His autobiography Standing Fast: The Autobiography of Roy Wilkins was published in 1982, a year after his death. In his book he calls for treating Black Americans with dignity, writing, “The players in this drama of frustration and indignity are not commas or semicolons in a legislative thesis; they are people, human beings, citizens of the United States of America.”

His legacy lives through the center named after him, the Roy Wilkins Center for Human Relations and Social Justice, established in 1992 at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. The military honored his contributions with the Roy Wilkins Renown Service Award, given to members of the armed forces who embody the spirit of equality and human rights.

Vivid Dream

It was still early when the first noises were heard. The king was deep in a dream when the walls of the castle began to fall. “What’s happening?” he asked, confused and groggy.

No one could have imagined what was happening. The sudden shock to life was overwhelming. The images in the rooms began to fade and the mirrors turned black. Before they could even react, the floor beneath them began to shake violently. It was as if everything was being lost.

An unseen force, more powerful than anything the citizens of the magical kingdom had ever felt, began to shake their brains. Ideas no longer made sense. A knight in golden armor fell from his horse as the floor disappeared and the fall seemed to go on forever.

“Wake up,” said the voice of a maiden.

But where am I?

“Hurry, go see what’s happening,” she urged.

The knight, still disoriented, felt the cold of the night grip him as he struggled to remember his mission. All he could see was darkness until the doorbell rang loudly, repeatedly. It was as if the magical world he had known all his life had been destroyed.

Finally, he managed to get up and search for a sweater to protect himself from the cold. The doorbells continued to ring in repetitive intervals, adding to his confusion. He stumbled towards the door of his room, the doorbells becoming louder and more deafening with each ring. The pain of the loss of his dream life repeated over and over again with each doorbell, each racket.

Finally, the woman lying next to him, who had been demanding an end to the situation, stood up from the bed and walked directly to the window to see what was happening. Another woman in a red dress was looking inside the house and gesturing wildly, though her words were indistinguishable.

She turned to look at Levin. “Who is that woman?” she demanded. “What is she doing in my house at three in the morning?”

Levin shrugged and looked at Anita. “I don’t know who she is,” he whispered.

Anita turned away, determined not to let the events get in the way of her return to the world of dreams, and walked back to her bed. She closed her eyes and was carried away by a group of small angels from the highest clouds to the earth. She felt like she was flying, looking at the beauty of the landscape full of mountains, meadows, and a great castle.

Levin, meanwhile, continued to lose touch with reality as he descended the stairs of the house to try and stop the racket.

“I told you not to come to my house,” said Levin in a low voice.

“You don’t treat me like that when we’re alone,” said Marisa.

“Whatever this is can wait until morning,” he pleaded.

“I’m not coming back to you,” Marisa said as she walked away.

Levin watched her go, feeling the weight of the loss of his dream life and the confusion of the reality that had taken its place.

By: Relato Corto


Rosa Parks occupies an iconic status in the civil rights movement after she refused to vacate a seat on a bus in favor of a white passenger in Montgomery, Alabama. In 1955, Parks rejected a bus driver’s order to leave a row of four seats in the “colored” section once the white section had filled up and move to the back of the bus.

Her defiance sparked a successful boycott of buses in Montgomery a few days later. Residents refused to board the city’s buses. Instead they carpooled, rode in Black-owned cabs, or walked, some as far as 20 miles. The boycott dealt a severe blow to the bus company’s profits as dozens of public buses stood idle for months. The boycott was led by a newcomer to Montgomery named Martin Luther King, Jr.


At the time, Parks led the youth division at the Montgomery branch of NAACP. She said her anger over the lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till and the failure to bring his killers to justice inspired her to make her historic stand. Four days before the incident, Parks attended a meeting where she learned of the acquittal of Till’s murderers.

In her autobiography, Rosa Parks: My Story (1992), Parks declares her defiance was an intentional act: “I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was 42. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”

As a result of her defiance, Parks was arrested and found guilty of disorderly conduct. NAACP joined her appeal, a case that languished in the Alabama court system. Segregation on public buses eventually ended in 1956 after a Supreme Court ruling declared it unconstitutional in Browder v. Gayle. Parks was not included as a plaintiff in the decision since her case was still pending in the state court.

“I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was 42. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.” — Rosa Parks


In addition to her arrest, Parks lost her job as a seamstress at a local department store. Her husband Raymond lost his job as a barber at a local air force base after his boss forbade him to talk about the legal case. Parks and her husband left Montgomery in 1957 to find work, first traveling to Virginia and later to Detroit, Michigan.

Parks supported the militant Black power movement, whose leaders disagreed with the methods of the nonviolent movement represented by Martin Luther King. Her break with other Montgomery leaders over the future of the civil rights struggle contributed to her departure from the Southern city.

Parks was struck by the similarity in treatment of African Americans in Detroit, finding that schools and housing were just as segregated as they were in the South. She joined the movement for fair housing and lent her support to local candidate John Conyers in his bid for Congress.

After he was elected in 1965, Conyers repaid the favor by employing Parks as his secretary in his Detroit office, a position she held until her retirement in 1988. In the role, Parks worked with constituents on issues such as job discrimination, education, and affordable housing.

Parks remained active in the civil rights movement in the 1960s and helped investigate the killing of three Black teenagers in a 1967 race riot in Detroit.


Over the course of her life, Parks received many honors, including NAACP’s Springarn Medal in 1979, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996, and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1999. After Parks died in Detroit in 2005 at the age of 92, she became the first woman to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C.

California, Missouri, Ohio, and Oregon commemorate Rosa Parks Day every year, and highways in Missouri, Michigan, and Pennsylvania bear her name.


Carter G. Woodson was a scholar whose dedication to celebrating the historic contributions of Black people led to the establishment of Black History Month, marked every February since 1976. Woodson fervently believed that Black people should be proud of their heritage and all Americans should understand the largely overlooked achievements of Black Americans.


Woodson overcame early obstacles to become a prominent historian and author of several notable books on Black Americans. Born in 1875 to illiterate parents who were former slaves, Woodson’s schooling was erratic. He helped out on the family farm when he was a young boy and as a teen worked in the coal mines of West Virginia to help support his father’s meager income. Hungry for education, he was largely self-taught and had mastered common school subjects by the age of 17. Entering high school at the age of 20, Woodson completed his diploma in less than two years.

Woodson worked as a teacher and a school principal before obtaining a bachelor’s degree in literature from Berea College in Kentucky. After graduating from college, he became a school supervisor in the Philippines and later traveled throughout Europe and Asia. In addition to earning a master’s degree from the University of Chicago, he became the second Black American after W.E.B. Du Bois Harvard University. He joined the faculty of Howard University, eventually serving as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.


After being barred from attending American Historical Association conferences despite being a dues-paying member, Woodson believed that the white-dominated historical profession had little interest in Black history. He saw African-American contributions “overlooked, ignored, and even suppressed by the writers of history textbooks and the teachers who use them.”

For Black scholars to study and preserve Black history, Woodson realized he would have to create a separate institutional structure. With funding from several philanthropic foundations, Woodson the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915 in Chicago, describing its mission as the scientific study of the “neglected aspects of Negro life and history.” The next year he started the scholarly Journal of Negro History, which is published to this day under the name Journal of African American History.

Woodson came to believe that African-American contributions “were overlooked, ignored, and even suppressed by the writers of history textbooks and the teachers who use them.”


Woodson’s devotion to showcasing the contributions of Black Americans bore fruit in 1926 when he launched Negro History Week in the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Woodson’s concept was later expanded into Black History Month.

Woodson died from a heart attack at the age of 74 in 1950. His legacy lives on every February when schools across the nation study Black American history, empowering Black Americans and educating others on the achievements of Black Americans.

Throughout the course of his life, Woodson published many books on Black history, including the A Century of Negro Migration (1918), The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861 (1919), The History of the Negro Church (1921), and The Negro in Our History (1922).

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