depressed man holding a guinea pig

Small Pets to Help Treat Depression (9 Pets That Make You Feel Happy)

Small pets are excellent companions. They improve emotional well-being and help their owners deal better with trauma. Pets can help calm people with severe depression and drive them towards better social interactions.

Small pets, emotionally connect with their owners, warding off loneliness. This emotional bond becomes support, giving people with depression an effective method of managing symptoms.

A pet, large or small, is, therefore, a fantastic source of emotional strength, comforting physical and emotional support, and constant motivation. Some of the best small pets that will make you happy include;


Gerbils 

Do you know that 30 minutes of interaction with your favorite pet can increase the levels of hormones such as oxytocin, prolactin, dopamine, beta-endorphin, and beta-phenylethylamine in the body?

These hormones enhance the feeling of gratification and happiness and are great mood boosters!

They say that the best things often come in small packages. A Gerbil might be one of the smallest pets out there, but its charisma and intelligence will do wonders for sullen moods.

Gerbils are inexpensive and easy to care for. First, in the wild, Gerbils are burrowing rodents, but are very easy to tame, since they are naturally social.

They have an agreeable temperament, so on hand taming them; you can cup them in your hands gently as you scratch the fluffy back of the heads or their sides.

Unlike other pets, their cages will stay odorless and clean, so you will only need to wash their cage and change their old litter twice a month at most.


Fish

Scientists say that the simple act of looking at a fish tank can help lower blood pressure, stress, and anxiety. Fish tank therapy works so well, you can equate its calming effects to some forms of meditation and relaxation therapy. This is the reason aquarium display tanks are hypnotizing and calming.

Purdue University researchers say that brightly colored fish in display tanks can enhance the well-being of people living with Alzheimer’s disease.

That said, fish are not your run-of-the-mill pet, for first-time pet owners. Fish are delicate pets, which may cost a tidy sum on purchase.

Their aquariums can be expensive to purchase, set up, and maintain and you will need some technical fish care knowledge to keep them healthy.

See this affordable aquarium we found on Amazon ( link )

Good fish maintenance practices might sound like lab processes and their upkeep chores might be a tad involving. Your fish will not interact with you as a dog would, but the bottom line is that their beauty and calming presence is priceless and calming.


Rats

Interacting with animals can be a valuable form of social support. This supportive quality of pets is very apparent amongst children, as noted by researchers from the University of Kansas.

These researchers say that a pet can enhance the feeling of competence amongst kids aged 7 to 14, building their self-esteem.

According to Therapy Animals Supporting Kids by the American Humane Association, pets can have significant positive effects on children that have gone through trauma. Rats are intelligent, large rodents that make energetic and affectionate pets.

They are low maintenance companions making them perfect for a depressive person. They are also super easy to maintain and affordable. Pet rats love to snuggle and are affectionate, so you can cozy up with your pet rat for some mood-boosting fun time.


Parrots

A pet parrot is another perfect pick-me-up kind of pet that will keep your sadness away. Parrots vary in size and a companion parrot can be a lover bird, five inches in size or a larger macaw, 40 inches in size.

Parrots have attractive plumage with the Lories spotting multiple colors and the Vasa parrot dotting a single color.

These beautiful birds are special souls with a unique affectionate dynamic. They are also intelligent and can live for decades with good care. Therefore, they make excellent lifelong companions.

Your pet parrot’s ability to mimic your voice and form a deep bond with you will be a constant source of emotional relief.

Nevertheless, parrots can become as depressed as their owners if left alone for long. You need to commit fully to a parrot and give it enough daily attention to reap the benefits of companionship and to keep it healthy as well.


Hamsters

Besides poultry, ducks, chicken, geese, and turkeys, hamsters are the most popular pets in the US. At least 887 of 1000 households keep a hamster, probably because they are not just small and chubby cute, but cheap. Hamsters are affectionate, small pets, and very independent. 

To bond with them, put in the time. Give your pet hamsters plenty of space and toys and watch out for their feisty attitude, which can lead to a bite.

A pet hamster will not be as easy to pet or snuggle with as rats or gerbils are, but their independence is an asset. They are much easier to tend to.

This sense of freedom might make it hard for you to bond with them, but their connection with you will last any of your depressive episodes.


Guinea pigs

Guinea pigs are only marginally less popular than hamsters in the US. They are small, easy to access, affectionate, and intelligent. Like all pets, guinea pigs live in the moment, with zero anxiety about the future or the past.

For this reason, they can help you achieve mindfulness as you look out for them. 

Your guinea pig can inspire you to find joy in the moment, easing anxiety. The beauty of keeping a guinea pig pet is that these small rodents are loud and vocal when expressing their feelings.

If you leave them lonely for long periods, they will not hesitate to vocalize their displeasure. 

Keeping a guinea pig pet will add routine and structure to your day, giving you the motivation that wards off depression. Consistency will keep you calm and in balance since your cute fluffy pet will not let you off the hook if you do not tend to them.

 The vocal nature of a guinea pig can overwhelm some people with depression, so choose your pet with care. While guinea pigs come cheap, their habitats are anything but low cost.

Nevertheless, their food is affordable, and with excellent care, your loud rodent friend could live for seven years.


Rabbits

Children love rabbits and with good cause. They are downright cute, binkying, and even purring when happy. Despite their charm, a rabbit should not be an Easter gift or starter pet.

As pets, rabbits are more suited to older children or adults, since they need more attention than most other pet companions do.

For this reason, cottontails are the third most discarded pets in shelters. Rabbits are prey animals and are timid. They love to hide and dislike being lifted.

little girl with a pet rabbit

You will often find them hiding in dark corners despite their natural urge to run around the house. Therefore, a rabbit owner has to toilet train their rabbits to ensure that they only defecate and urinate in their cage.

Bunnies can live for eight years, and if you bond with them, they will show you a lot of affection. On your bad days, your rabbit will soothe you while resting on your lap calmly.

You can pet them for sensory stress relief as well. Unlike other rodents, rabbits love some alone time, making it a perfect gentle pet for people with moderate depression. They will not feel overwhelmed by the rabbit’s emotional needs. 


Snakes

Are snakes not cold-blooded reptiles? Yes, they are, but they are not cold-hearted. A pet snake will not bond with you at the same level a cat or a dog can. These reptiles are still wild at heart.

Some vets say that snakes show some emotion beyond aggression and fear. They have high levels of curiosity and often display excitement.

They love human contact and will show pleasure when stroked, which could be their way of showing affection.

Pet snakes can bond well enough with owners and recognize them during feeding or handling. They will raise their necks when they want you to pet them. 

Snakes might not come to snuggle but will enjoy twisting around your arm, absorbing your body heat. Reptilian pets are perfect for a depressive person who has fur allergy. They are also perfect for pet owners that want exotic pets.


Bearded dragons

Bearded dragons, like snakes, are cold-blooded, but love to be held. They create unique bonds with their owners. A bearded dragon can cuddle up with you or even sneak into your bed for companionship.

These little reptiles can live for 15 years, so they are long-term companions. They are low maintenance pets that love to sunbathe, lounge, and hunt tiny insects.

They can keep themselves busy for days on end, making them the perfect pet for busy people. To keep your little dragon happy, do not leave them alone for more than a week. Give it enough water, food (plants, insects, veggies), and a UV or heat lamp to keep it warm and cozy.

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Conclusion: Pets to Help Treat Depression

Small pets make the best companions for depressive people because they work for any dwelling, big or small. Most of them are also not high maintenance, needing less devotion and care for busy pet owners.

When choosing the best small pet for emotional support, think about their personality and routine. Consider their emotional needs, so that your down days do not leave your companion pet lonely and depressive.

Hutch and Cage.com does not provide veterinary advice. Our aim is to provide the reader with information to enable them to make a good decision when making a purchase or caring for their pet. All content is therefore for informational purposes only. If you're concerned about the health of your pet you should seek medical advice from a vet.