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20 Best Small Pets for Depression (Great for Companionship Too!)

best small pets for depression

It has been proven that animals, and particularly pets can help with depression and feelings of anxiety. And no wonder, as they can act as companions even better than some humans do.  Have you been wondering:

  • What is the best pet for someone with depression?
  • What pets are good for mental health?

The best pet for someone with depression or mental health issues will vary because it all depends on the type of pet, the personality of the pet, and how you cope with depression. 

If you’re someone who prefers having tinier companions around, there are a number of small pets that can help you cope with depression. Research has shown that pets can help us to feel loved, lower our blood pressure and even decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, having a pet around could help with your symptoms and improve your sense of well-being. This is because animal companionship brings emotional support that is totally unselfish. In most cases, animals can sense when their owners are under stress and will seek to comfort them. 

Let’s take a look at some of the best small pets for depression and how they help with coping.

20 Ideal Small Pets for Depression and Anxiety

Small pets can be some of the most convenient pets to own especially for beginners. The small pets listed are not only good for depression but make great companions for various life issues. You might be interested in finding low-maintenance pets that don’t require much upkeep, especially with a busy lifestyle.

Mental health problems can come with a host of complications, and you won’t want to pressure yourself too much. Some of these pets are perfect for adults, and even children can care for some of them! Here are the most popular small pets that you most likely know.

1. Guinea Pigs

Hamster eating leaf

One thing to know about guinea pigs is that they are very loving pets.

They are not only gentle, but they also enjoy interaction with their owners and are very personable.

They are best kept in pairs as they are sociable creatures and this is a necessity if you won’t be around your pet for most of the day. One thing to know about guinea pigs is that they are very loving pets.

They are not only gentle, but they also enjoy interaction with their owners and are very personable. They are best kept in pairs as they are sociable creatures and this is a necessity if you won’t be around your pet for most of the day.

It’s important to know that these little cuties need time outside of their cage every day to explore and get active. Guinea pigs also need exercise, which keeps them healthy. When you first get your guinea pig, the little fella (or gal) might be shy but will tend to warm up to you after a little while.

2. Hamsters

Hamsters are one of the most ideal small pets for depression due to their friendly and docile nature. They might get rough and tumble with each other, particularly male hamsters, but are very loving with their human counterparts.

Hamsters want to feel safe in their environment, so before purchasing one, make sure you choose comfortable bedding and create places for them to explore. Hamsters may have a spunky attitude and are more likely to bite than small pets like mice if frightened.

However, by treating them gently and learning how to hold your hamster properly, you’ve taken the first steps to befriending your furry friend!

3. Gerbils

Did you know that gerbils are one of the most popular small pets, especially for kids? Yes, and they can be a great help when dealing with depression due to their fun and lively personalities. Also, they won’t require too much clean-up time, because they are clean animals and very low maintenance. 

If you’re someone who loves shopping, you’ll be happy to know that their accessories are very affordable and they will be happy playing around with their toys. Gerbils love a lot of attention and can even play games with you! They might also be one of the best small pets for cuddling.

But if you do need time for work, school, and daily activities for extended periods, gerbils don’t mind being alone. They do take time to warm up to you and may not always want to cuddle, but they still make excellent pets for companionship once they trust you. 

4. Bearded Dragons

If you love reptiles and wouldn’t mind a calm and peaceful small pet, look no further than the adorable bearded dragon. While not for everyone, this small pet can do wonders if you’re feeling the blues. Bearded dragons are very smart and their connection with their owners will grow over time. 

Bearded Dragon Pet

They also tend to get calmer as they grow older which makes them easy pets to have around. What might surprise most people is that bearded dragons like to cuddle! This is one way they show affection especially when they want to stay warm outside of their terrariums.

Because of their small size and simple nature, caring for them is straightforward. Just be sure that they have a properly sized gallon tank and a durable enclosure with sufficient heat and lighting. 

5. Dogs or Puppies

Who doesn’t love dogs and puppies? Their popularity cannot be argued as about 69 million US households own a dog! These little munchkins are well loved and it’s no wonder why. Dogs or man’s best friend are generally found to be:

  • Loyal
  • Honest
  • Prudent
  • Kind
  • Protective
  • Affectionate

They have been proven to reduce loneliness, depression, and anxiety. Dogs have such a calming effect, that they have been found to lower blood pressure in their owners. If you love to get active, your dog will make the perfect companion.

You can take them for walks, playtime in the park, fishing, hiking, and other adventures. Dogs are so loyal that whenever you’re feeling down, they make the best company and will help soothe your worries.

6. Cats or Kittens

  If you’ve ever owned a cat, you know just how mysterious they can be. Some people avoid them for this very reason, while others love this because it keeps them guessing. I’ve owned three cats in my lifetime and they make great pets.

One of the greatest benefits of having cats is that they are low-maintenance pets. While dogs require walks, grooming, and cleaning, cats don’t require all that. If you work from home, you might not even notice they’re around due to their quiet nature.

They will even cuddle next to you while you’re watching TV or on your phone. Cats also help their owners feel happier and develop better sleep patterns too. 

watercolor cat

Cat Facts

Cats live for an average of 12 – 15 years. There are about 500 million domestic cats worldwide and they enjoy playing – a lot! Play fighting is a way to practice their hunting skills, much like big cats in the wild.

7. Degus

Most people probably have never heard of Degus, but they are a worthwhile pet to have around. Degus are a small rodent that looks like a merge between a rat and bunny (in my opinion anyway). You’ll be happy to know that Degus are easily tamed and are very social animals.

They also love to play and will get aggressive if they do not get enough attention. Degus are also sensitive to loud noises, so it’s best to keep a quiet environment if you decide to house one. The best type of food for Degus include:

  • Timothy Hay
  • Alfalfa Hay
  • Leafy greens
  • Carrots

The only downfall to Degus is that they are considered an invasive species in some US states, so be sure to check for legality in your state. 

8. Love Birds

Love Birds as Pets

Who doesn’t love the gorgeous display that’s iconic of love birds? The bright green and red shades really help them to stand out and matches their bold personalities! Though they tend to be a little more feisty than birds like parakeets, they show plenty of affection once they bonded with you.

They will remain tame once you handle and spend time with them each day.  And their many quirks should keep you feely happy too! Despite the long-held belief that love birds have to be held in pairs, this is far from the truth. Not only does a lone love bird stay chirpy, but they also tend to bond easier with their owners too. 

9. Sugar Gliders

There is a lot of controversy about sugar gliders and whether they should be kept as pets. This controversy stems from the fact that sugar gliders require specialized care that most people cannot offer. Sugar gliders are native to Australia and Indonesia and are very sociable animals.

They are nocturnal, which means they might be asleep for most of the daytime. Because they require specific care, they are not great pets for kids or first-time pet owners. As with Degus, they are illegal in certain states, and some locations require permits to have them.

10. Chinchillas

Apart from their cool name, Chinchillas are friendly rodents that will bond with their owners and are easily tamed. One thing pet owners will love about chinchillas is that they are very playful and active. However, they are nocturnal and will do most of their activity at night.

This means you may have to sleep in separate quarters if you’re a light sleeper. If you have children in your home, it is essential that are taught to be gentle with chinchillas to gain their trust. Chinchillas are one of the best small pets for depression due to their cuddly nature.

11. Pet Rat

When I was younger, the thought of having a pet rat would send shivers down my spine. Turns out, rats are really popular pets. Surprisingly, rats are very social creatures and should not be kept alone. It’s best to keep same-sex pairs together to keep both happy.

Pet rats enjoy eating fruits, veggies, and mealworms and you can also feed them rat pellets. You should ensure that your pet rat gets a lot of exercise and have comfortable housing. 

12. Fennec Fox

Have you ever thought about having a fox as a pet? Probably not, but the fennec fox has become very popular in the past few years. Even though they now live in the homes of many humans, their native land is the Sahara Desert.

Their most noticeable features are their oversized ears which make them look like a cute cartoon character. But do fennec foxes make good pets, especially for people with depression?

Yes, they do!

They are very active and playful -much like dogs! That means you’ll have lots of time to play around with them and get active. However, one thing to know, is that they still have a naturally wild instinct, even when captive-bred.

Be aware that they might get noisy and will sometimes like to have alone time. Also, they are not considered domesticated animals and might get aggressive with other pets, so it’s best to keep them as solo pets in your home. Check for your state’s requirements for keeping fennec foxes. 

13. Axolotls

One of the cutest and most endearing small pets you could own are Axolotls. If you’re new to these mysterious munchkins, they are a type of salamander with webbed feet also called a ‘water dog’ in ancient times by the Aztecs.

axolotl pet

They are found in Lake Xochimilco and Lake Chalco in southern Mexico City and can actually change their hue to a different color.

Talk about a cool superpower!

If you’d like to take on an Axolotl as a pet, they are relatively easy to care for but do require special temperature conditions to live comfortably. They enjoy eating bait worms and you can give them the occasional frozen shrimp treat too. 

14. Fish

Can a pet fish help with depression? They most definitely can, as it has been stated that watching fish in an aquarium can actually lower blood pressure.  One of the best pet fish for beginners, or anyone for that matter, is goldfish. 

Unlike what most people might think, goldfish should not be kept in a fish bowl, but in an appropriately sized aquarium with ideal filtration. They are easy to care for and you can even keep them in an outdoor pond, once they get to a colossal size.

One thing you’ll notice quickly about goldfish is that they absolutely love to eat. Keep them happy with foods like vegetables, spirulina algae, and high-quality fish food from the pet store. 

15. Rabbits

Rabbits were one of my dream pets while growing up and I still really want one. If you too are intrigued by rabbits, they certainly do make great pets. One of the first things to do before you bring your bunny home is to pet-proof your home or apartment, as they are very curious creatures.

They will nibble on cables, wires, and carpeting, so it’s best to keep him in a safe and comfy spot. Rabbits enjoy eating grass, weeds, and bushes naturally, so be sure up stock up on hay or rabbit food from the store. They live for about 10-12 years and are a long-term commitment, so think about this before getting one for your household.

16. Turtles

If you’d like to have a pet around for a long time, then a turtle may be your best bet. Turtles do need a lot of space, so they are ideal for pet owners with larger homes or yards.  An aquatic turtle might be great for pet owners who love to watch their turtle’s antics in the aquarium when swimming about. 

However, they still do spend some of their time outside of the water, so you can still interact with them. Aquatic turtles can love between 15 – 25 years, so you should have plenty of time to bond and enjoy your lives together. 

17. Ferrets

Sometimes having a very playful and entertaining pet around can help with feelings of depression more than anything else can. They are a little mischievous and you will often see them digging and burrowing which is in their nature. 

Ferrets need a lot of exercise, so you could play with them for long periods between their nap times. If you’re someone who enjoys a lot of quality time with your pet, you’ll love ferrets as they are very sociable. 

18. Geckos

These small lizards are one of the most popular reptiles kept as pets and it’s no wonder why. They are easily tamed, gentle and docile creatures with beautiful patterns. There are more than 1,600 species of geckos and they live between 10 – 20 years.

Some popular breeds include:

  • Tokay geckos
  • Common house geckos
  • Leopard geckos
  • African fat-tailed geckos
  • Crested geckos

Geckos enjoy munching down on grub like crickets, meal worms, super worms,  and wax worms.


Before getting a gecko, keep in mind that they need an aquarium for housing with branches for climbing and other necessities. 

19. Hedgehogs


One of the first things you should know about hedgehogs is that they are nocturnal creatures. The two most common ones are the European hedgehog and the African pygmy hedgehog. They are both super cute and low-maintenance pets.

However, they still do require special care, as they have quills that could make cuddling with them difficult. Despite this, hedgehogs are very fun to have around. Not only can they run for miles, they also swim and climb too!

However, they still do require special care, as they have quills that could make cuddling with them difficult. Despite this, hedgehogs are very fun to have around. Not only can they run for miles, they also swim and climb too!

20. Mice

 Mice tend to be smaller than rats but are just as active. They are easy to care for and fun to watch while doing activities like building nests and playing. Mice are nocturnal and more active during nighttime and sleep during the day.

Each mouse is unique with its own color and personality. Mice that just came home might not like being handled, so you should try to gain their trust and be patient. 

Are These the Best Small Pets for Depression?

This might be up to your personal preference and how well you cope with the animal’s personality. However, these are some of the more popular small pets that are great for beginners and for the most part, don’t require much care.

These small pets can help to reduce anxiety, and feelings of loneliness. They can become ideal companion animals after developing a bond with them.

I recommend doing thorough research and even talking with a vet if you’re truly interested in keeping a small pet to help with depression, to see which would be best for you.

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