The 10 Best Small Pets For Anxiety

the best pets for mental health

best small pets for anxiety

The 10 Best Small Pets For Anxiety 


The 10 Best Small Pets For Anxiety

If you’re looking for entertainment and a pet that is fairly easy to take care of, a cat might be for you.

They can be playful and fun which can improve your mood while keeping your mind occupied. Many people consider them to be one of the best pets for loneliness.

They’re easy to come across at pet stores, online, and are often even free. Because they’re a popular pet there are a lot of options for advice, and pet care.

When it comes to illnesses you’ll be able to find a veterinarian much easier than if you were to own a more exotic animal.

You’ll also have tons of options in pet stores and online for food, toys, & beds. This makes them a fairly convenient animal to own.

A lot of people are knowledgeable about cats & comfortable around them, which makes them easier to rehome than most other animals.

Another cool thing about cats is that they can go outside.

If you’re frazzled with the cat being around, you can let it out.

This option isn’t available for all animals.

Their personalities do vary so it can be a good idea to test out how affectionate, outgoing, and shy they are before bringing them home.

Positives About Owning a Cat

  • They’re playful
  • They’re relatively low maintenance
  • They’re affectionate (sometimes)
  • Supplies are easy to find

Negatives About Owning a Cat

  • Their personalities vary
  • They have the ability to destroy furniture
  • They can live up to 20 years


The 10 Best Small Pets For Anxiety

Rabbits can be a fun animal to own. They’re fluffy and quiet.

You can keep them inside or outside.

There are different kinds of rabbits to choose from.

They’re common enough that you should be able to find food, cages and animal care relatively easy.

They are also a pretty low maintenance and overall a cheap pet to own.

To start you’ll likely want an enclosure, food dispenser and water dispenser. After the initial cost you really only need to spend money on food and the occasional vet visit. 

In my experience, rabbits are pretty messy. They molt, poop everywhere, spill their food & get bedding everywhere.

When I owned them I kept them outside & had to unthaw their water every morning & night (but I live in Michigan).

There are some ways to prevent the water from freezing and if you keep up on their enclosure they aren’t that stinky to have around.

They are affectionate, fluffy, and pretty straightforward animals to own.

Positives About Owning a Rabbit

  • They’re soft
  • They can go inside & outside
  • Supplies are very accessible

Negatives About Owning a Rabbit

  • You have to socialize them if you want them to be sociable
  • They’re kind of messy
  • They might be boring to you
  • They can live up to 10 years


The 10 Best Small Pets For Anxiety

Dogs could easily be considered one of the best pets for anxiety and depression. They’re affectionate, calming (sometimes), and have amazing personalities.

They’re not the easiest animal to own but they’re incredible companions.

If your anxiety kicks in when you’re home alone or alone anywhere; a dog can provide a sense of security, which is a big deal! Dogs can protect you and and your home when you’re not there.

There are some drawbacks of owning a dog.

You’ll need to train them. You’ll need to cut their nails every once in a while and possibly groom them. You should definitely research breeds of dogs. Some are very energetic and will quickly become a ‘bad’ dog if they’re not getting the exercise they need.

They can easily become a headache if they’re not getting enough mental and physical stimulation.

Consider the space you have, the yard you have, the family you have, and the environment you live in when you pick a breed. Some dogs are harder to train than others & the degree of grooming they require varies tremendously.

If you’re highly anxious & purchase a dog that needs to be groomed often, consider if you’re willing to groom them yourself; every month or so, using clippers, for various increments of time, in their face, with scissors… it can be stressful.

If you are not wiling to groom them, make sure to consider the cost of grooming for the dog.

Dogs can sense your energy and this means if you are indeed a very anxious person, your dog may adopt that anxious energy as well.

Be mindful of what behaviors you’re rewarding (sometimes unintentionally) when you have a dog, as you can easily foster an anxious state of mind.

The cost of a dog is something to consider. They will need food, water, possibly a fenced in yard, a vet, perhaps need to be fixed, they’ll likely need a leash, collar, & toys. They can easily be an expensive pet.

If you get a puppy they’re going to need quite a bit of training in the beginning which can be pretty stressful. They’re also going to go through more toys and chewy things during their puppy phase and when teething. You may need a dog sitter, walker, or other pet care for them.

Because they’re so common you can easily find resources, training, advice and supplies for them. 

Many people love training their dog, feel a sense of companionship and feel safe with them. It’s worth mentioning that the extra exercise can do wonders for your mental health, including anxiety.

They also give people a sense of purpose and that can really benefit our mental health.

They could easily be considered one of the best emotional support animals for anxiety. Their playfulness, personalities, and protection easily make them one of the best small pets for anxiety. 

Positives About Owning a Dog

  • They provide a sense of security
  • They have a lot of personality
  • They’re affectionate & snuggly
  • They’re calming (sometimes)
  • Supplies are accessible

Negatives About Owning a Dog

  • Some need a lot of exercise
  • Must be trained; which can be extensive
  • They bark
  • They live 10-15 years
  • They chew things
  • They can be expensive


The 10 Best Small Pets For Anxiety

Yes, RATS! Among all the little critters in this category; gerbils, mice, hamsters, etc. Rats are superior, and I really believe that. I’ll tell you why.

I’ve owned hamsters and mice & while they’re small, they do bite. Guess what, gerbils bite too. Rats are smart, social, and friendly. Rats are one of the most intelligent animal species there are. They are actually affectionate and even empathetic.

Our pet rat sat on my shoulders for hours watching TV with me. They will occasionally drop some turds on you but their droppings are much smaller than a lot of other animal poo!

They’re not smelly, they are easy to care for & they don’t take up a lot of space. They’re cheap, you can find supplies easily & they’re very social. This is worth mentioning too, because you want a pair if you’re getting a rat. They easily can be lonely and bored.

You should have the rats together from the very beginning because they’re not always accepting of newcomers (I learned this the hard way).. You may want to get two rats of the same sex so they don’t breed. On average rats live 2-3 years.

Positives About Owning a Rat

  • They don’t take up much space
  • They’re friendly
  • They’re cuddly
  • They’re cheap

Negatives About Owning a Rat

  • They poop on you
  • They pee on you
  • Some people are scared of them


The 10 Best Small Pets For Anxiety

Ferrets are quirky and entertaining. They range from $70-$250.

They can certainly be seen as one of the best small pets for kids; if you’re willing to put up with the cost and smell of a ferret.

The cost of ferrets varies but unfortunately their smell is unwavering. 

Aside from the distinct ferret smell, they’re really quite likeable.

They’re comparable to a playful kitten.

They pounce, jump, wriggle, can even use a litter box & enjoy scratching & chewing. They don’t mind being picked up & handled.

They tolerate water and other animals. They will cuddle and LOVE to play, especially when they’re young.

The ferret we had did tear up our carpet in the corners of rooms & chewed the buttons off of every remote… I’d honestly own one again though.

It’s not uncommon for people to end up acquiring 2-3 ferrets just because of their warm personalities.

I believe we fed ours cat food, which I’m not sure is ideal.

You will likely need a cage, watering and feeding supplies, food, and some toys.

Ferrets can be incorporated into a home similarly to a cat, but they also can be kept in cages if you’d rather avoid having a free-range ferret.

If you do go with a cage, you’ll need a pretty big one, which can be pricey.

Most owners have one that’s at least 10ft in length and 6ft in height.

A ferret can live up to 10 years.

You can find ferret supplies in most pet stores as they’re fairly common animals to own. They can learn to use the bathroom outside, they can use a litter box & they can be trained to do tricks.

They enjoy tunnels, platforms, hammocks, huts and most cat toys. Also, just a heads up; they can have fleas. 

Positives About Owning a Ferret

  • They’re funny
  • They’re adorable

Negatives About Owning a Ferret

  • Can be expensive
  • They stink


Fish are not one of the best small pets for cuddling but they can be a good option if you’re willing to overlook that detail. There are TONS of fish species and their level of care varies dramatically. It’s worth doing some research before diving in.

Most pet stores sell fish and they’re typically knowledgeable about owning and caring for them.

It can be interesting exploring the options for your fish tank. You can go big or small and even have fish inside or outside, depending on your climate. They’re a rather simple animal which can be a relief but also a drawback.

They don’t have to be trained, groomed, or given much attention. They’re not going to get bored and chew your couch up. They don’t need to take up a lot of space but can still be comforting and relaxing.

You’re able to go to work or even out of town without worrying much about pet care. You can easily purchase a battery operated fish feeder and not think twice about these pets while you’re out on a cruise or traveling the world. 

When you are home, the visuals of the tank can be a beautiful sight. The sound of the bubbler can be therapeutic too. Fish tank sounds are even used to help people sleep, relax, study, and meditate.

You can easily find fish supplies at pet stores or even used equipment for sale.

You can be creative with the design of your tank and experiment with different breeds of fish and plants for the tank.

You will need to clean the tank occasionally.

It’s also worth mentioning that fish and the supplies that come with them can be costly, especially when you’re initially acquiring the tank and other essential items that you’ll need. 

Positives About Owning a Fish

  • They’re simple 

Negatives About Owning a Fish

  • They’re simple

Guinea Pig

The 10 Best Small Pets For Anxiety

A guinea is another small animal that is fluffy and sweet. A lot of people claim they’re one of the best small pets for anxiety. They’re small, soft, affectionate and kind of cute.

If you do go for a guinea pig you should buy them in a pair.

Keep in mind that they are great at reproducing when you’re picking the genders of your pair. They are sociable and somewhat vocal.

They also are awake for MOST of the day, up to 20 hours. Some owners even claim that their guinea pigs don’t sleep, ever.

They like to burrow and hide so you’ll want to have hiding spots, toys, and bedding for them. They enjoy exploring and have great vision, hearing, and an amazing sense of smell. If you live in a mild climate you can even let them, or keep them outside.

You can feed them hay, guinea pig nuggets and vegetables. Be mindful of their diet because they do not create their own vitamin C. 

They live up to 8 years.

If you want to be able to snuggle with them just be sure to ease into handling them and they will warm up to you. If they’re scared they might freeze and as a last resort they will even bite.

They’re not considered smelly and if you change their bedding you shouldn’t notice any odor. 

They groom themselves and have sensitive skin. You don’t need to bathe them but keep an eye out for fleas. You can find Guinea Pigs and their supplies at most pet stores. Overall they’re a pretty easy animal to own.

Because they are fairly easy to care for they’re commonly a first pet for many! It’s a good idea to let them out of their cage for at least 15 minutes, ideally every day.

Make sure to give them time to warm up to you & they will be friendly, cuddly, chatty, and low maintenance pets.

Positives About Owning a Guinea Pig 

  • Low maintenance
  • Good first pet

Negatives About Owning a Guinea Pig

  • They need a well balanced diet
  • They need daily supervised time outside of their cage
  • Can be considered noisy
  • Must have two and be mindful of gender


The 10 Best Small Pets For Anxiety

Ah, yes. Ducks. They are tons of fun!

If there is one thing you should know about a duck it’s that they LOVE water.

The second most important thing is that they are pack animals.

You really should not buy just a single duck.

You’ll want to have water accessible to them at all times.

They’re a common animal to own so you can typically find supplies and information pretty easily.

You can find many duck breeds and duck feed at most tractor supply type stores. You can even order ducks through the mail. They’re usually pretty affordable but their enclosure might cost you some money initially. The good thing is you can typically repurpose animal enclosures.

They do grow fast so be prepared for a full grown ducks in less that 2 months & some breeds will be laying eggs in just 6 months.

You’ll need a way to keep them safe at night. I’ve kept them in cages at night, in barns, or with my goats.

A lot of other animals will eat them; fox, racoons, opossum, owls, snapping turtles, dogs, skunk, coyotes, mink, badgers, bobcats, hawks and more!

We also have had opossum and birds steal duck eggs that are left unattended.

In the past when I owned them I used kiddie pools and other tubs that I had to change daily or every other day for the ducks. It is a bit of a hassle. They’re truly gross animals. They will poop in their food, on each other, in the water, nothing is off limits.

Now that we live by a river, they are a perfect animal for our family. Living near a natural water source, that is accessible to them, will make them a MUCH more convenient animal to have.

You’ll still have to clean their feed bowl, water dish, and enclosure regularly.  They need food made for ducks, since they have different nutritional needs than chickens.

They can live up to 10 years but they’re commonly gobbled up by predators before that long.

They are relaxing to watch, they come up at night or go back to their enclosure (after getting use to the routine) & we’re always able to find someone to let them in & out & feed/water them when we’re on vacation.

I personally think they’re one of the best small pets for anxiety. There is something about ducks that feels very carefree and simple. You can appreciate their love for water and a pack of ducks waddling around is a welcome sight for so many people.

Birds can be very therapeutic. There are even “therapy ducks” just like there are dogs. 

Positives About Owning Duck

  • They lay eggs
  • They’re hardy

Negatives About Owning Duck 

  • They need an enclosure 
  • Need to be socialized if you want them comfortable around people


The 10 Best Small Pets For Anxiety

Iguanas are not usually considered one of the best small pets for anxiety but if you’re looking for a more exotic animal they could be perfect. They’re a good starter reptile, in my opinion. They’re not as expensive or dangerous as some other reptiles.

Though they are usually skittish and even aggressive at first, they can get use to handling. You’ll want to ease into handling them and gain their trust, using a routine can help tremendously.

Try to give them time to get use to being handled. Do not approach them from above or force them out of their hiding spot. It can take a few months for them to warm up to you.

Their temperament and personalities vary but they certainly can and do bond with their owners. 

They enjoy climbing, soaking and even swimming in water. You’ll want to have places for them to climb, hide and bask.

They will be long, growing to 7ft in length. A full grown iguana needs a minimum space of x6F in height x6F in width x12F in length. Enclosures can be expensive, some people even build their own.

You’ll also need to pay attention to lighting, humidity, temperature and their diet. They can easily become overweight and they require a source of calcium.

They’re commonly sold at pet stores, you can buy them online and sometimes you can even find used supplies for sale. 

They are prone to parasites. They can bite, scratch, and they do tail whip. Overall they’re usually pretty harmless but if they’re big enough a bite can certainly cause damage.

Their teeth are SHARP and made for tearing. Their tail whip is usually just startling.  You will want to limit their time out of the enclosure because they want to be humid and warm.

They are pretty territorial and you’re likely not going to want to own more than one. If you’re up for the challenge of taking on a reptile the Iguana might be your pet. They require some upkeep and are definitely not a pet for everybody. But, they’re interesting, beautiful and unique as far as pets go.

Here is more information on caring for a pet Iguana

Positives About Owning an Iguana

  • They’re unique

Negatives About Owning an Iguana

  • They live up to 20 years
  • They are not great for kids
  • They are not a starter pet
  • They will cost some money
  • Their bites can be serious

A Pet Leech

The 10 Best Small Pets For Anxiety

Ok, we’re getting even weirder! I picked this as one of the best small pets for anxiety because they’re SO easy to take care of. You literally just need a leech and a jar with a lid and you’re all set. Plus, they only eat every 2-12 months.

There are different kinds so you could research which kind you fancy the most.

Leeches usually come from ponds, lakes, rivers or other shallow waters. They can be found underneath rocks or plants. They come from eggs, which are very small. You can order them online and they’ll ship them right to you. 

A leeches lifespan varies, by a lot! They may live as short as a few months but can also live up to 10 years. There are some species that reproduce once then die. There are also species that will breed a couple times prior to dying.

You can experiment with different plant life with the leech or just have a completely empty jar. You could also even try fish and if your leech is well fed it may not be an issue.

There are plenty of leeches that prefer vegetation, in fact only a few leech species prefer blood and there are over 700 species. Being that they are parasitic, there is always a chance that they would latch onto other aquatic life though.

They may be the easiest pet to have.

You will never have to worry about finding pet care. They’re safe & affordable. You will certainly creep some people out but leeches are actually interesting and even mesmerizing to watch. It’s also not uncommon for leech owner to let their pet leech feed on them!

They’re not exactly the cutest or cuddliest animal but they’re certainly one of the many options for a pet. They are probably not the first thing that comes to mind when talking about the best small pets for anxiety but they should be.

They’re hardy animals that you won’t have to be overly concerned about caring for. 

Here is more information about pet Leeches

Positives About Owning a Leech

  • You’d be the only one you knew with a pet leech
  • They’re unique
  • They’re cheap
  • They don’t take up much space
  • They’re quiet

Negatives About Owning a Leech

  • Some people find them creepy
  • They’re not exactly “cuddly”


The 10 Best Small Pets For Anxiety 

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