Animal companionship can work wonders for anxiety. That’s because it provides the emotional support needed to overcome restlessness, irritability, fatigue, and worry – all common symptoms of anxiety.
While we all know the healing effects bringing a dog into the family can do for our minds and souls, not all of us have the means for a large animal in the house. If you only have space for something small, you’ll find plenty of adorable animals that can help ease your anxiety, depression, and feelings of loneliness.
Whether it’s for yourself, your child, or a partner, there are a wide range of small pets that can help manage anxiety, boost your self-esteem, and promote a joyful and love-filled household.
Scroll down to hear our 13 top picks of the best small pets for anxiety.
Rabbits make great therapy pets for anxiety. These gentle, fluffy cuties are quick to bond with their owners, relatively low maintenance, and bursting with personality to keep your days interesting and fulfilling. And with that little twitchy nose…how can anyone resist bringing a bunny into their home?
Rabbits are a common small pet for children, but they make just as good of pets for adults, too. If you’re dealing with anxiety, and you’re looking to find relief in a furry friend, make the rabbit one of your first choices.
Once you form a bond with your pet rabbit, he’ll become very affectionate and won’t be able to resist resting in your lap for some cuddle time. That connection is just what you need when you’re suffering from anxiety.
Just be aware that rabbits have a lifespan of six to eight years, so try to decide whether you can fulfill the commitment before getting a pet rabbit. That said, it’s hard not to fall in love with these gentle and affectionate little furries.
2. Guinea Pig
Cuddly, cute, and playful, guinea pigs make the best pets when you’re dealing with anxiety or depression. According to folks on Quora, guinea pigs can be very helpful to have around when you’re feeling stressed, worried, or restless. That’s because they’re extremely sociable, very loveable, and not overly demanding.
Let him sit on your chest, and spend this time petting him to help calm your nerves and relax your mind. It should give you a sense of joy and contentment as you do this. Just make sure you keep him happy too by getting him a friend or two. Guinea pigs are happiest with their own kind.
The wonderful thing about guinea pigs is that they’re not high maintenance, so you don’t need to be tending to them all around the clock, which can trigger anxiety in those prone to it.
Social, curious, and even-tempered, ferrets make great pets – especially if you’re looking to alleviate symptoms of anxiety. They’re actually a common therapy pet for anxiety since they help instill a sense of calm in their caregivers, acting as a source of peace and relief in anxiety sufferers.
When they’re not being playful and incredibly amusing to watch, ferrets will cuddle up to you and enjoy some “we time.” You can snooze, read, or watch Netflix while cuddling up to your new bud – and enjoy the feelings of anxiety fading away.
In the beginning, they can be a little difficult to handle, which is why they don’t make the best pets for kids. However, you’ll soon get adjusted to one another and quickly fall in love.
Just be aware that pet ferrets can live for up to 15 years, so make sure you’re fully committed before purchasing or rehoming a ferret.
Turtles don’t often pop up when searching for the best small pets for anxiety. However, they really can make great pets if you’re experiencing anxiety in your life. Box turtles in particular can be extremely social and may be helpful in allowing you to better cope with your feelings.
Turtles are especially great for kids, as they’re small, even-tempered, and relatively easy to look after. They’re an excellent option for shy children or those afraid of larger animals.
While you can’t really cozy up to a turtle in the same way you would a cat, dog, or rabbit, his simple tranquil presence is enough to help soothe your mind and get you back on track.
A common household pet, hamsters are cute, chubby, and entertaining. They’re also rather affectionate if you’re looking to bring a loveable little family member into your home. As great as hamsters can be for alleviating anxiety, they are independent little creatures, so be prepared to invest time into forming a bond with your new pet. But once you do, you can enjoy lower stress levels, increased self-esteem, and reduced symptoms of anxiety.
Unlike a dog, hamsters don’t need to be walked every day. They also require less food. When you’re dealing with anxiety, the last thing you need is something overwhelming in your life. Having a pet hamster gives you the companionship and affection you need, without being too draining on your physical and mental energy.
Remember, care goes both ways. While you may rely on him for anxiety relief, don’t neglect his needs either. While hamsters live in relatively small spaces, they crave space and toys for enrichment. Ensure his habitat makes him happy by providing him with plenty of space and filling the area with plenty of toys and hiding spots.
Have you ever noticed how doctors’ and dentists often have huge fish tanks in their waiting rooms? That’s no random thing. They do it to help ease your nerves and instill a feeling of calmness. And it probably worked, right?
Research shows that aquariums can help lower your pulse rate, ease muscle aches and pains, and even encourage healthier eating. That’s how influential a fish tank can be!
Keeping a tank full of colorful fish can be a great way to boost your mood, increase focus, and reduce anxiety. While you won’t get that affection you’d get from animals you can hold and cuddle up to, simply watching tropical fish swim around can work wonders for your mental wellbeing. Best of all, they’re quiet, easy to keep, and don’t require too much attention.
Lizards are intriguing, low-maintenance, and emotionally-present, making them a great therapy pet for anxiety. Besides being perfect for adults like yourself, lizards also make wonderful pets for children thanks to their docile nature.
Surprisingly, lizards will sit with you when you’re upset – much like your pet dog would. He’ll just curl up next to you (or sometimes on you) and provide you with that much-needed emotional support.
It’s not just the act of connecting via physical touch that can help reduce feelings of anxiety, but the outside motivation involved. In other words, you have something to think about other than yourself. Between the feeding, watering, cleaning, and emotional fulfillment, you’re diverting your attention away from feelings of worry onto something more positive and outside of yourself.
In addition to being cute, fluffy, and funny, dogs can help people with anxiety and many other mental and physical health issues. Research shows that pet owners have lower blood pressure levels than those without pets. They can also help a person stay active and feel less lonely. What’s more, dogs can be great ice breakers when it comes to meeting new people, so don’t be afraid to get out there and bring Fido along with you whenever and wherever.
Studies show that simply spending time with your pet dog can significantly reduce your stress levels. According to a 2019 study, students who participated in an animal visitation program experienced lower stress hormone levels after just ten minutes of hands-on petting.
But which dog breed to choose? The experts suggest the teeny tiny chihuahua. Weighing no more than six pounds and requiring minimal exercise, chihuahuas are incredibly low maintenance pets. They also provide emotional support to help you through stress and loneliness.
These fun-loving pets are energetic, loyal, and perfect for snuggling up to while watching your fave TV show. You’ll feel like you have a friend for life in this little pooch.
Cats make wonderful companions. Plus, scientific evidence shows that having a pet cat can lower stress and anxiety while lowering your blood pressure. If you’ve ever had a cat, you’ll already know the power petting your feline can have on your mood – and even your entire day. Cozying up to Fluffy really can turn a bad day into a good one.
Aside from calming your nerves and lessening anxiety, cats offer unconditional love that can help reduce feelings of loneliness. If you live alone, getting a pet cat can keep you company while giving you the role of caregiver to step outside yourself and change your priorities – both of which can be helpful for your mental wellbeing.
I’ve had a couple of pet cats over the years, and they really did make wonderful pets. While they might not be as emotional as dogs, cats can still provide comfort and emotional support to keep you thriving.
If you’re someone who gets easily overwhelmed, you may want to avoid getting a cat or dog, and opt for another pet on the list that requires a little less attention.
Hedgehogs may not make cuddly pets, but they’re still incredibly cute, friendly, and loveable. Provided that you handle them while they’re still young, your pet hedgehog will grow to be social – and the perfect companion. With a lifespan of up to seven years, make sure you’re fully committed to devoting that time and attention before getting a pet hedgehog.
Hedgehogs can be extremely affectionate, with some even enjoying the occasional belly rub and kiss, but you will have to do your part in order for that to happen. Aim to hold them every day for at least half an hour to get that one-on-one connection you need to develop a strong bond.
While hedgehogs are sweet and social, be aware that they require more care and are more vulnerable to health problems than other pets. In other words, be prepared for a higher vet bill. If you think you don’t have the means to fund the care of your spiky friend, opt for another pet.
It might not be the most conventional pet, but crickets make great companions for families and people dealing with anxiety. Easy to maintain and perfectly safe, crickets can even be held – if you’re quick!
It’s not like you’re going to cuddle up to one of these little guys, but they’re great for keeping you entertained and having something to take care of. Those with anxiety need some space outside of themselves to heal and thrive. While crickets are pretty easy to take care of, they still add some stimulation into your life and allow you to think of something other than your own doubts and concerns.
Is your child experiencing anxiety? If you don’t want the commitment of a cat or dog, keep a pet cricket or two instead. Show your child how to feed and hold the cricket, and give them the responsibility to take care of him. Simply having that role as caregiver as well as the responsibility given by you will make them feel thoroughly fulfilled and may ultimately lower feelings of anxiety.
Studies show that watching birds is good for your mental health, and that those who do are less likely to suffer from anxiety. A great bird to choose if you’re suffering from anxiety is the parrot. Playful, colorful, and very chatty, parrots can help keep you entertained and ward off feelings of loneliness.
Even just talking to your pet parrot can help relieve stress and improve your mood. So, whenever you feel anxious or stressed, let it all out by talking to your parrot. You’ll also find it rewarding when they begin mimicking what you say.
As great as parrots can be for providing you with emotional support through bouts of anxiety, remember to return the favor by giving him a happy and fulfilled life. That means letting him out of the cage frequently so he can spread his wings and be…well, a bird.
Chinchillas love a good cuddle! If you’re lonely and searching for a new roommate, chinchillas are a great low-maintenance option. They’re friendly, social, and playful. You’ll love having this new furry friend in your life! And they’ll give you a reason to get up every morning – adding structure to your life, which can be highly effective for managing anxiety. Chinchillas also make great listeners – just in case you want to talk away your troubles.
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