9 Ways Pets Can Help Beat Depression

During the course of a year, one in four people suffer some kind of depression. That’s a pretty alarming statistic.  Whether it’s brought on by a relationship breakdown, change in life circumstances, birth of a child or bereavement, it’s an inescapable fact that depression affects a large percentage of the population. And whilst there are lots of treatments, counselling and support available, it’s also proven that a trusty four-legged friend can help coax you out of your melancholic slumber.

That’s right – pets can help you beat depression. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a dog, cat, rat, or goldfish (although you obviously can’t take that on a stroll through the park), pets have proven time and time again they can effectively conquer the effects of depression.


1) Uncomplicated Love

Life can be a complicated, messy business at the best of times, often exacerbated by family problems or relationship complications. With a dog or cat, there are no complications; things are very clear and very simple. You don’t have worry about upsetting someone or hurting their feelings. It’s an easy, stress-free relationship.

2) Responsibility

A lot of people suffering from depression can’t cope with a lot of responsibility, and are often even unable look after themselves. Pets, however, have been proven to give them the boost they need. It galvanises sufferers into action by caring for something, taking their mind off their worries and focusing on something other than themselves.

3) Activity

With canine companions in particular, you can get plenty of exercise and activity by taking them for walks. Some dog owners jest they don’t know who’s taking who for a walk, so you could end up getting more exercise than you bargained for! But physical exertion and activity through a pet’s interaction is great for reducing stress and improving your mental and physical health.

4) Routine

A lot of people suffering with depression have lost their way because they’re bereft of any kind of routine – they do very little or even nothing at all. Well, pets need routine, whether it’s being fed in the morning, afternoon and evening, being taken for walks, or shown intermittent (or frequent!) displays of affection. These routines can help release you from any apathetic inertia and give you the boost you need.

5) Companionship

Dogs and cats are very good at picking up negative vibes and sensing when their owners are unhappy. Cats curl up affectionately  on your lap and dogs are just as content sat at their master’s feet as they are in their dog beds. They might not be able to talk, but they can still communicate their affection to provide just the kind of reassurance and companionship you need.

6) Social Interaction

Granted, cats are more mercenary and isolated, but dogs love attention and thrive on interaction with humans and other dogs, so when you’re out in the park chances are you’ll meet other dog owners, get chatting – and who knows where that could lead?

7) Physical Contact

Everyone needs physical contact, and studies have shown that stroking a cat or dog can provide be extremely soothing and comforting as well as lowering your heart rate.

8) Energy and Laughter

Having a cat or dog can charge your batteries and raise your spirits. It’s said that laughter is the best medicine, and in the case of pets that’s often true. Just watch You’ve Been Framed to witness the crazy, kooky, comical collection of pet-based tomfoolery that’ll make you howl like a loon – which boosts your immune system and increases your energy.

9) General Health

In terms of overall health, research and studies have proven that pets can help lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormones, and boost levels of feel-good chemicals in the brain. Pets can also help you sleep better and reduce sickness levels.


As you can see, having a pet supplies you with more than just having a furry, four-legged companion scampering around the house – they could be the key to beating depression and giving you a whole new lease of life.

Have you had any first-hand experience with pets helping you overcome bouts of depression? Your comments would be inspiring for others to hear, so share them in the comments below.

This is depressing (If you’re an Oilers fan):

Gavin Harvey

Gavin Harvey is a personal trainer with a passion for travel. When he's not busy touring the world, he can be found in the gym or at home with his partner and two cats. You can keep up with his latest adventures by following him on twitter.

3 thoughts on “9 Ways Pets Can Help Beat Depression

  • July 31, 2013 at 9:11 pm

    I agree with the nine points made. Since getting a Cali rabbit in 2012, my health has improved, my routine and habits enforced, depression lifted, laughter increased. I call him, FIVE. So I can say, Hi Five! He knows now that if he sits up and reaches that he will get a papaya or cranberry treat! He is the best thing that has come into my life since retiring last Jan. I nearly fall asleep petting him. It is so relaxing. Love my FIVE.

  • July 31, 2013 at 9:06 pm

    I may have lost my battle with depression from being bipolar many times if it wasn’t for my dogs I used to have and the cats I have now. I also suffer from seizures and my older cat runs to me when she sees my hands start to shake and the motion of petting her actually brings me back from them because I become relaxed

  • April 7, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    I concur about the pets. I have had some serious health issues just out of the blue and combine that with getting older and newly retired and I fight depression with a vengeance. However I have kitties and they must be taken care of so instead of having a pity party that I probably would, I have to get up, get around and see that they are taken care of…..fed, watered, taken to vet when necessary, played with, so I don’t have time to do nothing…..if that makes sense. And like dogs, they give unconditional love and head butts which are a cat’s way of saying I love you. I would not be doing so well without them. I heartily recommend pets to anyone having any kind of depressive issues for any reason. It will make a positive difference in your life. .


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