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Pets for Depression and Health

Can your depression problems improve when you interact with your pet?

The Drawbacks of Getting a Pet for Depression

Pets aren't for everyone with depression, Wright says. If you're depressed, think carefully before getting a pet. If you have a loved one with depression, don't assume that surprising him or her with a kitten will help. It could make things worse. Here are four things to ask yourself before getting a pet to help ease depression.

  • Are you comfortable with animals? A lot of people helped by pets had them as children. They're used to having an animal as a source of comfort. If you've never had a pet, it may be less likely to help now.
  • Will having a pet make you worry? Dwelling on death is a common sign of depression. If getting a pet just means that you'll worry constantly about it dying, that won't help, Wright says.
  • Is your depression too intense right now? "Taking care of a pet is not unlike taking care of a small child," Wright says. "If your depression is so severe that you can't take care of an animal, it's not a good idea to get one."
  • Can you afford a pet? Caring for pets can be expensive. The ASPCA estimates that in the first year, a cat can cost more than $1,000 and a dog up to almost $1,850.

Even if getting a cat or dog isn't wise right now, other animals could help. Birds can be surprisingly affectionate and cost only $270 a year in care. While you may not want to snuggle with a fish or a turtle, caring for them could also improve your mood. It creates responsibility and a new focus. Studies have shown that watching fish can lower your pulse and ease muscle tension too.

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Reviewed on August 03, 2012

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