Having a pet can reduce your stress, improve your confidence, boost your happiness, and even extend your life! This is something we recommend for many of our depression counseling patients in Michigan because of the countless benefits that come with pet ownership. This isn’t the ideal choice for everyone though, so it’s important to consider all your options before choosing a therapy pet.
Here are some tips to set you up for success with your depression therapy pet.
Which Pet Is Right For Your Depression Symptoms?
You can choose just about any pet you want to have in your life. Most people think about dogs for depression relief, but you can get just as much comfort from cats, fish, reptiles, or any other pet you like. Dogs are incredibly empathetic. They feed off emotions, and they can tell when you need them most. You may not get that same empathy from a lizard or a beta, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find peace from having them in your home.
When do you think about different animals, which one makes you feel the happiest right away? Do you get a burst of joy when you see a dog on a walk? Do you feel your heart flutter when you see a cat perched in a window? Do you feel calm when you watch fish swim by in a tank? Only you can determine which pet will work best for your depression symptoms, but these gut feelings will give you a good place to start.
Consider Your Allergies, If Any
If you have pet allergies, you need to take those into consideration when selecting a pet for your depression therapy. Your depression may get worse if your pet causes you to constantly cough, sneeze, and feel miserable. Of course, there are ways to get around this. You could take allergy medication, or you could get a breed of cat/dog that is hypoallergenic. Just keep those accommodations in mind before you adopt a pet you may not be able to keep.
Consider The Cost Of Care
Every pet comes at a price, not just for the pet itself, but also for the day-to-day care. If your depression is partly the result of financial stress, you may not want a pet that is going to be expensive to keep up with. Some costs to keep in mind include:
- Monthly pet food (the bigger the pet, the more food you will have to buy)
- Cleaning expenses (litter box, water changes for fish, bedding for rodents, etc.)
- Cage, harness, and travel carriers
- Medical expenses (shots, spay/neuter, common health problems for the breed you choose)
- Housing accommodations (dog house, bedding, tank, etc.)
- Pet deposits if you rent your home
These costs may not seem like much on their own, but they can add up quickly. You may also need to get pet insurance to cover emergency medical expenses, or you may need special food later on if your pet experiences health problems. Make sure you select a depression therapy pet that suits your emotional needs as well as your financial abilities.
How Old Should A Therapy Pet Be?
You might be inclined to get a puppy or kitten when you first look for pets because they are small and cute, but think about how much training that will require. The training period gives you a chance to bond with your pet, but it can also be incredibly stressful. This is especially true for dogs because you have to teach them how to go outside to use the restroom. This takes months of repeated efforts, and it requires a lot of extra cleaning on your end. If this is a commitment you don’t mind making, go for it! It’s not the best option for everyone though.
Getting A Therapy Pet Through A Rescue Center
Many local pet rescues in Michigan have programs for therapy pets. They train these pets for specific situations, like helping people with PTSD or assisting people while in mourning. With a rescue pet, you also get a clean bill of health, all age-appropriate shots, spay/neuter, and a microchip to ensure that your pet can be identified if he or she is ever lost. This is one of the best ways to get a pet for depression therapy because the costs are minimal and the benefits are endless.
Talk to your depression therapist in Michigan about which therapy pets will work best for you.