Is Pet Adoption in Mental Illness Recovery a Good Idea?

May 7, 2024 Michaela Jarvis

Pet adoption in mental illness recovery is an important decision. Pets are cute, comforting, and can be great for someone's mental health. Even last week, I saw a dog sporting his "emotional support dog" vest. Many people with mental illness find comfort in their pets, and there are many reasons why pet adoption during mental illness recovery makes sense, but the decision to bring a pet into your life can be equally amazing and stressful.

Adopting a Pet During Mental Illness Recovery

I adopted a pet during a low in my life. She's brought me great joy but has also taught me lessons on what to consider before adopting a pet in mental illness recovery, so I wanted to share my story.

Pros of Adopting a Pet During Mental Illness Recovery

Adopting a pet in mental illness recovery feels like adopting a friend. Having a companion that doesn't require social energy is highly comforting. Pets can even start to pick up on your moods, and I've found that my own cat's affection will increase as she senses when things are not right. (And it's a bit harder to wallow when I have a cat purring on top of my chest.)

A pet also brings structure. For example, a dog will need to be walked and provided exercise. What a great incentive to get out of bed, grab some fresh air, and get some steps in for the day. Since a pet requires a certain level of routine, so will the owner. This is beneficial for someone who struggles to muster up the motivation for themselves -- now there's a different motivator in the mix.

Speaking of structure, having a sense of responsibility is rewarding. There is a reason people call themselves "proud pet owners." It's because a pet is an extension of someone. Adopting a pet in mental illness recovery and then providing quality care for that pet, especially one that requires a lot of work, is something everyone should be proud of.

Cons of Adopting a Pet During Mental Illness Recovery

But responsibility isn't always easy; it usually comes with hardships. Having a pet means that there is a living, breathing thing that is now reliant on a person. That's a lot of pressure, especially for those who are at a point where they are struggling to take care of themselves.

There are financial aspects to consider when adopting a pet in mental illness recovery. I was hit with an unexpected $750 bill after taking my cat to the vet. (Don't worry, she is okay.) I hadn't been financially prepared for a situation like that. I didn't have a set savings for an emergency like this. 

Additionally, adopting a pet in mental illness recovery means there needs to be a lifestyle adjustment. When there's an animal in the picture, their care needs to be considered when planning trips, late nights out, bringing over visitors, moves, and more. There is going to be a time and space commitment, especially when it comes to highly active animals, and cleaning usually becomes a more frequent chore.

Pets are often loving and affectionate and feel like part of the family. But they also require time, space, money, and effort. Pets can be an excellent addition to the lives of those recovering from mental illness, but the decision to adopt a pet in mental illness recovery should be carefully considered.

APA Reference
Jarvis, M. (2024, May 7). Is Pet Adoption in Mental Illness Recovery a Good Idea?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 15 from

Author: Michaela Jarvis

Michaela Jarvis is continuously on her road to self-improvement while managing bipolar disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and the life challenges that come with being in your 20s. Find Michaela on Instagram, LinkedIn, and her website.

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