Interacting with Animals Fights Depression

March 11, 2014 Natasha Tracy

Today I went and fed the seals. I fed the wild seals – not those in captivity – the best kind. They’re semi-tame seals as people feed them fish from the docks every day. They clap, and spin in circles, and splash, and jump to get the little frozen fish we offer. Their spotted coats gleam in the sun. Even the huge nails on their back flippers seem innocuous because they seem just so glad to see you.

So, I knelt and fed the seals fish. And I giggled, smiled and screamed like a little girl when one soaked the left leg of my jeans (Why Animals May Help With Depression). I was encased in a bubble where just the seals, the frozen fish and I existed.

And I completely forgot that I was depressed.

My Bipolar Depression Responds Positively to Animals

Depression is the main feature of my bipolar disorder. Some people suffer more with mania or hypomania but I (like most) suffer primarily with depression – protracted, painful, relentless depression. I wake up with it in the mornings and I sleep with it at night.

There are many skills used for coping with bipolar depression and one is interacting with animals. Animals, too, can fight depression. Check this out.But one thing I’ve learned, after all these years of dealing with bipolar depression, is that animals have a strange power to fight depression. Somehow, interacting with a dog, my cats or, indeed, seals, seems to make me forget, for a few minutes, how I really feel.

I remember one time I was walking across the university campus and I was so depressed I had to sit down, rest and cry. And it just so happened that a dog was there – a dog who wanted to play fetch. And in spite of my physical and mental condition, I threw the ball. And somehow his chasing it and bringing it back, spurred me to do it again. And again. And for a few moments agony wasn’t the only thing in my consciousness. It was a great magic act (Dogs Can Help Overcome Depression).

Interacting With Animals Helps Me Fight Depression

I’m not sure how it is that animals fight depression. Maybe it’s because they don’t get depressed. Maybe it’s because their emotional state is fairly stable. Maybe it’s because small things, like frozen fish and a game of catch, make them happy. Or maybe it’s just that they’re adorable. I don’t know.

What I do know is that companion animals for people do, genuinely make people feel better. And I believe that petting a cat, or hearing it purr, can lower heart rate and blood pressure and relieve anxiety. Again, I don’t know how this happens.

But the moral of the story is this: we should all seek out heartbeats outside our own chests. Sometimes other people are just not helpful or are too hard to bear, but animals are so much simpler than humans. Animals will love you and play with you and purr for you regardless of who you are, how you look or how you feel. And this little kitty love, or seal love, or doggie love, can make you feel better. That animal love can fight your depression.

So make time to go to a petting zoo or a horse farm an animal shelter or even a pet store and enjoy the pure and simple, clean energy of the animals. I will bet, that just for a moment, you will be thinking more about the feeling of the fur than your own depression. And in the midst of a serious depression, that moment is priceless.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or Google+ or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter or at the Bipolar Burble, her blog.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2014, March 11). Interacting with Animals Fights Depression, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 14 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleTwitter, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

Erin Schulthies
March, 11 2014 at 12:46 pm

I couldn't agree more! My dog helps me stay present, in the moment, and he's a constant source of entertainment. He makes me laugh like nothing and no one else. I love this quote from your post, "...we should all seek out heartbeats outside our own chests.’" Perfectly said!

March, 12 2014 at 4:47 am

I have a friend that has a toy poodle. Every time my friend comes over with his dog my my eyes light up! I can feel the experience as it's happening.
I too forget about my depression, if just for a little while. It's worth it!

Laura Gehrke
March, 13 2014 at 4:37 am

I have 2 dogs, each with their own personalities, yet each in tune with mine, one is my comforter, one is my entertainer, together they are the reason I get up in the mornings, and they cuddle with me at night, they are the ray of sunshine in my dark days, and I love them. And they love me.

March, 13 2014 at 6:03 am

It's great. I want another cat.
Avoid regular zoos, they are no-go places. Ever.

June, 15 2014 at 4:43 pm

One of your better written posts Natasha; well done!

January, 24 2015 at 10:37 am

Animals are truly a gift from God.
I remember dog sitting at my aunt & uncles house once. I came home from work and burst into tears. Their dog who was a bit stand-off-ish in the beginning came over and kept nudging me with his nose. When I tried to push him away, he gently protested and wouldn't leave my side all night. Animals are so sensitve and a wonderful source of therapy.
There's an adorable YouTube video that was posted yesterday. You can find it by googling the phrase, "monkey comforts distraught monkey". It really tugs at your heart strings. There's also another really cute one of two otters at the Vancouver Aquarium floating on their backs holding hands, one of them is blind (unfortunately one of them has since passed away).
I live in an apartment and no pets are allowed otherwise I would definately have one!

February, 17 2015 at 8:54 am

I agree my maltese is my best friend and there's been times she's saved my life when I'm feeling bad. I'm reminded not to attempt suicide, because I would be leaving her as lone. Sometimes that's all I need.Thank God for my Daisy.

November, 1 2017 at 2:14 pm

I love hearing everyone's animal stories and how they've been helped. I'm bi polar and have two cats who are a wonderful comfort to me when I'm poorly. The one will lie on the bed with me (often on the pillow right next to me) and actually follow me if I get up to go to the bathroom or into another room for something. She never leaves my side! She also appears when I'm crying and snuggles up to me. She's such a little sweetie! My other cat is a real comedienne who makes me laugh every single day with her antics. She's a cuddler too.and has the most relaxing purr and softest fur - She often lulls me to sleep. Yes, animals certainly are wonderful, wonderful therapy.

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