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Home > General > Are Pets Good for People With ADHD? Facts & FAQ

Are Pets Good for People With ADHD? Facts & FAQ

A little boy with ADHD cuddles his pet rabbit

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Dr. Lorna Whittemore

Veterinarian, MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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According to studies, approximately 4.4% of adults have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in the United States. Men account for 5.4%, and 3.2% are women. Approximately 4.2% of teens are reported to have the condition, and 8.7% of adolescents have been diagnosed at some point. Long story short, many Americans have this disorder. However, did you know someone with ADHD could benefit from owning a pet? Turns out that pets are good for people who have ADHD.

If you’ve been diagnosed with ADHD and considered getting a pet, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, we’ll explore this topic further so that you understand how pets are good for people with ADHD. Our goal is to help you decide if owning a pet is right for your specific needs. Read to learn more.


How Are Pets Good for ADHD?

ADHD is often diagnosed during childhood and is a type of neurodiversity. If you’re reading this article, odds are you have been diagnosed, or someone close to you has the diagnosis, and you know what life is like living with ADHD. It can be hard to focus, or to stop focussing on a project you are interested in; you may be physically restless, daydream, talk a lot , be anxious and impulsive.

For those who love animals, getting a companion animal help can greatly help people with ADHD. How, you ask? Let’s break it down.

There is not currently a lot of large scale research into ADHD and pet ownership.  However, there are some smaller studies and plenty of anecdotal evidence. Owning a pet is a huge responsibility. Our pets depend on us to feed them, provide drinking water, play with them, and give them lots of love. These responsibilities can convert into developing more independence, more social skills, a reduction in anxiety and increased attention.

Consider this: you’ve come home from a busy day at work or school, and your pet greets you at the door as if they haven’t seen you in years. That alone will make you smile. Knowing that you have a non-judgmental bond with your pet can increase your self esteem.

ADHD often impacts your ability to organize, stay focused, plan, utilize time management, and meet deadlines. If you have a pet, you must develop a schedule to care for your pet, and this alone helps you stay focused and on track.

A cute little boy with ADHD plays and poses with his loyal pet dog
Image by: RMC42, Shutterstock

Does ADHD Qualify for an Emotional Support Animal?

Yes! An ADHD diagnosis qualifies an individual to acquire an emotional support animal (ESA). Emotional support animals are prescribed by a licensed, mental health professional, such as a psychologist, therapist, or psychiatrist. When a licensed professional prescribes an emotional support animal, it means they feel that an ESA will help the person with anxiety, fear, and loneliness.

ESAs also help you create a schedule and routine, which helps with stress and procrastination. These animals also help you stay motivated to exercise, which helps exert any nervous energy or restlessness. After all, your ESA will depend on you for walks and playtime, which are all excellent activities for ADHD symptom management.

What’s the Difference Between an Emotional Support Animal and a Service Dog?

Emotional support animals differ from service dogs. A service dog is specially trained to perform tasks for a person’s individual needs and they are working dogs, whereas ESAs require no training for a specific task. Another difference is that ESAs can no longer fly in the cabin with you on a plane, while service dogs are allowed. Service dogs are recognized by the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) and have specific requirements and regulations regarding service dogs.

The biggest difference between the two is that service dogs are trained to perform specific tasks for a person with particular medical needs and can go anywhere with that person where dogs are not allowed. ESAs are not trained for these purposes and are only allowed in dog-friendly establishments.

Asperger Syndrome plays with his sister and pet dog
Image by: RMC42, Shutterstock

What Pets Are Good for ADHD?

Pets that are good for ADHD are not limited to dogs and cats. The right pet will be different for each individual and will take into account interests, time, finances and level of care needed. Any pet animal that requires care from a human can help with ADHD, such as guinea pigs, fish, hamsters, lizards, rabbits, and birds, more specifically, parrots.

How to Look After Your Pet

Your pet will be helping to look after your emotional and physical wellbeing and it is only fair that you do the same in return. This is especially important for the more exotic pets as getting their nutrition and environment right takes more research and equipment than a dog and cat. If you have any doubts contact your veterinarian for advice.


Final Thoughts

People who have ADHD can benefit from having a pet. Pets can help with anxiety, help you focus, develop a routine and schedule, get organized, gain more independence, and hone in on your social skills, all of which help people with ADHD.

Better yet, pets give unconditional love and can overall make you happy. If you’ve considered getting a pet to help with your ADHD symptoms, we recommend you discuss this with your veterinarian or support workers!

Featured Image Credit: RMC42, Shutterstock

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