Is your child struggling with anxiety? Adding a furry friend to your family may help. Studies show that caring for a pet can lower anxiety levels, blood pressure, and feelings of loneliness or depression.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: The best pets for an anxious child are usually dogs or cats. Look for breeds and individual animals with calm, affectionate personalities.

How Pets Help with Anxiety

Lower Stress Hormones

Studies have shown that interacting with pets, especially dogs, leads to decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol. One study by a credible institute American Psychological Association in fact showed that hospital patients who spend only 10 minutes with a therapy dog saw lowered stress and anxiety levels.

The comforting presence of a pet can soothe anxiety during stressful situations like visiting the doctor or dealing with a chronic illness.

Teach Responsibility

Having to care for a pet can help give anxious children a sense of purpose. Taking on duties like feeding, grooming, or walking a dog can teach kids responsibility and help them feel more confident and capable.

Learning these necessary skills to keep pets happy and healthy promotes pride, achievement, and self-esteem.

Provide Comfort and Unconditional Love

Pets like cats, dogs, rabbits, and others provide constant affection and comfort without judgement. Petting an animal releases the feel-good hormone oxytocin which eases tension. And unlike human interactions, a pet’s love is unconditional – they adore you no matter what.

Having a living creature that depends on you and shows constant devotion can make kids feel valued, boosting mood and happiness chemicals in the brain like serotonin.

Best Dog Breeds for Anxious Children

Labrador Retriever

The Labrador Retriever is one of the most popular dog breeds for families with children, including those with anxiety. Labs are known for their friendly, gentle, and outgoing personalities. They are eager to please and make great companions for kids.

Labs are intelligent and easy to train, so they can learn to support anxious children in various ways, like providing comfort or distraction during difficult moments. With their medium to large size, Labs can make kids feel protected. Their mellow temperament also helps create a calming presence.

Regular exercise needs make Labs a good motivator for getting kids outdoors and active, which is beneficial for mental health. Overall, the loyal and affectionate Labrador Retriever has many qualities that can benefit an anxious child.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a wonderful small dog breed for anxious children. Weighing just 13-18 pounds, Cavaliers have a gentle and trusting temperament that makes them a loving and cuddly companion for kids. Their sweet, mild-mannered nature helps them remain calm in stressful situations.

Cavaliers tend to be highly adaptable and enjoy being with their family. They flourish on human interaction and affection, which research shows can increase oxytocin and serotonin to help reduce anxiety in children.

As long as their moderate daily exercise needs are met, Cavaliers are happy curling up on the couch for cuddle time. Their small size also makes them a practical choice for families in apartments or with limited space.

For an anxious child seeking comfort and affection, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a top choice.


The Greyhound is an excellent dog breed for kids with anxiety, for multiple reasons. Despite their large size, Greyhounds are known as gentle giants with a calm, mild-mannered temperament. They are sensitive dogs that often seem to understand when children are feeling anxious, offering them comfort.

Spending quiet time with a Greyhound can help lower anxiety levels in children. Due to their history as racing dogs, Greyhounds enjoy getting outdoor exercise, which provides healthy lifestyle benefits for both kids and dogs.

However, Greyhounds are also low energy indoors and content lounging around with their families. Their independent nature means they’re not “needy” but still enjoy human companionship. For families who can meet their exercise needs, Greyhounds can be ideal for anxious kids seeking a soothing, loving pup.


For families with anxious children, the Havanese is a dog breed worth considering. These small, sturdy dogs typically weigh 7-13 pounds and have a lively, friendly nature. Havanese are known for being highly sociable and outgoing dogs that form close bonds with children.

They aim to please and are responsive to training, so can learn techniques to help comfort anxious kids. With their fluffy, silky coats begging to be petted, Havanese are natural stress relievers – spending time holding and stroking them can lower anxiety.

Despite their small size, they have plenty of energy for active playtime and will happily go on walks. However, they’re just as happy cuddling on the couch. For families seeking an affectionate, adaptable companion, the Havanese is one of the top small dog breeds for anxious children.

Golden Retriever

The Golden Retriever is a tried-and-true family dog breed suitable for anxious children. Goldens are one of the most popular breeds for good reason – they have a reputation for being great with kids. They are intelligent, eager to please, and take well to training, allowing them to learn specialized tasks to help anxious children.

Their famously friendly, sociable personalities also provide constant companionship and comfort. Goldens are gentle dogs that move slowly and carefully around children. Their medium to large size and fluffy coats invite hugs and cuddling, which can ease anxiety symptoms in kids.

While Goldens require daily exercise, they are happy to relax indoors bonding with their families. For an outgoing yet gentle dog to provide both fun and soothing support, the Golden Retriever is an excellent choice for anxious children.

Best Cat Breeds for Anxious Kids


The docile and friendly Ragdoll is often considered one of the best cat breeds for anxious children. Their laid-back temperament and affectionate nature make them ideal therapy cats. Ragdolls enjoy being held and cuddled, which can have a calming effect on kids dealing with anxiety or stress.

Their long, silky fur is irresistibly soft to the touch. Ragdolls rarely scratch or bite, even when handled roughly by exuberant youngsters. With proper socialization, these easygoing cats quickly bond with everyone in the household.

Maine Coon

The majestic Maine Coon has a reputation for being super laid-back and family friendly. Their calm demeanor and tolerance of handling suits households with rambunctious children. Despite their large size, Maine Coons are gentle giants that enjoy being around their human companions.

They are playful and energetic enough to keep up with active kids. The breed tends to form strong bonds with family members and can be an attentive, comforting presence for anxious children. With its plush, shaggy coat, the Maine Coon also provides a soft, soothing tactile experience for kids who need therapeutic petting sessions.


The docile Persian is prized as a therapy cat for its sweet, easygoing nature. This breed appreciates affection and enjoys being petted, which can have a calming effect on anxious children. Persians are usually tolerant of busy households and loud children.

Their laid-back attitude makes them unlikely to scratch or bite even if mishandled by a child. While they are low-energy cats that don’t require much intense playtime, Persians delight kids with their cute smooshed faces and fluffy, luxurious coats.

Their mere presence in a home can provide comfort and stress relief for children dealing with anxiety issues.


While the hairless Sphynx may seem an odd choice, its outgoing, affectionate personality makes it a fantastic emotional support animal for many, including anxious children. Sphynx cats crave attention and physical touch, which helps soothe stressed kids who need loving attention.

This highly intelligent and often mischievous breed keeps kids smiling and laughing with its silly antics. Sphynx cats will play games like fetch for hours. They make excellent therapy cats due to their extreme affection and sensitivity to human emotions.

Their warmth and hairless skin provide a calming, therapeutic tactile experience for anxious youngsters.


Known for their outgoing, social nature, Siamese cats tend to thrive when kept indoors as part of the family. They crave interaction with their humans and quickly form close bonds, especially with children.

Siamese cats are playful, intelligent, and very vocal – a plus for socially anxious kids who will enjoy conversing with their pet. While Siamese cats have a bold personality, they are usually gentle companions that tolerate handling well.

Their love of playtime and snuggling make Siamese an engaging companion for anxious children in need of laughs, cuddles, and friendship from their therapy pet.

Other Great Pet Options


Rabbits can make wonderful pets for children with anxiety. They are affectionate, docile, and respond well to gentle handling. Here are some key benefits of getting a rabbit for an anxious child:

  • Calming – Petting a soft bunny can lower stress and anxiety levels. The rhythmic stroking helps relax the nervous system.
  • Quiet – Rabbits make minimal noise which may help sensitive children. Their gentle sounds and movements are unlikely to startle.
  • Litter trained – Rabbits can be litter box trained, making them very clean pets.
  • Interactive – Rabbits enjoy human company and will come up to greet a child. They like being petted and playing with toys.
  • Encourages responsibility – Caring for a rabbit encourages positive habits like cleaning the cage and feeding on schedule.

The best rabbit breeds for anxious kids are usually the docile dwarf breeds like Holland Lops and Netherland Dwarfs. It’s important to teach children to handle rabbits gently. Overall, rabbits can be calming and rewarding companions.

Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs are social, gentle pets that may help ease anxiety in children. Here’s why guinea pigs are good for anxious kids:

  • Affectionate – Guinea pigs enjoy human interaction. They will purr and whistle with joy when petted or held.
  • Calm nature – Guinea pigs rarely bite or scratch. Their calm demeanor makes them unlikely to startle sensitive children.
  • Fun to observe – Watching guinea pigs pop out of hideouts and run through tunnels engages children in calm, positive play.
  • Teach empathy – Caring for a guinea pig encourages empathy, responsibility and nurturing skills in children.
  • Social benefits – Having a guinea pig may help anxious children relax and open up around others.

Things to consider are getting at least two guinea pigs since they are social animals. Also, teach children to be very gentle and never hold guinea pigs by their legs. Overall, their mellow nature makes them great starter pets.


Fish can be wonderful starter pets for children with anxiety. Benefits include:

  • Soothing to watch – The tranquil motion of fish swimming has a calming, zen-like quality.
  • Quiet pets – Fish don’t make noise so they won’t startle easily overwhelmed children.
  • Easy to care for – Basic fish are simple to look after, with tasks like feeding and tank cleaning.
  • Self-contained – Having a separate fish tank or aquarium means kids engage on their own terms.
  • Variety – Many fish types and aquatic plants allow kids to customize their tanks.

Good starter fish include bettas, guppies, platys, mollies, and small danios or tetras. Fish teach children responsibility too. Overall, watching fish can lower anxiety levels while caring for them builds confidence.

Tips for Choosing the Right Pet

Consider Your Lifestyle

When choosing a pet for an anxious child, it’s important to think about your family’s lifestyle and daily routine. A high-energy dog that needs lots of exercise might not be the best fit for a busy family without much time for long walks.

On the other hand, a lower maintenance cat or hamster could thrive with limited space and interaction. Consider how much time you can dedicate to exercising, grooming, and playing with a new pet.

Meet the Animal First

Always try to meet the specific animal before adopting. Seeing how your child interacts with the potential pet is key. Some gentle dogs remain calm, while others may be too hyper, which can increase anxiety.

Have your child sit close to the animal for some time to ensure they are comfortable with each other.

Look for Calm Temperaments

Choose pet breeds and personalities known for being gentle, affectionate, and laid-back. Anxious children often benefit from animals with a calming presence. Recommended pets include:

  • Golden Retrievers – Extremely friendly, obedient, relaxed
  • Labrador Retrievers – Affectionate, outgoing, eager to please owners
  • Ragdoll Cats – Docile, enjoy being held and cuddled
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniels – Patient, gentle, comforting to be around

Prepare Properly Before Bringing Home

Get all pet supplies ready beforehand – food, bowls, bed, toys, etc. Read up on training tips for that type of animal. Puppy proof your home if needed. Talk to your child about proper care and responsibilities of pet ownership. This will help set them up for an enjoyable, stress-free experience.

Be patient helping them build a bond.


Adding an affectionate, gentle-natured pet can truly make a positive difference for a child struggling with anxiety. With the right breed and proper preparations, your new furry family member is bound to provide comfort, joy and responsibility for years to come.

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