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Can a person who is mentally ill and low motivated be able to care for another animal?

Community Member

At the age of 29, I have had never had to care for another human or animal 24/7. My live-in relatives are all healthy and capable of looking after themselves. I have had 3 cats growing up but never took an active role in caring for them, with the exception of two 1-week periods where my mum was in hospital and I was caring for the cats.

I am worried that, if I ever move out and decide to own a pet, will I have the mental strength to look after an animal for its entire lifetime. I do love animals and fight passionately against animal cruelty. However, I have severe fatigue and low motivation associated with my mental illness, which I worry would interfere with a daily routine of caring for an animal.

I used to play games on Facebook where I own an fictional pet and care for it everyday. I did get into a routine of visiting the site and feeding, washing and playing with it. Then after a year, I got bored and left the game.

I know it's just a game and no actual animal was involved. I think sometimes my mind is unpredictable.

So long story short: I have never cared for another living being 24/7 for more than 1 week in my life. I love animals and care for their well being. Just feel overwhelmed by the fact that I'd have to care for an animal for at least 20 years.

7 Replies 7

Just Sara
Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hey and welcome Scarlett!

You know, sometimes it's the questions we ask that give an answer before we realise. You've taken a brave step by asking for help on BB by the way, so well done. I hope the site offers you a unique opportunity to fill a gap in your life.

Your question's very unique too. I wonder if it's owning a pet though, or moving away from the safety of your current situation. Being cared for by others is beneficial, but it also creates dependence. Would you agree?

It's also a question I've asked regarding my child; would he be able to care for himself, or a baby and partner when it's time? I gave him a puppy for his birthday and he cared for it for 2 weeks then lost interest. He was 14. I took over and that puppy's now my 13 yr old companion animal. He's 27 now, living with his girlfriend and living his life to the fullest.

You took care of your cat while your mum was away; what if she'd been away for a longer period of let's say, 6 months? I think you'd have done well.

Having pets is a sort of training process for young people; it prepares them for adult responsibility. At 29, leaving home would be a big undertaking and maybe a bit scary. It's a choice to have a pet or not. So are you ready to make that decision?

Could it be you're scared of looking after yourself? Being totally accountable for your well-being and daily life is a massive change, so maybe taking things slowly could be more productive.

I'd love to hear if you've gotten some insight from my response. It'd be nice to chat as well.

Warm thoughts;


Community Champion
Community Champion

Welcome Scarlett

Thanks for your very interesting question.

Pets are a big responsibility. I know my circumstances were different but I never had a pet when my children were living at home. I knew I would be responsible for looking after the animal and I had my hands full with looking after the children and the house and work and study etc.

Sez has made many interesting points that I won't repeat.

Has someone said you should have a pet or did you just worry about this?

I found your post intriguing and thought provoking.


Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni
hi ScarlettR, when you were home did the cats come and sit on your knee and want a pat, well if you have to feed them while your mother was in hospital, I'm sure they would come rub themselves against you, want to sit on your lap and if so well that's caring for them.
Once you start and live by yourself and then get a kitten, you will fall in love with it, and once this happens it will be your priority, make sure you feed it, bowl of water, it will become your best friend, if this doesn't happen then you can give it away. Geoff.

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hello Scarlett

Loved your thread on housework. It certainly threw up some in-depth answers.

Are you thinking of moving out to a home of your own soon? Sounds like a great adventure. I think Sez has a good point about your anxiety may be more about how you will cope. If you are serious about taking in a pet I suggest you make sure pets are allowed in your new home. Many landlords do not allow this.

You are asking if you can cope and the short answer is no one knows. It's one of those situations where you must jump in to decide. I will suggest you do not have a pet of any description until you are settled in your new home and have developed your own routine. It may seem silly but when I moved to my current home I found it strange to live alone. Although my children had grown up and left home it had happened gradually and sometimes they came back.

I was always going to have a dog because I always had a dog or two. Now I was still going to work all day but there was no one at home to care for the dog (or cat) which was not the case in my old home. I found my routine did not allow for pets, though I had bowl of goldfish for many years. Well I will have a pet when I retire was my thought but here I am retired for a few years and still concerned about leaving my pet at home while I was doing other things.

My suggestion is to live in your new home for a while and get comfortable doing this. The, when you feel ready, ask yourself how you feel about taking in a pet. Also remember that pets give unconditional love to their owners and that is wonderful. Nothing like a dog running down the hall to greet you. Hope this helps.


Thanks everyone for your input.

In reply to everyone's questions: no one actively looks after me per say - I cook my own meals, wash my own linen, make my own bed, attend to study responsibilities. I rely on myself for entertainment (e.g. choosing to watch a Youtube video or play on my iPad). I am finally starting to manage my personal finances responsibly and an aiming to build on life savings.

Now for pets... I love animals, especially cats. I think cats are the most beautiful, cutest animals in the world and each one of them deserves a loving home. I have thought of moving out of home but given my unemployment situation, it's not possible at this time.

If I should ever adopt a cat (which would be one of the happiest moments of my life), I would have to be in a stable home somewhere, and know what I need to provide adequate care for a cat.

As I mentioned earlier, I love cats. I am very gentle with them. I have never abused or neglected them. With my own 3 cats, they had all come slept on my lap, purring, or surprise me with back rubs. They had always appreciated my patting and scratching them.

Certainly, the love for cats is there. Routine is important. Fortunately, I am a quick decision maker. I just need to build on my confidence and belief that I can do it.

I have depression/anxiety and though I have high artistic career ambitions, I am also unemployed and dealing with motivation issues, heartbreak, a bit of oversleeping, etc. But I still manage to take care of my cat, who doesn't require a lot to be happy and safe. Most of the day and early evening is spent out in the backyard.

Beyond this, I am also an RSPCA volunteer, which I started doing after the first of 2 bad breakups. Admittedly, I haven't been for a few months since breakup 2 BUT...it is a low key commitment that might help you build up the routine of being ale to be around and take care of animals until you really feel ready.

Especially when it comes to doing cat/kitten shifts. 95% of the time is just rotating through the cages and patting/cuddling them, TLC.

I believe if you have the love to give of course you can have and care for a pet of any kind!

however as others have said pets are a big responsibility and thrive of routine so once you get into a good routine in your new home you can do it.

if you need the confidence get in touch with a cat rescue and offer to foster when you are settled! That way it's only temporary and you will know you can do it.

pets are great! My 2 dogs have been my rocks and are currently curled up at my feet