Pet Prozac

Many pets today are said to be depressed and given Prozac. But none of us fare well in captivity.

I WATCHED an interesting show a while ago about a miserable parrot. In an episode of the program Bondi Vet, Chris Brown treated a self-mutilating parrot suffering depression.

The bird had fallen in love with its owner, and would self-mutilate by ripping out its feathers when it saw her with her husband, Brown said. The parrot would also charge at the man and act in an aggressive manner to intimidate the other male in the household.

The vet decided that ‘‘Harry’’ was seeking attention and sympathy, and put him on the antidepressant Prozac. Harry’s feathers started growing back after a few weeks and his hostility towards his male owner disappeared.

According to an article in National Geographic magazine: ‘‘Prozac is now given to zoo animals and pets suffering from problems including obsessive-compulsive disorders, aggression, and separation anxiety.’’ The article says market research shows animal-lovers in the US spend $15 million on a variety of medications for behaviour management in pets. A dalmatian stopped biting its owners up to 40 times a week after being put on antidepressants, the article claims.

I find the whole topic fascinating. I think it explains the phenomenon of high rates of depression among human beings. It has something to do with depression and captivity, or a sense of captivity.

As I have disclosed, I suffer depression. I have noticed my episodes are worst during long stints indoors, for instance during the winter months or when I have a deadline that requires months of work in a con- fined, isolating space such as an office or home office. When I travel, the depression improves quite naturally.

I have often pondered this strange fact, but reading about the high rates of anxiety disorders in pets and zoo animals made me understand something we rarely face: the importance of the role of freedom in happiness and wellbeing. Animals in the wild don’t suffer anxiety disorders and compulsive behaviours, or at least David Attenborough has never told us they do. Free animals hunt and play together, and roam. Only animals that are captive or domesticated become neurotic: dogs forced to sit in gardens much of the day; cats locked in the house alone; birds in cages.

So, what does that say about our often sedentary, isolating, domesticated lifestyles in the West? I’m not saying there’s necessarily a choice for many of us, ham-strung as we are by commitments. It’s just that I know the value to me of riding a jeep across Africa, or climbing a mountain in India, gazing into the orange after- noon light. When the soul feels free, a natural sense of wellbeing follows. The power of freedom cannot be put into a tablet for animals or humans.



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3 Responses to Pet Prozac

  1. Ruth Ostrow 24 September 2012 at 1:25 pm #

    I am happy you’ve written and told me this. I have a huge huge smile on my face. Is he still on Prozac?

  2. Krissy 23 September 2012 at 6:41 pm #

    Hi Ruth,

    I loved your article on ‘freedom heals the soul’ as the owner of Harry the parrot I just had to contact you & let you know he is going fantastically……..he now has a girlfriend & has stopped plucking his feathers so life is good for him, mind you life was always good for him he was just spoilt rotten.



  3. nomadd 20 September 2012 at 12:23 pm #


    You mention that you suffer from depression. Why don’t you write a post on this depression from your perspective as I am certain that many people do not understand depression, just like myself.
    What really causes your depression in the first place?
    My son now in his fifties has depression, but he never told his mother, nor I until he was in his forties, and we were both divorced.
    I cannot understand why people are so secretive about depression and afraid to discuss same with the general community.
    Just look at those people with cancer? They constantly broadcast their fate with the whole world, so do people with obesity and most other ailments.
    You mention that a trip to Africa brightens up your day. Don’t you have any hobbies or interests to delight your normal daytime activities?
    I too love travelling and never stay anywhere longer than two years. However, I have a vast range of hobbies and interests that keep me occupied in between times.
    My favourite is opera which I can listen to through my headphones hour after hour, the music and singing send me into a trance in which I visualise myself in the star role of the tragedy, betrayal and deceit of the most exciting drama in the world for me.
    Other times I watch BBC spy and police dramas on dvd, which also absorbs my complete interest as they are so excellent.
    Then I like to grow cacti in very small pots and watch their growth over many months, and receive immense pleasure at their very slow growing.
    I also read eBooks that are mainly about biographies of little known people. I never read any newspapers since I consider all newspaper articles trash.
    I also love to write to great numbers of people all over the world, and debate a huge variety of subjects, such as space travel, the state of politics world wide, and man-kinds endless wars.
    No, I don’t have pets as I am not keen on animals and don’t think it is right to keep them bottled up as in a large jar. I firmly believe all pets belong on farms only where they can graze at will.
    So Ruth, get cracking and rip out an article on depression!

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