When the term emotional support animal – or ESA – is mentioned, the first thing many people think of is a friendly dog, but did you know cats can be an emotional support animal also? The fact is some people just are not dog people, and all too many put off getting an ESA because they think it has to be a dog.
However, an emotional support cat is a great way for people dealing with mental health complications such as anxiety or depression to live a more fulfilling, happy life each day. Emotional support cats are given the same benefits as emotional support dogs, and they can make for great companions.
Emotional Support Animals
An emotional support animal is any type of animal – including cats – that is there to provide comfort and emotional assistance to a particular person. They are protected under the Fair Housing Act.
An ESA can be a number of different types of animals, ranging from rabbits to horses. However, the two most common types of emotional support animals are dogs and cats, which are for the most part friendly and comforting by nature. Just about any cat or dog that is friendly and non-aggressive is eligible to become an emotional support animal.
Cats can make terrific emotional support animals. People who suffer from chronic pain have credited their cats as a relief for loneliness and depression during particularly bad periods of pain, sickness, and immobility. Even without a physical disability, many find the companionship of a cat can help with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and many other mental conditions.
Paul R. registered his cat, Pierre, as an Emotional Support Animal with US Support Animals. “He can usually tell when my fiance and I are not feeling ourselves. He will come up and cuddle with us, and just petting him seems to put things on hold and makes it feel better. It helps to know that not only does he rely on us, but we rely on him as well. This companionship works both ways. He knows what he needs to do and he does it well.”
Dogs can make fantastic service and emotional support animals, but not everyone can have dogs. Some people are not comfortable around dogs and others might not have the ability to take care of an energetic animal. If you are just not a dog person, you can make a cat into an emotional support animal. Cats can be loving and playful family members to their humans and even other animals. While they cannot be trained as a service animal, cats can become outstanding emotional support animals with housing and flying rights.
After all, what is there not to like about cats? They are friendly, easy to care for and love to be close to humans. For many, there is nothing like having a friendly emotional support cat to come home to after a long day. Whether you are looking for a friendly cat to help you through a bout of depression or just want one to make the stresses of life a little easier, emotional support cats can be a great companion to have by your side.
The registration process is effortless and does not take long to complete(see below). If you suffer from a minor mental disability and want to find out more about how to register your cat as an ESA, feel free to contact us at any time to start the process.
What Benefits Do Emotional Support Cats Receive?
The main difference between an emotional support animal and a regular pet or therapy cat is that they get expanded housing rights. If you feel as if your pet would greatly help relieve your anxiousness or other emotional worries, you can look into getting it registered for emotional support (see below)
The benefits of an emotional support cat are quite extensive, and they can be incredibly helpful to one’s overall health and well-being. While the results and advantages may vary from person-to-person, many with emotional support cats receive the following benefits:
- Anxiety relief
- Helps with depression
- Reduces post-traumatic stress
- Helps with ADD
The two most obvious benefits of emotional support cats are anxiety and depression relief. No one has a perfect life, and we all struggle with the stress that can weigh on us from time to time. It is in the low moments that having a friendly emotional support cat there to help us through can be incredibly beneficial. In addition, many who suffer from post-traumatic stress – such as women who experience domestic violence or soldiers who have just returned home – find relief by having an emotional support cat around.
How to Get an Animal Registered for Emotional Support
The process to get a cat registered for emotional support is fairly simple. Of course, it is important to understand that an emotional support animal is only intended for people with mental health issues. Those who are in need, however, can easily register their cat by giving us a call and setting up an appointment with a mental health professional. We are here to help guide you through the entire process, giving you detailed instructions as to what is needed and answering any questions you may have along the way. After the process is over and an ESA letter is provided by the medical professional, you are then able to take your cat more places and ensure they never leave your side.
It isn’t as simple as wanting to find a way around an apartment’s no-pets policy, so you opt for the emotional support title. There is some paperwork and validity involved.
Often times individuals really need their emotional support animal because it helps them battle depression, anxiety, loneliness, or PTSD. Most landlords require you to have a letter from a mental health provider stating that your animal is an emotional support system for you.
The term registration doesn’t really apply to emotional support animals. There is no specific mandated registration process that needs to occur. As long as your doctor has prescribed you an emotional support animal, you are good to go.
Some individuals want the official documents of registering their animals. There are websites online that you can pay to obtain a certificate and possibly purchase vests or other items as well. These are in no way required, but many individuals prefer them. Whether you choose to utilize one of these online resources is entirely up to you, but remember it is not required.
Reasons to Consider an Emotional Support Cat
Understanding the benefits of an emotional support cat should give you a good indication as to who is the most viable candidate for one. Essentially, anyone who struggles with chronic mental health issues – such as a level of anxiety that leads one to alter their daily lifestyle – is a good candidate for an emotional support cat.
As mentioned previously, ideal candidates include people who have experienced a traumatic event, those who deal with a high level of stress daily and anyone struggling with depression, along with any other mental health complication a person may experience.
Everyone deserves to be happy and live a fulfilling and healthy life, and no one should see their anxiety, depression or other mental health issue go untreated for an extended period of time. While medication can certainly help, having an emotional support cat around has provided an excellent solution for many struggling with mental health issues.
What is the Difference Between a Service Animal and an ESA?
The main difference between these two categories is that a service animal is typically allowed entrance into any place that the public is allowed. Emotional support animals have certain restrictions that prevent them from having this right.
Service animals are specifically trained to help individuals with disabilities perform daily tasks, while emotional support animals are there for companionship. You may greatly benefit from your emotional support animal, but you don’t rely on it to help you complete daily activities.
An easy way to think about it is that service dogs are specifically trained to perform certain tasks, and unfortunately cuddling is not considered a trained behavior, but rather a learned one.
Can Cats Be Service Animals?
As mentioned above, a service animal is trained to complete a specific task, such as notifying a person before or during a seizure or serving as a walking guide dog. In other words, a service animal is required to do tasks that cats are not known for easily being able to learn.
Unfortunately, cats cannot be recognized as service animals. As of today, dogs are the only animals allowed to be considered service animals. Cats can however still be beneficial companions, and they can be registered as emotional support animals.
While a service animal may carry a few more benefits than an ESA, an emotional support cat is not allowed to be denied housing. While those with physical disabilities may be better suited with a service animal, anyone who is looking for a support animal for emotional relief can benefit from an emotional support cat.
Flying with Your Cat
The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) used to allow for all ESAs to fly with their owner for free. However, the law has been updated and ESAs are treated like regular pets when they’re on a plane. This means that there will likely be a pet fee and if the airline can’t accommodate your companion, they may have to fly in cargo.
Since cats can’t be service animals, this unfortunately means that they’ll always have a fee associated with plane travel. You may be able to avoid having your cat fly in the cargo space of the plane if you book your pet reservations far enough in advance. Since cats are relatively small animals, you likely won’t have to worry about your companion being told it’s over the weight threshold for plane cabin travel, and your cat will be able to be with you.
Double check the pet policies before booking and before your flight. They all have various restrictions for cat carriers, which will be the most important thing to watch out for.
Airline Pet Policies
- Alaska Airlines Pet Policy
- Delta Airlines Pet Policy
- Frontier Airlines Pet Policy
- Hawaiian Airlines Pet Policy
- JetBlue Pet Policy
- Lufthansa Pet Policy
- Southwest Airlines Pet Policy
- Spirit Airlines Pet Policy
- United Airlines Pet Policy
- Virgin America Pet Policy
Some tips for flying with your cat:
- Check paperwork requirements before you arrive
- Book airplane tickets ahead of time
- Some airlines ban certain breeds of cats, like snub-nosed cats
- Keep copies of veterinary papers with you
- There may be special requirements for international flights
The fact is flying with an emotional support cat can make flights – which tend to be quite stressful for many – much easier. The worst fear of many is having a panic attack on an airplane, and it is likely to scare other passengers as well. Even though your furry friend can’t be out of their carrier, having their presence there may be enough to help.
The Bottom Line
If dogs don’t quite meet your expectations as an emotional support animal, it isn’t game over. You have the option to register your cat as an emotional support animal as long as you and your cat meet the specific requirements. The best thing you can do is make sure you have the required info from your veterinarian, health care provider, and any additional paperwork when getting registered and showing the ESA letter to housing complexes. If you want to learn more about emotional support cats and start the process towards having your pet registered, consult with us today and let us guide you through each step.