Emotional Support Cat

When you picture an emotional support animal (ESA), what do you see? For many people, their ideal ESA is a dog. But while canines and even rabbits can make great ESAs, another popular choice is an emotional support cat.

Clever, quiet, and calming, cats have many qualities that make them perfect ESAs. If your pet has ever comforted you at the end of a difficult day, you won't be surprised to learn that stroking these animals lowers our cortisol levels. For those who have a mental disability, a cat's companionship can hugely benefit their emotional well-being.

If you think an emotional support animal could improve your anxiety or depression, read on. This blog post will explain all the information you need to know about getting a recommendation from a doctor or mental health therapist for a cat as an ESA.

cat sitting on a chair

What Is An Emotional Support Animal?

An emotional support animal is given special privileges to support its owner through a mental health condition. Under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), an ESA can accompany its owner into pet-free accommodation and the airplane cabin on commercial flights.

As we mentioned earlier, an ESA can be any species of animal. However, dogs and cats are two of the most popular choices - which isn't surprising when you consider over 100 million American households contain a dog or cat. Many people choose to get a recommentation from their doctor for their existing pet to become an ESA instead of adopting a new pet.

It's important to remember that although emotional support animals aren't legally classed as pets, they're not the same as service animals. A valid ESA letter will mean you can't be discriminated against because of your animal. Still, you won't have the same privileges as somebody who relies on a service animal because of a physical disability or medical condition.

Some mental conditions that ESAs can help with include:

•    Anxiety and panic attacks

•    Depression

•    PTSD

•    OCD

•    Autism

Why Choose An Emotional Support Cat?

If dog ownership doesn't appeal to you, there are many reasons why cats make great emotional support animals. Cats are friendly and affectionate companions, but their small size makes them perfect for traveling with airlines.

For proud cat people, cat ownership can bring a variety of mental and physical benefits. According to recent posts by Cats Protection UK and the Mental Health Foundation in Britain, 76% of cat owners feel their pet enables them to cope more effectively with everyday life. A whopping 87% also said their cat has a positive impact on their overall well being.

Owner with cat enjoying the outdoors

What Breeds Of Cats Make The Best ESAs?

Although most cats can't be trained in the same way that a service dog can, these pets still have many positive attributes. Any breed can make a wonderful ESA for its owner, but that said, various cat breeds are particularly noted for their friendly and loyal natures.

Breeds such as the Burmese, Persian, and Maine Coon are some of the more affectionate cats you'll meet. Their beautiful fluffy fur makes them excellent cuddlers whilst also providing a sensory distraction for owners who suffer from panic attacks or flashbacks.

Ragdoll cats are also brilliant companions. Often compared to playful puppies, this cat breed is the friendly dog of the cat world and makes a perfect emotional support animal. They are docile and loving, which means they form bonds with their owners very quickly and usually enjoy being cuddled.

How Do I Make My Cat An Emotional Support Animal?

Obtaining an ESA recommendation can seem a confusing process for many people, but you need to follow just a few steps to get your ESA letter consultation. For candidates who suffer from anxiety, depression, or another chronic mental disability, an emotional support cat could be a lifeline that helps you cope on a day-to-day basis.

Below, we've explained the complete process of obtaining an ESA consultation. Make sure to follow this process exactly, or your ESA letter may not be valid.

Unfortunately, some people have tried to pretend their animal is an ESA to take it on flights. This means it's important to have the right documentation to ensure you and your pet can enjoy all the benefits you deserve.

owner petting sleeping cat

How Does The Registration Process Work?

You need to be suffering from a mental illness that's mentioned by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) to qualify for an ESA letter). A licensed mental health professional must certify that you have this illness and be prepared to prescribe you an emotional support cat.

If you are already receiving treatment from a therapist or other mental health professional, we recommend making an appointment to discuss applying for your emotional support cat. They will be able to say whether they think an ESA will help you deal with your mental illness.

If you are not receiving treatment but have symptoms of anxiety, depression, or PTSD that are seriously affecting your quality of life, get in touch with us at Therapetic.org (all rights reserved). We offer a free and confidential screening test and will put you in touch with licensed mental health professionals in your state.

The results of your screening test will help your therapist decide whether you're a strong candidate for an emotional support animal. If your therapist agrees that emotional support cats are an effective form of treatment for you, they can prescribe your letter.

What Should Your ESA Letter Contain?

Your letter needs to contain the following information to be valid:

•    The signature of your therapist or mental health professional

•     The letterhead and address of their medical practice

•     The type (or types) of mental illness you have

•   The contact information of your therapist, including their name, email, and qualifications

•  Confirmation that they believe an emotional support animal will benefit your quality of life

Your letter is the only thing ESA candidates need to register their therapy cat. There is no other form of documentation or clothing required (unlike service animals who are sometimes required to wear identifying vests or harnesses).

There is no official registration list for ESAs such as emotional support cats. Pet owners don't require certificates or ID badges. However, they must carry their ESA letter with them at all times. Without it, they may be turned away by airlines or homeowner associations.

How Much Does It Cost To Get An Emotional Support Cat?

Each letter typically costs between $100 and $200, depending on which state you live in and which mental health professional has issued it. One important thing to remember is that you will need to renew your ESA letter every year.

Does Your Emotional Support Cat Need Special Clothing?

Many shops sell items such as harnesses, collars, and leashes that identify your cat as an emotional support animal. Although a person may wish to buy this sort of equipment to help their animal stand out in public, there is no legal requirement to do so.

woman hugging cat

What Benefits Do Emotional Support Cats Have?

As we mentioned earlier in the blog post, emotional support animals have access to two key benefits. ESAs are protected by the following laws, which recognize that no-one with mental health difficulties should have to face stressful situations without their furry family members by their side.

The Fair Housing Act (FHA)

Under the Fair Housing Act, a landlord or housing association can't discriminate against you because of your cat. Emotional support animals don't count as service animals. However, both share one key similarity: they are not legally classed as pets. This means you won't have topay pet fees to move into rented or student accommodation with your therapy cat.

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA)

This law states that 'reasonable accommodation' must be made to enable someone with a valid ESA letter to bring their emotional support animal into an airplane cabin. This means you aren't automatically entitled to bring your support cat with you if it could cause problems for other people on the plane.

If you're planning to fly, we recommend that you always check with your chosen airline in advance. Let them know that you're hoping to fly with your emotional support cat and ask whether this will be allowed. Different airlines have very different rules regarding emotional support animals - and no person wants to be caught out on the day they want to travel.

Whatever airline you choose to travel with, always check the rules of the country you're traveling to. Some parts of the world may require you to submit proof that your cat has had particular vaccinations.

elderly man kissing cat

American Airlines

American Airlines has its own ESA form that your licensed therapist must fill out on your behalf. They must confirm that they are treating you for a recognized mental health illness and believe your emotional support cat is crucial to your well being.

You need to submit this form at least 48 hours before your flight takes off. If you don't fill in this form, the company may accept your regular ESA letter, provided it's written on your therapist's official letterhead and contains all the same information as the AA form.

Some companies, including AA, have banned the travel of snub-nosed animals (snub-nosed cats include the Persian, Scottish Fold, and Himalayan). This is to protect your cat's safety, which could experience breathing difficulties because of the lack of airflow inside the cabin.

Delta

Delta prohibits more unusual emotional support animals such as spiders, sugar gliders, and snakes - but your support cat should be allowed to board the flight as long as it's well-behaved. According to Delta's policy, any disruptive animal can be denied access.

There are also three forms you must fill in at least 48 hours before your trip. Your vet must sign one to show your cat's vaccinations are up to date, your therapist must sign another, and the third must confirm that your cat is well-trained.

United Airlines

United Airlines follows a similar policy to Delta and has three different forms. You must fill in all three before traveling. It also states your emotional support cat must be on a leash or in a carrier for the flight duration.

cat next to travel kennel

Can You Get a Service Cat For Anxiety? Can Cats Be Service Animals?

Although they make excellent emotional support animals, cats cannot become service animals. According to current laws in the United States, you can only have a service dog. This is because dogs are easy to train and are usually happy in public spaces.

A service dog is a service animal that has been specially trained to support its owner. Because it can take years for a service animal to pass their qualifications, they are more highly skilled than an emotional support animal.

Examples of a service dog include:

•    A seeing-eye dog

•    A seizure alert dog

•   Dogs for the disabled

Cats may not assist you with all your household chores, but their love and companionship make them the perfect emotional support animals!

Can You Have Two Emotional Support Cats?

There are no rules that limit the number of ESAs you can have. This means you could have two emotional support cats, a cat, and a dog, or any combination of animals you choose.

The only requirement is that your therapist will need to prescribe each animal individually. As a result, you will need to pay to receive (and renew) letters for each of your ESAs.

Some air companies may not permit you to travel with all of your animals if there isn't room for them all on the plane.

Conclusion

If you think an emotional support animal could help you manage your mental illness more effectively, dogs aren't the only option. Cats are loving and sensitive animals that make wonderful ESAs.

Find out more about how an emotional support cat could change your life by learning how to register your animal today.

smiling woman hugging cat