August 09, 2022 2 min read

Cats can be emotional support animals, and there are many benefits to having an ESA (emotional support animal) cat. Many people wonder if the process of registering a cat is a little strange – is it the same as ESA dogs? What are the ESA guidelines? We've put together the answers to these questions and more.

Emotional Support Animals vs. Service Animals

Though you may hear the terms used interchangeably, ESA’s and service animals are different. The main difference is that service animals are trained to do a specific task for someone with a disability and are recognized under the ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act). In addition, the only animals that can be trained and certified service animals under the ADA are dogs (and rarely, miniature horses), not cats. Service animals are given public access to places, such as airlines, as outlined by the ADA.

Many other animals can be considered emotional support animals, however. This is because an ESA is an animal who aids in helping someone with anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders and does not require any specialized training to do so. For this reason, ESA’s are not able to fly freely on most airlines and do not have the same public access protections as service animals under the ADA.

ESA’s do require a doctor or mental health professional to prescribe a legal ESA letter, so not just anyone can say their animal is an ESA to a landlord or other housing agent. Common ESA’s include dogs, rabbits, lizards, and of course, cats. Cat ownership in particular has been proven to show a plethora of benefits on people’s overall mental health.

Benefits of having a cat as an ESA

Cats, as well as other animals as ESA’s, provide their humans with support in many areas. In addition to companionship, benefits of having a cat as an ESA can include:

  • Positive impact on those with depression
  • Anxiety reduction
  • Help with PTSD
  • Handling phobias
  • Coping with hyper-sensitivity

Having an ESA can bring an overall comfort to an individual’s life, making every day tasks and intense feelings more manageable.

Registering a cat as an ESA

As mentioned before, not just anyone can have their cat assume the role of being an ESA officially. A person must first be evaluated by a doctor or mental health professional through a screening process where they can be given a prescription or letter to have an ESA. This process is the same whether you are registering a dog or other animal to be an ESA.

People who qualify for an ESA include those struggling with depression, anxiety, ADD, and other mental health disorders. Speak with your doctor or mental health professional to see if you qualify to receive a letter for your ESA.

Beware of disreputable websites offering ESA certifications. The only legitimate document for an ESA is a letter through a professional. Always look into, research, and fact check any sites claiming to put you in touch with said professionals before attempting to get an ESA letter.

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