Emotional Support Cat
Can Cats be Emotional Support Animals?
Cats make wonderful pets. But did you know they can also provide those with emotional challenges the added support they need to live a full life?
In this article, we will explore the following:
- What is an emotional support cat?
- The ESA certification and registration process
- Types of animals that can be service animals and emotional support animals
- What an ESA letter is and why it’s necessary
- What the laws have to say about having more than one emotional support cat
1. Emotional Support Cat Provides Comfort
An emotional support animal can be of any species, including cats. An emotional support animal or ESA does not require any special training. An ESA is there to provide a person with an emotional or mental disability the support they need to live a normal or better life.
Cats can be beneficial as an emotional support animal as some breeds of felines are very human orientated. This means they love to spend time with their human companion. Some of these cat breeds include the Persian, the Ragdoll, the Abyssinian, the Burmese, the Maine Coon and the Exotic Shorthair. However, that doesn’t mean a mixed breed feline (Moggy) cannot be just as loyal and dedicated to their human.
2. Legitimate Emotional Support Cat Registration
Although it is not required by law to register your feline as an ESA, some people choose to do so for its many benefits. These include having access to custom ID cards, certificates and even vests to identify the cat as an ESA. If you already have an ESA letter for your Emotional Support Animal, you may register your cat here.
Can a Cat Be a Service Animal?
Unfortunately, no. The job of a service animal falls to canine species and miniature horses. These animals need to be specifically trained to do a task for a disabled individual. This can include picking up dropped items, opening doors or alerting the person to a drop in their blood sugar or of an oncoming seizure. Even though cats can be highly intelligent and trainable, the depth of training needed for a service animal is usually beyond the scope of the feline species. Most importantly, even if you trained your cat to perform services for you, they will not be protected under the ADA.
However, you still have rights under Federal Law with your emotional support cat. Landlords must reasonably accommodate your ESA, even if they have a “no pets” policy. The landlord cannot charge you extra for your ESA, but your cat must be well behaved and not pose a health or safety issue to other tenants.
3. Emotional Support Cat Certification
All that is needed to make your cat a legitimate emotional support animal is a letter from a therapist or mental health professional. In order for an ESA letter to be accepted by “no pets” housing, the letter must be written and signed by a licensed healthcare professional. The ESA letter must also be written on the therapist’s own letterhead, with his/her license number and the place/date it was issued. In addition, the ESA letter must have been issued within one year of the time of submission.
If you do not have access to a therapist in your own area or they do not understand the benefits of animal therapy, you may seek support from a legitimate online resource. We have a helpful post on getting your ESA letter online here.
4. How Many Emotional Support Cats Can I Have?
Under the Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA) people with diagnosed mental or emotional disabilities are allowed to have an ESA. Landlords and/or building managers must make allowances for ESA’s in “no pets” policies buildings, but this could be nullified if there were too many animals (cats) to keep the residence safe for both tenants and animals. Since the FHA does not specify how many ESA a person can have, as long as the number is reasonable to your therapist, you can have more than one.
5. Emotional Support Cats Can Work, Too
If you are suffering from an emotional or mental disability, then an emotional support cat may be “just what the doctor ordered.” Cats can make loving, dedicated and supportive ESA’s that can help you get on with the rest of your life. Check with your therapist or mental health professional to see if you qualify for an emotional support cat. You may also seek support from an ESA letter referral service.