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Home > Cats > Can Cats Be Emotional Support Animals? Facts, Benefits & FAQ

Can Cats Be Emotional Support Animals? Facts, Benefits & FAQ

young woman hugging her cat

Cats can be loving, gentle, and affectionate, but they can also be independent, aloof, and standoffish. While science has proven time and time again that pets have a positive impact on our mental and emotional health, does that extend to cats?

Debates have raged among experts and pet owners for years as to whether a cat can make an excellent emotional support animal or if it should be considered as such. So, can cats be emotional support animals? Yes, they certainly can! We’ll discuss cats as emotional support animals and more below.


What Is an Emotional Support Animal?

With the invention of the internet and social media, more and more people are becoming aware of emotional support animals, but only some know what one actually is. An emotional support animal is “an animal species that brings comfort to an individual.”

There is no specification of what type of animal must be an emotional support animal, so in reality, it can be any animal that brings you comfort.

ESAs, emotional support animals, are not considered service animals since they have no specific training. However, they are recognized by the Fair Housing Act and as emotional support animals by the Air Carrier Act, though you have to have documentation stating that you need an ESA with you.

What Animals Can Be Emotional Support Animals?

There’s no specification as to what type of animal can be an ESA. Any animal that you’re legally allowed to own qualifies. The most common are cats and dogs, but any animal that gives you comfort and helps with your mental and emotional health is recognized.

Elderly woman hugging a grey cat
Image by: Alonafoto, Shutterstock

What Are the Requirements for a Cat to Be an ESA?

The process isn’t difficult or even complicated if you have a cat that you want to make an emotional support animal. If you suffer from anxiety, depression, panic attacks, or a mental illness, you need to do the following to meet the requirements.

  • Own a cat. If you don’t, you can check with the local ASPCA or your local animal shelter to adopt one.
  • Make sure the cat gives you emotional support
  • Go to a licensed therapist and get an ESA letter
  • Provide your ESA letter to your landlord, airline, etc.

That’s all it takes to declare your cat an ESA. However, what are the benefits of having a cat as an emotional support animal?


What Are the Benefits of Having a Cat as an Emotional Support Animal?

Having an emotional support cat comes with quite a few health benefits. If you’re unsure whether you want an emotional support cat, read the benefits below to help you make your final decision.

Relieve Stress and Depression

Cats have been known to help people dealing with stress and depression. Emotional support cats give their owners a sense of meaning and purpose, which has been known to go a long way towards relieving symptoms of depression.

Cats help with stress as well; even the purr of an emotional support cat can work wonders when it comes to dropping stress levels in people. If you have a cat, petting it can release feel-good hormones that instantly relieve stress symptoms and help to relieve depression as well.

Reduce Anxiety

It can be an almost impossible and overwhelming hurdle to cross if you suffer from anxiety. Cats can help to overcome that hurdle and reduce your stress. The cat gives you something to take care of and something to do, which helps to overcome anxiety and the episodes that come with it.

Reduces Loneliness

Another way an ESA cat can help you is by reducing feelings of loneliness. This is true, especially for the elderly who live alone. Having a cat jumping in your lap and wanting to be petted can go a long way towards combating those feelings of being alone.

Feeling less lonely can positively impact your life and make you want to get out there and do something. If you’re lonely, getting out and interacting with other people is essential, but a cat can help.

woman hugging a cat in bed
Image Credit: Trusova Evgeniya, Shutterstock


How to Qualify for an Emotional Support Cat?

Of course, not just anyone can register to have an emotional support animal or cat. For a medical professional to write you a letter, you must suffer from one of the following emotional or mental issues.

  • Anxiety
  • Phobias
  • Depression
  • Loneliness
  • Panic attacks
  • Personality disorder
  • PTSD
  • ADHD
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • And a host of other issues

Many people face this challenge and more every day, and if an emotional support cat can help, that’s a good thing. If you are having any of the problems above and don’t seem to be getting better, it’s essential to get help somewhere, whether it’s from a friend, a relative, or a professional.


Wrap Up

There’s no limit to the type of animal that can be an emotional support animal, and cats can make very good ones. If you’re looking to adopt a cat and want it to be an emotional support cat, there are steps you need to take, though they aren’t very complicated.

If you have any of the issues above, you can talk to your doctor or therapist to get the letter needed to have your cat registered as an emotional support animal. It’s important to note that having an emotional support animal is not a substitute for getting the help you need from a professional. The cat will help, but you need professional treatment as well.

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Featured Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

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