Our beloved pets provide us with such positive emotions by even being around! They bring us joy and happiness and make us feel loved and supported. You may have wondered if you can officially turn your pet into an Emotional Support Animal. Many of you are likely to have heard about Emotional Support Dogs. But what about Emotional Support Cats?
If you want to make your feline friend your Emotional Support Animal but are not sure if or how this would be possible, this article may answer your questions.
Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) are animals who provide comfort and companionship to people with mental or a psychiatric disability and benefit their general mental health through their presence.
ESAs can be representatives of all domesticated species including dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs...etc. So, the short answer to the question: “Can cats become Emotional Support Animals” is Yes.
ESAs are not considered service animals, as they are not trained to perform specific tasks, directly related to a certain disability. Hence, their rights are limited and they may be denied access to places open to using by the public. The “no pet” policy of covered entities applies to ESAs. However, they still need to go through basic obedience training, so that the handlers can ensure that their ESAs will behave properly while around people and other animals.
Service Dogs, on the other hand, can be dogs only, who are individually trained to perform specific tasks, directly related to a certain disability. They are considered medical equipment and the “no pet” policy of covered entities does not apply to them. Service Dogs, unlike Emotional Support Animals, are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and have granted public access rights by law.
In order to make your little paw fellow your ESA, you must be eligible for an ESA. In other words, you must be diagnosed with a mental / psychiatric disability and an ESA must be prescribed by a licensed mental health professional. You will need to have an official letter to verify your need for an Emotional Support Animal.
Your cat should have the right personality for an ESA. Since Emotional Support Animals provide comfort and companionship, your feline friend must be loving, friendly, well-mannered and have a calm disposition. Also, it is important that your kitty is human-oriented and love being petted. Aggressive or too anxious cats, that get easily scared and stressed may not become very good Emotional Support Animals
You and your cat need to have a strong bond. The stronger the attachment is, the better the abilities of your cat to sense any emotional and/or behavioral changes will be.
You may want to consider spaying/neutering your cat. If you have a male cat, he may start exhibiting unwanted behavior such as urinating at home, being aggressive, biting, constantly whining. Females, on the other hand, will go into heat, which may lead to attempts to run away or attracting all males in the neighborhood.
As mentioned above, Emotional Support Animals are not protected under the ADA and they may be denied access to public places. However, they are protected under the Fair Housing Act and they must be granted reasonable accommodation.
If you are a tenant, your landlord may require you to provide a letter issued by a relevant mental health professional as verification of your need for an ESA. It is important to note that the letter prescribed by a doctor for an ESA and for a Service Dog differ from each other, due to the different nature of both types of assistance animals. You may not be required to provide any additional information in regard to the nature of severity of your condition.
Your Emotional Support Cat (or an ESA of any specie) must behave properly and do not cause damages. Otherwise, fees applicable to all guests in such situations, may be charged.
Cats are loving creatures and although they have quite different personalities from dogs, they still can provide you with great support and comfort. You should never forget that if you use the proper approach and be patient and consistent, you can train your feline friend in basic obedience skills. However, you should keep in mind that cats tend to put a high value on their privacy, so you should respect that.