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Are Cats Good Emotional Support Animals?

Editorial Team
By
Updated Jun 04, 2024

Emotional support animals (ESAs) can help individuals with mental health symptoms from anxiety to depression. While the most common of ESAs are dogs, there is the possibility of an ESA being a cat. 

ESAs differ from service animals, as emotional support pets are not seen as performing a specific task for their individual. Service dogs, however, are trained to perform tasks relating to their owner. Cats can help ease many symptoms of mental health and could be a better option if a dog is not the right fit for you.

In this article, we will cover:

  • Can cats be good emotional support animals?
  • What cats are best to be ESAs?
  • Can You Train a Cat Similar to a Dog?
  • How to register a cat as an ESA
  • Get an ESA Letter Today!
  • Can Cats be Emotional Support Animals?
ESA cat

All in all, cats are a great choice to have as a pet. They are independent yet enjoy time with their owners and can take care of themselves, should something happen when their owner is incapable of caring for them for a day or two. Cats are an excellent option for those who do not want the activity associated with a dog yet need a companion by their side.

Emotional support animals can help their owners deal with a variety of needs, including specific tasks, such as a service dog would perform, from simply being there when a person's mental health is not well. Another option despite a service animal or an emotional support animal is a therapy animal. 

Therapy animals, much like emotional support animals, are used to help a person's mental health need. However, therapy animals are typically seen in nursing homes, hospitals, children's wards, and other high-stress environments, as well as offering emotional support.

ESAs are not to be confused with psychiatric service dogs (PSDs), which help individuals with disabilities pertaining to mental health and physical wellbeing. Assistance animals such as PSDs are similar to ESAs, as they help with emotional support, but they are considered service dogs and are not to be confused with ESAs.

Emotional support animals can help with a variety of mental health needs, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Depression
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Social Anxiety
  • And much more

Cats can support those easily stressed in their day-to-day lives. With the help of an ESA cat, individuals can have a higher quality of life. While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not define ESAs as the same as service animals, ESAs have been known to help individuals with calmer days and even gain better sleep at night. 

What Cat Breeds Make the Best Emotional Support Animals?

While there is a large variety of different breeds of cats out there, there are some that may be better adapted to helping their owner than others. It should be said that some breeds can depend on how well the cat works to relieve mental stress, it is highly unlikely that a certain breed will not help with some relief at all.

While the breed’s availability can vary from region to region, some are much better suited than others.

Ragdoll Cats

Ragdoll cats are an affectionate, furry breed. Ragdolls are known for going limp in their owners’ arms, hence the term. They are very loving, very passive, and mild-mannered, as well as gentle and caring towards individuals.

American Bobtail

One of the more active and playful cat breeds, they are a perfect choice for an individual looking for a high-spirited companion. They are eager to show affection, and are not very vocal, but very demonstrative with their owners, making them an ideal option for an ESA.

Manx

A shorter-haired option than the Ragdoll or Bobtail, a Manx cat has shorter fur yet no tail. They are gentle and playful cats who enjoy the interaction and are eager to please. They are a loyal breed, making them ideal for owners who need a lifelong companion.

Russian Blue

Another short-haired breed, the Russian Blue is a well-mannered cat with a soft and plush gray-blue coat and bright green eyes. They are very attentive to their owners, yet may shy away from visitors, making them an ideal choice for those who want a loyal, one-family cat.

Persian

Fluffy due to a lush and silky coat, Persians are excellent support animals. They have go-with-the-flow personalities and are gentle. Their faces are regarded as very expressive, and they enjoy being petted for long periods. 

They do tend to need more grooming than a typical cat due to the knots their fur can have, but for someone looking to put a lot of attention into a companion, Persians may be an excellent option.

Maine Coon

One of the largest and most well-known cat breeds around, the Maine Coon is a fluffy cat that can grow to the size of a medium-sized dog. They are known to be intelligent, making them ideal to train as an ESA. They are a family cat, enjoying the attention of children and adults. With their large coat, they require regular brushing, however, this also makes them soft and plush to hold and cuddle.

Maine Coon

While some cats, especially those with long fur, can strike up allergies with an individual, some options are hypoallergenic, similar to that of dog breeds.

Hypoallergenic Breeds for Cats

Cat dander is a common allergy among those in the United States. It is usually the fur or litter that humans are allergic to. If you are looking for a hypoallergenic cat as your ESA, there are plenty to choose from. Most are low-maintenance and require rare to minimum brushing of their fur.

The most familiar are:

Oriental Shorthair

These breeds have short, silky fur and are hardly shed. They are quite vocal but enjoy the attention of their owners. 

Orientals are very attentive and loving and enjoy as much exercise as they can get, as they are an athletic breed. While they require low maintenance, they enjoy making friendships with everyone they come across.

Cornish Rex

The Cornish Rex breed has a tight, close-to-the-skin curly coat, which requires minimal grooming. They barely shed and look almost "naked" to the outside eye, but it is only their fur sitting close to their skin

This breed is energetic and loves to play. They are ideal for those who are best when stimulated and have something to care for.

Sphynx

One of the more common short-haired cats, the Sphynx has fur that sits close to the skin, yet is still furry to pet. Sphynx are popular breeds, especially with their intelligence of learning very high, which makes them a dream to train, especially as an ESA.

Sphynx are very low maintenance, yet can be vocal and outspoken. They require minimal brushing of their coat, yet a brushing can leave it shiny and soft.

Sphynx

Javanese

The Javanese breed is a short-haired cat breed that is very vocal, smart, and athletic. The coat of the Javanese is thin, meaning minimal brushing and upkeep are needed. However, a good brushing distributes oils throughout the skin and fur, leaving the breed shiny and soft to the touch.

Javanese enjoy exploring and are a genuinely curious breed of cat. They can find their way into any nook and cranny and can get out with ease. 

Devon Rex

The Devon Rex breed is similar to the Cornish Rex, yet they exhibit more fur. While it is still considered a short-haired breed, the Devon Rex is a vocal and hyper cat that enjoys attention and play daily.

Devon Rexes like to be involved in every activity and purr loudly when happy and content with their owners. While they can be mischievous, they are fun to watch and attentive to their owners.

Can You Train a Cat Similar to a Dog?

It is possible to train a cat like you would train a dog. Beginning when they are younger is the best, as kittens are more apt to remember their training as they grow, rather than beginning training in the middle of their life. ESAs can be trained by using hands-on experience as an owner or by getting the animal trained with a licensed animal trainer.

To train your own ESA cat, some materials such as specific treats and the help of family and friends may be needed. The best way to start their training is by working with them quite frequently. If too much time passes between each training session, the previous session's lesson may be forgotten. If too little time passes between training, it may be an overwhelming experience for the ESA, meaning it cannot retain the information needed.

Training Sessions to Consider for Your Cat ESA

  • Litter Training
  • Calling Sounds/Gestures
  • Staying Still for Grooming
  • Interaction (You, Strangers, Family, Etc.)
  • Traveling (Free or in a Carrier)

Training your own ESA may sound like a daunting task, but it can prove rewarding in the end. When cats are younger, it can be the best time to train them, as they are able to retain the training sessions better.

Tips on Training Your Cat ESA

  • Keep the sessions short
  • Do not limit the cat to one room
  • Allow daily interaction
  • Use treats or a clicker to establish good vs. bad behavior
  • Use a calm, steady voice
  • Be knowledgeable when your cat is done or tired and do not overwork it.
  • How to Register a Cat as an ESA

An ESA cat is similar to that of a dog whereas registration, paperwork, and a service vest are not needed to 'prove' your cat is an emotional support pet. However, they can come in handy when avoiding confrontation in public places. It is also better to have your ESA registered, as it can help should something happen where you are unable to express you have an ESA.

To register your cat as an ESA, various websites may come up. However, the one that is federally recognized is usserviceanimals.org. This website offers registration of your ESA for no fee and gives other information on keeping track of and training your ESA.

While it is not needed legally to prove your animal is an ESA, it can be nice to have your animal registered in a database. Service animals are typically registered, as they help their owner with a specific task. This aids in any confusion that may come up regarding your animal.

Get an ESA Letter Today!

An ESA Letter is similar to a service dog letter. An ESA letter states that the animal in your care is needed to live a quality-filled life. A letter helps distinguish in public places that the animal in your possession is medically needed. While service animals are allowed anywhere in public without confrontation, the same cannot be said for an ESA. There may be some pushback if you decide to take your ESA in public. A letter can help with that.

A letter can also be important when moving into a place that may have a ‘no pet’ policy. An ESA letter, called a housing letter, allows the pet to accompany you into your home, according to the Fair Housing Act. There is also a travel letter, which states the support animal can accompany you onto a plane or other mode of transportation without any extra fees.

With Pettable, you can get your ESA letter within 24 hours. After taking Pettable’s short quiz, you will be prompted to fill out a privacy form. Afterward, Pettable’s licensed mental healthcare providers will send an email link to set up a time for a consultation. After the provider determines whether or not an ESA would be beneficial to you, you have the option to receive an ESA letter. Excluding California residents, there is the option to receive the letter within 24 hours of the consultation.

Editorial Team
By Editorial Team
Our Editorial Team, made up of seasoned professionals, prioritizes accuracy and quality in every piece of content. With years of experience in journalism and publishing, we work diligently to deliver reliable and well-researched content to our readers.
Editorial Team
Editorial Team
Our Editorial Team, made up of seasoned professionals, prioritizes accuracy and quality in every piece of content. With years of experience in journalism and publishing, we work diligently to deliver reliable and well-researched content to our readers.
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