Are Emotional Support Cats A Thing?

kitten laying downIt may be a “dog’s world” when it comes to service work for people with special emotional and physical needs but that does not mean that cats can’t serve the purpose. An emotional support cat can be just as good a pet as any other and some people may even prefer cats to dogs, due to their independent, low-maintenance nature.

What Is An Emotional Support Animal?

An emotional support animal is a pet that helps alleviate the negative symptoms of an individual’s psychological or emotional disability by reducing emotional distress. ESAs are not seen as service animals, and thus do not need to be trained. A licensed mental health expert (psychiatrist, therapist, or psychologist) must prescribe them and the ESA letter should clearly state the ESA is part of the person’s treatment plan.

While many people prefer dogs as ESAs due to their ever-loving and excited nature, many people turn to cats for emotional support since they are calm, affectionate and intelligent that can offer their owners a comforting, soothing presence. People who suffer from depression, anxiety and other conditions that seriously affect the mood and emotional health, some days it might become hard to get out of bed. The world is noisy and busy, full of distractions and pressures, thus sometimes making it impossible to open your eyes, lift your head and face the day, especially if you are on your own.

ESA Cats Have Their Advantages

However, imagine waking up to gentle purring, and the feeling of warm, fluffy fur brushing against you. Suddenly, you don’t feel so lonely. With an emotional support cat by your side, you know that there will always be someone who loves you, depends on you, and is there to cuddle when you come back from a long, exhausting day. Those tiny paws gently patting your cheeks, that tiny wet nose or that lightest tickle of a whisker can be enough to set your mood back to normal.

Cats need to be fed, cleaned and played with, something that can keep emotionally stressed people away from their negative thoughts, even just for a little while. Studies prove that stroking and petting a cat produces a comforting hormonal response in people that helps reduce cortisol and stress levels, along with decreasing your blood pressure and heart rate. Naturally, felines have a docile nature that is perfect for emotionally disabled people, because they emit an atmosphere of utter and complete calm, while at the same time having unique, cute and bright personalities that can offer hours of fun.

a cat looking upThe Fair Housing Act (FHA) allows you to live with your emotional support cat, even if the apartment or condo has a “no pets” policy. The FHA protects ESA owners from prejudice by landlords and homeowner associations (HOA). The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) allows you to travel with your ESA cat on planes. You are not required to pay extra fees or buy an extra ticket when travelling with your ESA cat. However, it is a good idea to contact the airline 48 hours in advance and check for availability. Also, have all the documents ready before coming to the airport.

Make Sure Your Support Animal Is Really For Support!

Even though they offer emotional support, not all ESAs are legally allowed in public places, especially now that people are wrongly claiming their ill-behaved and untrained pets as emotional support animals. However, if you possess the right documents and can ensure your cat will behave, you may be granted permission to bring her along.