REGISTERING YOUR CAT AS AN EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMAL

Original Guest post by Lexi Carr; updated by Lauren Mieli on 2/8/2022

 

 

 

The bottom line:

  • Service Animal vs. ESA: Service animals can only be dogs where ESAs can be any pet. Additionally service animals need to meet a certain standard of training whereas an emotional support animal does not.
  • How To Qualify For An ESA: A licensed mental health professional in your state needs to evaluate you and recommend an ESA for you to qualify.
  • Can Cats Be Emotional Support Animals: Yes they can.
  • How To Make My Cat An Emotional Support Animal: Connect with a licensed mental health professional in your state to see if you qualify. We recommend using a reputable telehealth service so you can connect with one quickly and from the comfort of your own home.
  • Best Emotional Support Animal Service
    • OUR Top Pick – Pettable: Only service offering a satisfaction guarantee, meaning your letter works or your money back.
    • Runner UpCertapet
    • Alternative – US Service Animals

Check out our top pick

There are many reasons that a person may choose to speak to their doctor or mental health provider about owning an emotional support animal. Whatever the reason may be, the process to discuss your needs for an ESA doesn’t have to be long and arduous. If you have considered speaking to your provider about an emotional support animal, here are some things to keep in mind.

What is an emotional support animal?

An emotional support animal (ESA), or a support animal, is a pet whose presence is deemed by a professional to provide benefits for people who suffer from mental illnesses. Those who qualify have mental health conditions that can disrupt one’s day-to-day life activities and include conditions like anxiety disorder, panic attacks, and clinical depression.

An emotional support animal can be a great asset to anyone who lives with these conditions. An ESA can offer comfort and support to its owner amid stressful situations. If you have talked to a medical professional and find that an emotional support pet is right for you, don’t feel limited by the type of pet you own. If you already own a pet, your pet doesn’t need to be a specific type of animal to be an ESA.

Can cats be emotional support animals?

When you imagine an emotional support animal, you might picture a service dog. But ESAs are not limited to only emotional support dogs. The process to obtain an ESA letter for an emotional support dog is the same for any animal. Usually, any domesticated animal can serve you as an emotional support pet. You might be surprised by the types of animals that make the best ESAs. While emotional support dogs make great ESAs, so do rabbits, mini pigs, miniature horses, and cats. Cats can certainly make excellent emotional support animals for several reasons. Cats may have a mind of their own at times, but they can also be affectionate and perceptive to their owner’s emotions. 

If you think some dogs are too rambunctious, cats make a great alternative to someone who wants their pet to serve them as an emotional support cat. Cats are smaller than dogs and can manage their energy levels better than some dogs. Cats typically create a calming presence in their owners’ homes by bonding with their owners and developing a sense of companionship. Cats can be an excellent form of emotional support for individuals that live with anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions. If you have a cat and want your cat to serve you as an ESA, you first need to qualify for an emotional support cat.

How to qualify for an emotional support cat?

There is a very simple requirement to qualify for an emotional support cat. If you feel debilitated by a mental health issue, you may benefit from your pet serving you as an ESA. If you find that things like anxiety, depression, PTSD, or other mental health struggles affect your daily life, you may qualify for an emotional support cat. First, you will need to discuss your concerns with a medical professional to determine whether your cat can serve you as an emotional support animal. Because the requirements to qualify for an ESA are emotional challenges, you will need to discuss your concerns with a licensed mental health professional. 

Once you discuss your needs with a medical professional, you will need to complete the necessary steps to get an official ESA letter. When you have documentation from a medical professional stating that you need an ESA, you then qualify for your cat to be an emotional support cat. The process to qualify for an emotional support cat is a simple one, and there are countless benefits for your cat to be an emotional support animal.

Benefits of Having an Emotional Support Cat

The benefits to an ESA are as personal as the bond you share with your pet. But there are some benefits that all ESA owners will experience when they speak to a medical professional about owning an emotional support cat.

They Offer Emotional Support

Just as the name states, an emotional support animal supports you emotionally, whether you struggle with PTSD, anxiety, depression, emotional disabilities, or other mental health struggles. ESAs are companions for their owners through difficult times that otherwise have the potential to derail an entire day. With an ESA, you’re given emotional comfort in difficult times.

ESAs Ease Travel Anxiety

Traveling is a stressful ordeal for most people. When you travel with an ESA, your pet can help calm some of those traveling nerves. When you choose to travel with your pet, some airlines will honor the ESA letter you have for your pet. This will allow you to travel with your emotional support pet, which can ease the anxiety that comes with traveling. You will have to check with individual airlines because the rules often change, but it’s worth checking if your ESA can calm your travel anxiety.

Avoid Pet Deposit Fees

When you have an ESA, you make it clear that you have a medical need to own your pet. Because your pet supports your mental health, you can show your official ESA letter to your landlord so that your pet deposit fees are waived. This will allow you to live with your pet without any worry or fees.

These are just a few of the benefits that come with having an ESA cat. If you already own a cat, the process to make your cat an emotional support cat is simple.

How to make my cat an emotional support animal?

If you already own a cat, you can discuss your needs to have your cat serve you as an ESA cat. You can start by asking yourself if your cat offers you emotional support in your daily life. If your cat gives you emotional support, then there isn’t much else you need to do to make your cat an ESA. Your cat doesn’t need to go through any special training to be an emotional support cat for you. Your cat may be doing the job of an ESA for you because your cat is already a companion to you. 

Because an emotional support animal doesn’t need special training to become an ESA, your cat can serve you as an ESA because it is already a part of your family. When you speak to a medical professional and discuss your need for an ESA, you won’t need to do anything else to make your cat an emotional support animal. Once you decide that your cat is a good fit as an ESA for you, there are several ways to get your ESA letter.

Best Emotional Support Animal Letter Services

The emotional support animal qualification process does not need to be difficult. Here are some reputable establishments that can help you get your official ESA letter.

Pettable

 

Pettable Website

Pros: 

  • Fast turnaround time
  • Quick and easy online process
  • Offers an online prequalification quiz
  • Official letters that are compliant with federal laws
  • Full money-back guarantee
  • Excellent customer service

Cons

  • Pre-screening quiz requires your email address and phone number
  • Information about pricing is not provided upfront
  • Consultations with a medical professional are only done by phone

When you pursue an official ESA letter through Pettable, there are some upsides and downsides to consider. When you use Pettable to speak to a medical professional about an ESA letter, Pettable offers a quick turnaround time. After you complete the necessary steps, you will receive your recommendation to have an ESA from a licensed medical professional within 24 hours. This is a benefit to anyone that needs their official ESA letter within a specific time frame. Another benefit of Pettable is its quick and easy online process.

Pettable online process

Pettable’s process for an ESA letter is quick, easy, and online, so you can complete the necessary steps from your home. That way, you can avoid waiting in long lines to discuss your need for an ESA with a medical professional. First, you’ll take a quiz to match yourself with a mental health provider. Then you’ll have a consultation with this medical professional. Pettable also provides you with an official ESA letter that is compliant with federal laws. You can easily download your official ESA letter to your phone. This gives you easy access to your ESA letter and can greatly benefit you when you need your letter quickly and on hand. You can also print a copy of your letter to share with your landlord. Pettable is an excellent site to consider when you decide you may benefit from an emotional support animal. There are many benefits that Pettable offers that you may not receive with other establishments.

While Pettable’s process is online, the consultation you’ll need to have with a medical professional is only offered over the phone. This is a necessary step to receive your ESA recommendation. Once you complete the consultation with a medical professional, they will decide if you could benefit from an emotional support animal. If the medical professional decides that you qualify, you will receive your ESA letter in only 24 hours. Pettable is only one of several options to discuss your needs for an emotional support animal.

CertaPet

CertaPet

Pros:

  • Fast turnaround process
  • Consultation with a licensed medical professional
  • Official letters that are compliant with state and federal laws
  • Offers both ESA and PSD (psychiatric service dog) consultations, for home and travel purposes.
  • Over 7,500 5-Star Reviews
  • Serves U.S. and Canadian residents

Cons:

  • Your consultation fee is non-refundable
  • Multiple support animals and additional add-ons are charged extra
  • Requires letter fee payment before evaluation
  • Customers will receive a full refund if they are not approved, less a $35 fee.

CertaPet is another example of a reputable establishment that can help you determine if you need an emotional support pet. CertaPet offers several benefits to individuals seeking a quick, easy process to discuss their needs for an ESA. First, CertaPet has a fast turnaround process, just as Pettable does. The process that CertaPet offers to determine your needs for an ESA is quite simple.

First, you only need to take five minutes out of your day to participate in a free screening on CertaPet’s website. This screening will give you an idea of whether you are a good candidate for an ESA or not. After the screening, you will have a consultation with a licensed medical professional via a telehealth appointment. Lastly, if the medical professional feels that you would benefit from having an emotional support animal, you will receive a copy of an official ESA letter.

Then, you can print your letter, or CertaPet can mail an official letter to you. The official letter that you receive through CertaPet is recognized by federal and state laws. The process to obtain your ESA letter through CertaPet is quick and simple. While CertaPet has many benefits, there is only one significant drawback to Cert Pet’s process.

When you complete the consultation with CertaPet, you will need to pay a small, non-refundable fee of $35. This is one downside among many benefits that CertaPet offers. CertaPet is dedicated to providing a streamlined, easy-to-use process to all individuals seeking an emotional support pet. While you may feel that an ESA is right for you, CertaPet can help you know for sure after you speak to one of their licensed medical professionals. Pettable and CertaPet are excellent options to determine if you would benefit from an ESA, and US Service Animals is another option.

 

US Service Animals

US Service Animals

 

Pros: 

  • Lifetime acknowledgement for pets
  • Always available for follow up questions
  • Offers multilingual customer support

Cons:

  • Charges money for unnecessary registration services
  • Does not offer separate housing and travel ESA letters
  • Not all pets qualify as US Service Animals

There are several things to consider when deciding on which service to use to discuss your needs for an emotional support animal. If you decide your pet would serve you best as a US Service Animal, the process to do so is quick and easy. But keep in mind, not all pets will easily qualify as a US service pet. First, you need to enter your pet’s information into the US Service Animal official website.

After you enter your pet’s information, speak to a medical professional, and put your pet in the US Service Animals system, you will receive your service letter and ID card. US Service Animals will send your card to you in the mail and digitally. There are several benefits once you successfully discuss your needs for your pet to serve you as a US service pet. Your pet will have a lifetime acknowledgement as a US service pet once it’s officially a US service pet.

You will also have access to the US Service Animals helpline if you have any questions or need any further help with your service pet. Once you discuss your needs for a service pet with a medical professional and qualify, you will also have access to the US Service Animal legal team. This can be beneficial if you feel your rights have been violated as an ESA owner. These are all benefits to keep in mind if you decide that your pet will serve you as an emotional support animal.

The primary downside of pursuing a US Service Animals letter for your pet is that not all pets will easily qualify as US service pets. There are several things to keep in mind if you decide that your pet will best serve you as either a service pet or an emotional support pet. You need to consider the wait time for an official letter, whether you will have a consultation with a licensed medical professional, and the ease of the process to discuss your mental health needs. Another important consideration is whether or not your animal qualifies as an ESA or a service pet.

Knowing the difference between an Emotional Support Animal and a Service Animal

An emotional support animal (ESA), or a support animal, is a pet whose presence is deemed by a professional to provide benefits for people who suffer from mental illnesses. Those who qualify have mental health conditions that can disrupt one’s day-to-day life activities and include conditions like anxiety disorder, panic attacks, and clinical depression.

ESAs differ from service animals in that service animals are specifically trained to perform a variety of tasks (i.e., detect seizures before they strike, provide deep pressure therapy, bring medication to their handler.) While it is typical for a dog to be registered as an ESA, that doesn’t necessarily mean that other animals cannot, as there are no rules that specify what an ESA animal should be. This means that, if you have a cat, and you are deemed qualified by a mental health professional—you can register your feline companion as an ESA. However, there are quite a few things that you have to consider before registering your cat as an emotional service animal.

There isn’t an “official” registration for an Emotional Support cat

The only kind of registration that you will need is your ESA letter from a therapist. There is no official register that you are legally required to sign your cat up for. Additionally, an emotional support cat doesn’t have to wear a special vest or tag of any sort, declaring your companion’s status as a support animal.

Beware of scammers

Because the process for registering your cat as an ESA is fairly simple and straightforward and not at all as stringent as registering a service animal, there are many companies taking advantage of this fact and claim that they can “officially certify” your ESA. Without any prior knowledge of ESAs, a pet owner could end up paying money for an illegitimate document or phony certification. Unlike support animals, an ESA is not guaranteed into any venue.

Your ESA is covered under the Fair Housing Act

This act states that your landlord must provide reasonable accommodations to you and your ESA; however, if it imposes any financial or administrative strain on your landlord, your landlord can also reject your ESA through legal proceedings. This is also possible if you have an ESA that is very large (i.e., a horse.)

Cat and man, portrait of happy cat with close eyes and young man, people playing with the kitten. Handsome Young Animal-Lover Man, Hugging and Cuddling his Gray Domestic Cat Pet

Housing that isn’t covered by FHA

Rental spaces of four units or less (where the owner is actually living in one of the units), single family homes that are sold/rented by the owner without the use of a broker, and housing that is operated by private clubs and religious organizations that restrict occupancy to their members are not covered by FHA.

Emotional Support Animals and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA)

Your emotional service animal may be able to travel with you inside the airplane cabin but due to significant abuse of this regulation, it is currently under scrutiny and the rules may change. Obtaining a letter from a licensed professional is crucial in having your companion fly with you. Make sure you have the letter dated no later than one year before you use it. Contact your airline a few days before your scheduled flight to make proper arrangements.

Emotional Support Animals and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, emotional support animals are not considered service animals. This is a really important distinction because support animals do not enjoy the same type of access as service animals. Services animals are specifically trained to perform a specific task for their owner and they are not viewed as pets, but workers. Service animals help blind people get around, help those with epilepsy know when a seizure will strike and so much more. Today, the ADA will only consider dogs as service animals and they must undergo the appropriate certification. Cats were previously allowed to be service animals, provided they were trained. Those who have a service cat that was previously certified are usually grandfathered into the program… but cats are no longer allowed to be considered service animals.

Frequently Asked Questions About Support Cats

Are cats good for emotional support?

Cats are affectionate and can easily bond with their caregivers. Cats are small, quiet, clean, and can oftentimes be compassionate animals. Because of this, cats provide emotional support to their owners and make excellent emotional support animals.

How to register a cat as an emotional support animal?

While you don’t need to have an ESA pet, the process is simple if you decide to discuss your medical needs for an ESA pet with a doctor.  You will need to complete a short screening and have a consultation with a licensed medical professional who will determine if you qualify for an ESA cat letter today. 

Can a landlord refuse an emotional support cat?

No. If your emotional support cat does not pose a threat to others, your landlord cannot refuse your emotional support animal. Under the Fair Housing Act, a landlord cannot refuse a tenant because they have a pet if that pet is an ESA.

How much does an emotional cat cost?

When you seek out an emotional support cat, you will usually need to pay the fees for your screening and your consultation with a medical professional. This cost ranges depending on which establishment you use to get your ESA letter.

Are emotional support cats required to have a pet deposit?

No. Pet deposit fees are waived once you have your official ESA letter and you share your letter with your landlord. It is unlawful for your landlord to charge you a pet deposit when your pet is an emotional support cat.

Want to read more about a real service cat (and hero), Symie!?

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2 Comments

  1. Kate

    What if you have 2 cats? Is this ESA permission letter only good for 1 cat? And what if I have no insurance and can’t afford a Therapist or Dr’s letter?

    Reply
    • Kat

      Hi Kate – it’s a requirement to have a professional say that you need the animal for emotional support.

      Reply

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