Emotional support animals are legally protected assistance animals that help their owners with mental health challenges. Many people think ESAs are just dogs, but did you know that cats can also legally qualify as emotional support animals? 

Cats are the second most popular type of emotional support animal. Our feline friends can provide a comforting and supportive presence and are wonderful companions during difficult times. In addition to the many psychological benefits of owning a cat, there are practical advantages to having an emotional support cat. They can be lower maintenance, quieter, more independent, cleaner, and more suited to indoor spaces than other types of pets. 

If you’re interested in registering your cat as an emotional support animal, the first thing you should know is that registration is not necessary. That’s right, you can’t become an ESA owner by registering your cat. Registering your cat will not give you the legal benefits of owning an ESA. There is only one way to qualify your kitty as an emotional support animal, and we’ll tell you exactly how in this guide.

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How to Register an Emotional Support Cat 

Emotional support cats are protected in every state under federal housing laws. Many states, such as California, New York, Florida, and Illinois, also have additional laws protecting owners of emotional support cats. No matter what state you live in, there is only one way to qualify for an emotional support cat, and it is not through registration or certification. To have a legally protected emotional support cat, you must have an ESA letter.

An ESA letter is the only document you need to demonstrate that your cat is an assistance animal, not just an ordinary pet.

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An ESA letter is a recommendation letter from a licensed healthcare professional. It proves that you qualify for an emotional support animal. With an ESA letter, you can benefit from the many rights ESA owners have under the law. 

With the advent of telehealth options, seeing if you qualify for an emotional support cat is easier than ever. Here are some basics steps to follow if you want to protect your cat as an ESA: 

  1. Find a licensed mental health professional online or in real life.

    To qualify for an emotional support cat, you will need the help of a licensed professional such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, counselor, doctor, or nurse. 

    If you have a therapist, you can ask them about qualifying for an emotional support cat. If you do not have access to an LMHP or your current provider isn’t knowledgeable about emotional support cats, you can connect with one online

  2. Have the LMHP evaluate your need for an ESA.

    To qualify for an ESA letter, a licensed mental health professional must determine your mental health disability. That means you have a condition like depression, anxiety, PTSD, or ADHD that substantially limits a life activity like work, sleep or the ability to socialize. 

    The LMHP must also believe that an emotional support cat will relieve symptoms of your mental health condition. 

  3. Ask for an ESA letter.

    If your LMHP decides you qualify for emotional support cat, congratulations! The next step is to get the right documentation. Ask the LMHP to give you a signed ESA letter on their letterhead which verifies your qualification for an emotional support animal. 

    An ESA letter should contain the LMHP’s contact information, license number, and signature. An ESA letter does not need to include specific details about your condition – you can choose to keep sensitive health details private. 

    Many LMHPs want to help their clients but are unfamiliar with ESA recommendations. They may not be able or willing to write ESA letters because of their lack of experience in that area. That’s why it can be helpful to utilize an LMHP that specializes in emotional support cats

  4. Notify your landlord about your emotional support cat.

    Once you have your ESA letter, you can notify your landlord that you have an emotional support cat. Your landlord is entitled to see a copy of your ESA letter to verify that you have an ESA and not just a regular pet.

    With an ESA letter, your cat can be accommodated in buildings that ban pets. ESA letters also provide a financial benefit because emotional support cats are exempt from pet fees and deposits.

  5. Be informed about ESA rules.

    Once you have an ESA letter, it’s important to be knowledgeable about your rights as an emotional support cat owner. Remember that you do not need special tags, vests, or ID cards for your emotional support cat. You also do not need to register or certify an emotional support cat. 

    There are also limits to having an emotional support cat. For example, if your emotional support cat has caused significant property damage or has acted aggressively toward another tenant, it can be disqualified.

Emotional Support Cat licking paw - ESA Doctors
The only emotional support cat registration you need is an ESA letter.
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Housing Rights for Emotional Support Cats 

Emotional support cats have legal rights under the Fair Housing Act. Landlords must reasonably allow for ESAs even if the building policy bans all pets. ESA owners have this right because emotional support cats are not considered pets; they are classified as assistance animals required by people suffering from mental and emotional health conditions. 

Owners of emotional support cats enjoy the following privileges:

  • The right to live in no-pet buildings. 
  • Exemption from pet fees. 
  • Exemption from pet deposits. 
  • Exemption from size and breed restrictions. 
  • Protection against housing discrimination. 

Even if your building currently allows cats, getting an ESA letter in case you move to another residence that prohibits cats can be a good idea. 

ESA rules apply to most housing providers, including rental buildings, co-ops, and HOAs, but keep in mind that some smaller landlords do not have to comply. Owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units and single-family houses sold or rented by the owner without the use of an agent do not have to accept ESA letters. 

Emotional support cats have specific legal rights to live with their owners. Even if your apartment has a no-pets policy. - ESA Doctors
Emotional support cats have specific legal rights to live with their owners even if your apartment has a no-pets policy.

Travel Rights for Emotional Support Cats 

Before emotional support animals were allowed to board flights free of charge. Unfortunately, due to changes in ESA travels laws, emotional support animals no longer have air travel rights. 

Some airlines may allow your cat to travel with you as a normal pet. If your cat is allowed to board as a pet, it will be subject to normal airline pet fees and restrictions (such as enclosure in a pet carrier).

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The Benefits of Emotional Support Cats

As cat owners can attest, every cat has a distinctive personality, each offering different benefits as emotional support animal. Many people mistakenly assume that cats are aloof and even unfriendly, but cats can be very affectionate and playful. Even cats that are not the most sociable can form strong bonds with their owners. Reserved cats can demonstrate their love for their owners in subtle ways. 

Many people also prefer emotional support cats versus other types of animals for the following reasons: 

  • Cats can be easier to house than other animals like dogs. 
  • With their natural self-grooming instincts and usage of litter boxes, upkeep can be easier than dog ownership. 
  • Cats are well-suited for apartment living. 
  • Cats can accommodate people with busy schedules.
  • Cats can be ideal for homes without readily accessible outdoor space. 

Cat owners love the individuality of their animals. Some cats are highly engaging – they love to play with their owners. Just watching a cat’s silly hijinks can have a mood-boosting effect. The quieter demeanor of some cats can have a calming effect on owners experiencing anxiety or stress. The gentle purring of a cat can be very soothing for many. Some cats can be both energetic and calm, depending on their mood. Your cat might be surprisingly adept at reading your emotions and responding accordingly.  

Cats make wonderful emotional support animals. Emotional support cats can live with their owners without additional pet fees. - ESA Doctors
Cats make wonderful emotional support animals. Emotional support cats can live with their owners without additional pet fees.

Where to Qualify for an Emotional Support Cat Online

If you own a cat, you already know how essential they are to your sense of wellbeing. If you think your cat may qualify as an emotional support animal, we can help connect you to a licensed healthcare professional specializing in writing ESA letters for cats. The professionals that work with ESA Doctors know how important cats are for mental health. They provide non-judgmental service and can write legitimate ESA letters for cats if you meet their criteria. 

ESA Doctors has rave reviews from cat owners for their services and is fully accredited with an A+ rating from the BBB. With ESA Doctors, you will work with an independent, licensed professional that specializes in emotional support cat recommendations. 

Frequently Asked Questions about Emotional Support Cats

Can I have more than one emotional support cat?

Yes, you are allowed to have multiple emotional support cats. Each emotional support cat, however must be covered by a valid ESA letter from a licensed healthcare professional. You must also be able to comfortably and humanely house all of your cats within your living space. 

How do I train an emotional support cat?

Emotional support cats are not required to have any specialized training. ESAs are not service dogs – they help their owners just by being present. Your existing cat can qualify as an emotional support animal without any training

What mental health conditions do emotional support cats help with?

Emotional support cats help people with a wide variety of mental health conditions. The most common are chronic depression, severe anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, ADHD, and panic disorders. 

What breed of cat is best suited to be an emotional support cat?

There is no “best breed” for an emotional support cat. ESAs support their owners in different ways, and an emotional support animal that is right for one person may not necessarily be the best choice for someone else. A wide variety of cats serve as effective emotional support animals and form precious bonds with their owners. 

See if you qualify for an Emotional Support Cat online.

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