Emotional support animals are legally protected assistance animals that help their owners with mental health challenges, and cats are the second-most popular type. Our feline friends can provide a comforting and supportive presence and are wonderful companions during difficult times. 

Emotional support cats are protected in every state under federal housing laws—specifically, the Fair Housing Act. 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, the only way to have a legally protected emotional support cat is with 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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How To

  1. Confirm you have a qualifying disability

    To qualify for an emotional support cat, you must have an emotional or mental disability, defined by the ADA as a disability that limits one or more major life activities. Qualifying conditions include, but are not limited to, depression, anxiety (GAD) and panic disorders, PTSD, bipolar disorder, OCD, AD(H)D, and insomnia.

  2. Have or adopt a cat

    Any breed or weight of cat can be an emotional support cat. You can also have multiple emotional support cats, but each one must be covered by an ESA letter (see next steps). More on the legal rights of emotional support cats in the FAQ below.

  3. Get evaluated by a licensed mental health practitioner (LMHP)

    Connect with a licensed mental health professional, such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, counselor, doctor, or nurse or with whomever is responsible for your mental healthcare if you are already seeing someone. They will evaluate your mental health condition and determine if it substantially limits a major life activity like work, sleep, or socializing. The professional will also assess whether having an emotional support cat can alleviate your symptoms effectively.

  4. Obtain an ESA letter

    Once your mental health professional confirms your eligibility, they will provide you with an ESA letter on their letterhead, containing their contact information, license number, and signature. This letter is the only documentation you need to certify your cat as an emotional support animal and unlock the invaluable legal rights and accommodations that come with this status.

  5. Notify your landlord

    Once you have an ESA letter, all you need to do is communicate with your landlord or building manager and inform them of your emotional support cat along with a copy of the letter. This should be done in writing, for example over email, so that everything is documented. You can give notice of your cat before or after moving in—it’s up to you. On one hand, you might want prior confirmation that there will be no headache surrounding your cat; on the other, you might want to ensure that your cat, whose housing rights are protected by law, will not in any way be a factor in the landlord’s decision to accept your housing application. Do as you see best fit.

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.
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What legal rights do emotional support cats have?

Breed, weight, and housing: Emotional support cats have housing rights protected under federal law, namely, the Fair Housing Act. The law states that you are entitled to accommodation from landlords and buildings with “no-pet” policies, and cannot be subject to weight/breed restrictions, pet rent, pet fees, nor pet deposits. Emotional support cats are not protected under the ADA.

Multiple cats: 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 your cats within your living space.

Travel: Unfortunately, emotional support animals are not protected under the ADA nor the Air Carrier Access Act, meaning that for air transport purposes they are treated the same as domestic pets. Only service dogs are eligible for no-fee cabin travel.

How do I train my emotional support cat?

Emotional support animals are not service animals (and are ineligible to be trained as such, as only dogs can be service animals). Of course, you can still train your cat to perform whatever tasks you like, but emotional support cats neither require training of any kind nor can they benefit from legal protections under the ADA. Nonetheless, their housing rights are still protected by the Fair Housing Act.

What are the benefits of emotional support cats?

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

Why do I need an ESA letter for my cat?

An ESA letter is essential for your cat to establish its status as an emotional support animal and gain the legal protections and benefits it deserves. Unlike regular pets, emotional support animals, including cats, are recognized under federal housing laws, granting them specific rights in no-pet housing units and exemptions from pet fees and deposits. However, without an ESA letter, your cat may not be considered an official assistance animal, and you might miss out on these crucial accommodations.

What goes in an ESA letter for cats?

A legitimate ESA letter should include the following:
1. the license type and number of the LMHP
2. the state in which they’re licensed to practice
3. the date their license was issued
4. printed on their official letterhead
5. their contact information
6. the date the letter was issued
7. statement confirming you have a qualifying condition (without specifying which one)
8. statement confirming that an emotional support animal is part of the treatment or care plan for this condition

Can I get an ESA letter online?

Yes, it is fully compliant with the law to get your ESA letter online.

If you are looking for an accessible, flat-rate option, ESA Doctors is here to help. We make full use of the advantages of telehealth. Here’s how:
 • Convenience: Access professional services from home, saving on travel time and reducing anxiety related to unfamiliar environments.
 • Accessibility: Connect with a licensed professional anywhere with an internet connection, ideal if you are in a remote area or have limited mobility.
 • Time Savings: Skip commuting and waiting rooms.
 • Continuity of Care: We’ll check in with you, when necessary, to make sure that you renew your letter to avoid lapses of expiration between one valid letter and the next.
 • Privacy: Discuss your mental health needs comfortably from home.
 • Support: The ESA Doctors team is always here to answer any questions you may have and to hold your hand through the process.

How To

  1. Confirm you have a qualifying disability
  2. Have or adopt a cat
  3. Get evaluated by a licensed mental health practitioner (LMHP)
  4. Obtain an ESA letter
  5. Notify your landlord


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