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.
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.
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, 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.ESA Doctors, est 2015
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:
- 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.
- Get an ESA evaluation from the LMHP.
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.
- 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, verifying your qualification for an emotional support animal.
What it should include:
• LMHP’s contact information
• license number
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, so it can be helpful to utilize an LMHP specializing in emotional support cats.
- 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.
- Stay informed about ESA rules.
Remember that your emotional support cat does not need special tags, vests, or ID cards. You also do not need to register or certify an emotional support cat.
ESA letter limitations: 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.
Legal Rights for Emotional Support Cats
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 with mental and emotional health conditions.
Your main rights as an ESA cat owner:
- 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.
Main exceptions to ESA protections: 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.
Travel Rights for Emotional Support Cats
Prior to January 11, 2021, emotional support animals were allowed to board flights free of charge. Unfortunately, due to updated ESA travels laws, emotional support animals no longer have legally protected 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 standard airline pet fees and restrictions (such as enclosure in a pet carrier).
Benefits of Emotional Support Cats
As cat owners can attest, every cat has a distinctive personality, each offering different benefits as an 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.
Advantages of a cat as ESA:
- 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.
Cat owners love the individuality of their animals. Some cats are highly engaging – they love to play with their owners. The virality of cat videos is evidence in its own right of the mood-boosting effect of watching these animals. The quiet demeanor of some cats can have a calming effect on owners experiencing anxiety or stress. The gentle purring 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.
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 well-being. 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 specializing in emotional support cat recommendations.
FAQs about Emotional Support Cats
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 your cats within your living space.
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.
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.
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.