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Can Cats Be Emotional Support Animals?
An emotional support animal or ESA is simply a companion pet that helps relieve symptoms associated with emotional or psychiatric disabilities. They are particularly beneficial for people struggling with anxiety and depression, though individuals suffering from more severe psychiatric disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may benefit more from a psychiatric service dog (PSD).
While it may seem like emotional support is a service certain animals can provide, there is a clearly defined difference between an ESA and a service animal.
The Americans with Disabilities Act defines a service animal as an animal “individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.”
In other words, service animals – specifically, dogs – are trained to perform specific tasks to help their human companions. Emotional support animals are pets.
Even if they aren’t specifically trained for it, ESAs can provide emotional and social support, but they don’t have the training or discipline a service dog has.
While dogs are generally the best option for service animals (and the ADA specifically uses the word ‘dog’ in the definition for service animal), there are no breed or species requirements for emotional support animals. Cats can be emotional support animals, as can rabbits, pigs, ferrets, even mini horses.
Cats make great ESAs because they are intelligent and self-sufficient, not to mention quieter and cleaner than most dogs are. They can be very in-tune with their human’s emotions and many cats are quite affectionate. The right cat can be an excellent ESA.
How To Register Your Cat As An Emotional Support Animal?
If you have anxiety, depression, or another mental health issue, you might qualify for an emotional support animal. The process to legally obtain an ESA is simple, but there are specific steps you need to take, especially if you want to exercise the legal rights that come with having an ESA.
The most important thing you need to know is that there isn’t any kind of legal process involved and there is no national or universal database for ESAs.
Any website offering entry into an ESA database is a scam and shouldn’t be trusted.
Neither should you trust websites offering instant ESA letter approvals. While it doesn’t take long to get an ESA letter in most cases, it’s not simply a matter of submitting an application – you need to consult a licensed healthcare professional.
If you already have a primary care physician or mental health doctor, talk to them about getting an ESA letter first. Your doctor simply needs to document your need for an ESA. If you want to exercise the legal rights associated with having an ESA, you’ll want them to write you a letter of documentation as well.
Another option for obtaining an ESA letter is to go through an online ESA letter provider.
These providers can help determine your need for an ESA and connect you with a licensed healthcare professional. If you meet the requirements and your assigned healthcare professional agrees that you could benefit from an ESA, you’ll receive an ESA letter in exchange for some kind of fee for the service.
Top 5 ESA Letter Providers
The internet is full of misinformation about emotional support animals as well as scams for purchasing ESA letters and registering your ESA online. To help you avoid falling for one of these scams, we’ve scoured the web and read myriad customer reviews to find the most reputable and trustworthy ESA letter providers available online.
Here are our top 5 picks for the best ESA letter providers:
With over 65,000 satisfied customers, CertaPet is one of the biggest names online for ESA letters. They offer a fast, simple, and secure process involving three easy steps.
To obtain an ESA letter through CertaPet, you simply complete a 5-minute pre-screening to find out if you’re a good candidate for an ESA. From there, CertaPet matches you with a licensed mental health professional in your state to help set up a telehealth appointment. After connecting with your doctor, you’ll be issued a custom treatment plan including an ESA letter, if you qualify.
CertaPet’s services are 100% compliant with federal and state laws, delivered by real licensed mental health professionals. If you’re not satisfied, there’s a money-back guarantee minus the consultation fee.
- Free, five-minute prescreening process
- Consultations are scheduled within 48 hours
- Compliant with all federal and state laws
- Print your own ESA letter or get one mailed to you
- Money-back guarantee excludes consultation fee
- Must purchase travel or housing ESA separately (or pay $199 for both)
Another excellent option in online ESA letter is Pettable. The process to sign up is similar as with CertaPet, but you have the added benefit of knowing you’re protected by a 100% money-back guarantee if you don’t qualify.
Pettable offers plenty of detailed information on their website about ESAs and provides background on many of their licensed therapists. You can read customer reviews and find answers to common questions about your rights regarding ESAs for housing and travel. Just complete a quick pre-screening questionnaire to be matched with a licensed therapist to complete the consultation process.
If you’re approved for an ESA letter, you’ll receive it within 24 hours of approval. If you’re not approved (which Pettable says is rare), you’re eligible for a 100% refund.
- Money-back guarantee – including consultation fee
- Compliant with all state and federal laws
- World-class licensed mental health professionals
- Strong customer support and legal support
- Must purchase travel or housing ESA separately (or pay $199 for both)
- Pricing is only visible after completing pre-screening
Offering both ESA and PSD letters, Emotional Pet Support has licensed health professionals on duty seven days a week so you may be able to get your ESA letter the same day you apply.
While Emotional Pet Support’s website may be a little older and clunkier than some of the options on this list, we appreciate that they are upfront about their pricing from the start. Before you even begin pre-screening, you can choose which option you want: housing, travel, or both. You can also choose to have your ESA letter printed and mailed for a $20 fee. Something else that sets this company apart is that there’s space to type out detailed responses in the pre-screening questionnaire.
After submitting your application and payment, Emotional Pet Support will have one of their licensed therapists review it to see if you qualify for an ESA.
- Same-day approval possible in some cases
- 100% refundable within 30 days
- Simple application process with clear pricing
- Options to type responses in pre-screening
- Website is older and a little clunky
- Exam fees aren’t covered by medical insurance
#4 Best Customer Support: ESA Doctors
If you’re getting an ESA letter to exercise your rights regarding travel or housing, it’s important to choose an ESA letter provider that offers support.
ESA doctors not only has great customer support throughout the entire process, but they keep their website updated with the latest ESA rules by state to help you stay compliant. To sign up, you simply complete a quick 5-part questionnaire to provide information about yourself, your pet, and the symptoms for which you’re seeking an ESA. There are opportunities to flesh out your responses to key questions, including a section where you can explain how your pets help you manage symptoms.
- Strong customer support during and after service
- Up-to-date information on ESA requirements
- Simple 5-part questionnaire to determine eligibility
- Documentation arrives within 1 to 5 business days
- Order is nonrefundable after 24 hours
- Refunds exclude a $39 cancellation fee
Though the name might have you raising an eyebrow, our research suggests Realesaletter.com is a legitimate ESA letter provider that offers fast, authentic, and legal ESA documentation.
Having issued over 15,000 ESA letters already, Realesaletter.com works with over 50 licensed healthcare professionals around the country. Their application process is quick and easy – the pre-screening process takes just 8 minutes. Once submitted, a licensed therapist will review your application and determine your need for an ESA. If you qualify, you’ll receive the ESA letter within 24 hours of approval.
What sets Realesaletter.com apart from the competition is their guarantee. Not only do you just pay 50% of the fee upfront and the remainder upon delivery, but you get a 100% satisfaction guarantee.
- Pay 50% upfront and the remainder upon delivery
- Backed by a 100% money-back guarantee
- Pre-screening process takes just 8 minutes
- Receive ESA letter within 24 hours of approval
- Must create an account to complete questionnaire
- No refund if you cancel the process
Anxiety, depression, and other forms of mental illness are extremely common, but they are also very manageable. Cognitive behavioral therapy, medication, and healthy lifestyle changes can be helpful in managing the symptoms of mental illness. You might also benefit from having an ESA.
If you struggle with mental health issues, talk to your doctor about whether adopting a pet could be the right option for you. Cats make wonderful companions and, in the right situation, can be great emotional support animals as well.
If you decide to get an ESA, make sure you go through the proper process to obtain a legitimate ESA letter. The five options reviewed above are a great place to start.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I qualify for an ESA?
You need to speak to a doctor or licensed mental healthcare professional to determine your eligibility. If your doctor thinks you can benefit from having an ESA, they can document it in your medical records and write you an ESA letter stating your need.
How do I avoid an online ESA scam?
Sites offering instant ESA letter approvals are often scams because it takes time to have a licensed health care professional determine your eligibility. Be wary of sites that offer discounted rates or that add your pet to some kind of ESA registry. You should also avoid sites that sell vests, tags, and other accessories to identify your pet as an ESA, as these are not necessary.
Do I need to register my emotional support animal online?
No. There is no legitimate national database for service animals or emotional support animals. All you need to be able to exercise your rights is a legitimate ESA letter from a doctor or mental health provider.