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The Best Emotional Support Cats for Your Lifestyle

13 minutes read
Dogs may steal the spotlight, but cats also make great emotional support animals. Discover the best ESA cat breeds and how to get an official ESA letter online.
Expert reviewed by:  
Written by:
Susana Bradford
Published on:  
September 7, 2022
Updated on:  
September 7, 2022

When it comes to emotional support animals (ESAs), cats make great companions. They are relatively low-maintenance, and their independent nature means they don’t require constant attention. Best of all, research has shown that spending time with a cat can help reduce stress levels and promote feelings of well-being.

A cat may be the perfect choice if you’re looking for an animal that can provide much-needed emotional support. However, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the best cat breeds for various mental health needs. Many people prefer breeds known for being calm and gentle, while others may intentionally seek out a more playful cat that wants frequent interaction. You’ll also want to consider hypoallergenic and minimally shedding breeds if you or a family member have pet allergies. Regardless of what you’re looking for, the ideal feline companion is out there and will provide much-needed emotional support.

Do you need an ESA letter? Connect with a licensed therapist to get started!

The Bottom Line

  • Can cats be emotional support animals? Yes, cats can be emotional support animals. Any animal can be an ESA if it helps its owner cope with the symptoms of a mental health condition such as anxiety or depression.
  • Are cats good emotional support animals? If you are a “cat person,” it should be no surprise that cats are great emotional support animals. Many cats are affectionate and enjoy human companionship without requiring constant attention or exercise.
  • How do you get an emotional support cat? If you already own a cat that provides emotional support, you have an emotional support cat! However, consider getting an official ESA letter to document that your cat is more than just a pet.

An ESA letter from a licensed therapist will help ensure that you can live with your emotional support cat (without paying pet fees) and potentially take your cat with you to various public places. 

Can Cats Be Emotional Support Animals?

Although dogs are the most common emotional support animals, many people prefer having a cat for their support needs. There are no restrictions on the type of animal that can be an ESA as long as it helps its owner cope with the symptoms of a mental illness or emotional disability, such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, or a phobia. Rabbits, ferrets, birds, lizards, and even more exotic animals can be ESAs. However, a dog is your only option if you are looking for a psychiatric service animal rather than an emotional support animal.

The Best Emotional Support Cat Breed for Your Different Needs

Although dogs often get all the credit, cats can be excellent ESAs, which you probably already know if you are a cat owner! However, if you are considering purchasing or adopting a cat to provide emotional support, you have a wide variety of choices when it comes to breeds. Every cat has its own unique, distinctive personality, and some breeds will align better with your needs than others, especially if you are living with a mental illness or emotional disability. Although the six cat breeds on this list make excellent emotional support animals, mixed-breed cats may be just as helpful.

Best Cat Breed for Physical Affection – Siamese

  • Temperament: Social, friendly, vocal, affectionate, very cuddly, somewhat clingy
  • Lifespan: 15 to 20 years
  • Color/Appearance: Silver-gray short-haired coat and blue eyes (but other variations possible)

Siamese cats are known for being social and friendly and love spending time with their human companions. They’re also very vocal, so you’ll always know when they’re trying to get your attention. If you’re looking for an affectionate cat that will be happy to spend lots of time cuddling (occasionally more than you would like!)), a Siamese cat is a great option. On average, Siamese cats tend to have long lifespans, with indoor cats living at least 15 years, though some live up to 20 years. They are beautiful cats with a distinctive appearance – they most commonly have a silver-gray coat and blue eyes, although other color variations are possible.

Best Cat Breed for Children with ADHD – Ragdoll

  • Temperament: Mild-mannered, easygoing, tolerant of people, independent
  • Lifespan: Around 15 years
  • Color/Appearance: Similar coloring to Siamese but with a longer coat

Another good option for an emotional support cat is the Ragdoll. This breed is known for being mild-mannered and easygoing (often to the point of laziness), and they tend to be very tolerant of people. Their behavior and large size often resemble what you would expect from a dog rather than a cat. This makes them a perfect choice for children with ADHD who need a tolerant feline companion who can hold their own. Ragdoll cats are very affectionate and love being petted and fussed over, yet they are also independent and not overly clingy. If you’re looking for a relaxed and cuddly animal that will never tire of providing companionship, the Ragdoll cat is the breed for you.

Best Cat Breed for Anxiety – Maine Coon

  • Temperament: Friendly, loving, sociable, intelligent, trainable
  • Lifespan: 12-15 years
  • Color/Appearance: Largest domestic cat breed, long fluffy coat, can be any color

The Maine Coon is a genuinely unforgettable cat breed that is a fantastic choice for an emotional support animal, especially for individuals with anxiety. The Maine Coon is the largest domestic cat breed and has a long, fluffy coat. This breed is amiable, loving, and sociable around family members of all ages, including children. They are known for their intelligence and ability to “read” their owner’s moods. Maine Coons are more receptive to training than many other cat breeds. Due to their luxuriously shaggy coat, Maine Coons require much more frequent grooming than short-haired breeds; however, brushing your Maine Coon’s fur can be a stress reliever in and of itself.

Best Cat Breed for People Living Alone - Manx 

  • Temperament: Extremely loyal to their owner, vocal, gentle, playful, easy to please
  • Lifespan: 9-14 years
  • Color/Appearance: Usually tailless, has short hair in a variety of colors

The Manx cat is a rather exotic tailless breed that makes an excellent emotional support cat. They are especially well suited to individuals living alone, as they often pick favorites when living with multiple people. The Manx is a gentle cat with a playful nature that forms strong bonds with its owner and wants to please them. They are fiercely loyal, especially to their special person, and will happily provide companionship and affection. They are also quite vocal and can offer a bit of conversation if you feel like chatting with your feline roommate! Manx cats have a slightly shorter lifespan than some other breeds, averaging around 9 to 14 years.

Best Hypoallergenic Emotional Support Cat Breed - Balinese

  • Temperament: Playful, “chatty,” affectionate, somewhat independent, sociable with people and animals
  • Lifespan: 16-21 years
  • Color/Appearance: Typically silvery-gray with a medium-long coat (like a longer-haired version of the Siamese) and bright blue eyes

Despite their lush coat, Balinese cats are consistently described as one of the best hypoallergenic cats, meaning they are less likely to provoke an allergic reaction. Their saliva has relatively little Fel d 1 protein, often the cause of cat allergies, and they shed less than many other cat breeds. They are similar in appearance and personality to the Siamese, from which they were bred, but with a longer coat. Like the Siamese, they are playful, vocal, and affectionate cats that are companionable with people and other pets. They have a long lifespan, regularly living well over 15 years and sometimes into their early 20s.

Best Cat Breed for Depression - Russian Blue

  • Temperament: Quiet, reserved, intelligent, affectionate, and loyal to their owner
  • Lifespan: 15-20 years years
  • Color/Appearance: Dark-gray, almost bluish short coat

For individuals coping with depression, the Russian Blue is one of the best emotional support cat breeds. They are known for being low maintenance and easy to care for, so they won’t overwhelm their owners with their own needs. They shed very little, potentially making them another good choice for individuals with allergies. Russian Blues tend to be quiet, introverted, and shy, so they won’t necessarily enjoy the company of large groups of people or strangers. Russian Blue cats typically form close bonds with their owners, providing all the affection and companionship they need without suffocating them or demanding constant interaction. The Russian Blue cat is a beautiful breed, without being ostentatious. Despite their name, they are dark gray, with short coats, and tend to live between 15 and 20 years. 

How to Choose an Emotional Support Cat Breed

There are a few things to keep in mind when picking an emotional support cat:

  1. They should be a calm and friendly breed that enjoys being around people.
  2. They should be relatively low-maintenance in terms of grooming and care.
  3. They should be resilient and adaptable enough to handle changes in routine or environment.

Make sure to choose a breed you know you will be able to care for. As the name suggests, an emotional support animal is there to provide you with comfort and companionship, but they also require care and attention in return. Keep this in mind if you are selecting a long-haired breed that requires frequent grooming or a breed that is predisposed to specific health problems and is more likely to need a special diet or regular vet visits.  

Always remember that the best emotional support cat is one that meshes well with your personality and lifestyle. Consider your living situation, work schedule, and family commitments when deciding which cat is best for your needs while always keeping the animal’s best interest in mind. 

Questions to Ask Before Getting an Emotional Support Cat

Although cats generally require less attention than dogs, bringing an emotional support cat into your life is still a decision that requires careful consideration and planning. There are several questions to ask yourself – and some others to ask the breeder/rescue organization, veterinarian, and your therapist – before getting an emotional support cat.

  • Do you have the time and financial resources to care for a cat?
  • Is your living situation a good fit for a cat? 
  • Will you need an ESA letter to live with your cat?
  • How do the people you live with (i.e., family members or roommates) feel about having a cat? 
  • Who will take care of your cat if you have to travel for work or personal reasons? 

Do Cats Make Good Emotional Support Animals?

When many people think of emotional support animals, they picture a happy-go-lucky dog cheering its owner up with a cuddle or a game of fetch. Dogs make great emotional support animals – and they are your only option if you need a service animal – but cats can also excel as ESAs. Depending on your circumstances, a cat may be a better choice for an ESA than a dog or any other animal.

Generally speaking, cats are low-maintenance pets. They don’t need to be taken for walks, and they can take care of themselves for the most part. This is ideal for people with busy schedules or limited mobility. Cats are also known for being independent and self-sufficient. They’re not as needy as some other pets and won’t require constant attention and affection – yet they still provide a calming, loving, and relaxing presence. If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, spending time with your cat can relieve some of those emotions and help you get through your day.

Can Getting an Emotional Support Cat Help with Depression?

Many people choose to own an emotional support cat to ease the symptoms of depression. Although owning an ESA is not a cure or a substitute for your doctor’s recommendations, spending time with an emotional support cat can provide various therapeutic benefits to those living with depression.  

If you are considering getting an emotional support cat to help with depression, it’s a good idea to discuss this with your therapist. Although it is ultimately your decision, a mental health professional can weigh in on whether a cat will be a positive addition to your life. Owning an ESA is often beneficial as it provides companionship and a sense of purpose, but in some cases, your therapist may feel that taking care of an animal is not the right choice at this time.

As much as the role of these animals is to help you when you’re struggling, they also demand a certain level of care. If you’re not in a position to take on that responsibility, then perhaps looking into other options should be your priority for now.

How Do I Make My Cat an Emotional Support Cat?

If your cat provides you with companionship and unconditional love, thus helping to alleviate the symptoms of an emotional or mental disability, then you already have an emotional support cat! There’s nothing more you have to do. If you are wondering how to register your cat as an emotional support animal, the surprising answer is that you don’t have to – in fact, there’s no such thing as registering or certifying an ESA. 

However, although you don’t need to register your animal, getting a valid ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional has some benefits. An ESA letter will allow you to live with your emotional support cat, even in “no pets” housing, and exempt you from the usual pet fees and deposits. You may also find an ESA letter helpful if you want to travel with your ESA or take them to an establishment that is not overtly pet-friendly. However, the decision to permit non-service animals is always up to the owner or manager, even if you have an ESA letter. This includes airplane cabins and workplaces, as well.

How to Get an Emotional Support Cat Letter

Only a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) can issue an ESA letter. Pettable makes it easy to connect with a qualified therapist from your home and get an official emotional support cat letter. There are just a few steps needed to get a valid ESA letter that you can use for housing or travel. 

Complete Our Assessment

Fill out our short online assessment to tell us about your personal circumstances and why you are interested in getting an ESA. Are you interested in an ESA letter for housing, travel, or both?

Consult With a Therapist

Based on your assessment, we’ll match you with the ideal LMHP for your unique situation. You’ll receive a link to book an appointment after you complete our standard privacy and consent forms. During your consultation, your therapist will evaluate your mental health symptoms and decide whether you have a qualifying need for an emotional support animal.

Get a Psychiatric Service Letter

If your therapist believes that having an emotional support animal (including a cat) will benefit your mental health and well-being, they will write an official ESA letter. Alternatively, you can receive a psychiatric service dog letter if you plan to train your ESA dog to perform specific disability-related tasks. And if you need your letter immediately, you can even request that it arrives within 24 hours (not including California residents).

At Pettable, we care deeply about your satisfaction. If your ESA or PSD letter does not meet your needs, we will provide a complete refund for our services.

Find out whether you qualify for an ESA letter – take our quiz!

Frequently Asked Questions About Emotional Support Cat Breeds

Bringing an emotional support cat into your life is a big decision – it’s only natural to have questions about it. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about emotional support cat breeds.

Are emotional support cats bred in a specific way?

Since any cat that gives comfort to its owner can be considered an emotional support cat, specific breeding techniques are unnecessary. However, the best emotional support cats are generally calm, even-tempered, and affectionate. 

What cat is good for depression?

Affectionate yet low-maintenance cat breeds that don't demand too much care or attention are typically best for individuals living with depression. The intelligent and reserved Russian Blue is a particularly good choice.

Are there hypoallergenic emotional support cat breeds?

Although no cat breed is entirely allergen-free, certain breeds tend to shed less or produce less of the Fel d 1 protein in their saliva, which is responsible for many allergic reactions. Russian Blues, Burmese, Cornish Rex, Sphynx, Siamese, and Bengals are among the best hypoallergenic emotional support cat breeds.

Can I get an emotional support cat online?

You can quickly get an ESA letter online through providers such as Pettable documenting your need for an emotional support cat. It’s also possible to contact breeders and cat rescue centers online to find the ideal cat for your needs.

Meet the author:
Susana Bradford

Susana is an avid animal lover and has been around animals her entire life, and has volunteered at several different animal shelters in Southern California. She has a loving family at home that consists of her husband, son, two dogs, and one cat. She enjoys trying new Italian recipes, playing piano, making pottery, and outdoor hiking with her family and dogs in her spare time.