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Can Cats Be Emotional Support Animals?

Yes, cats can be emotional support animals. Any animal commonly kept as a domestic pet may qualify as an emotional support animal. To make it official, speak with a licensed mental health professional and they can write you an ESA letter for your emotional support animal, no matter what species they may be.

Pettable Staff
May 8, 2024
July 21, 2021
8 minutes
Updated By
Kristi Carignan
February 22, 2024
Expert Reviewed By:
July 21, 2021
August 18, 2021
8 minutes
February 22, 2024
Yes, cats can be emotional support animals. We walk through in detail how to have your furry friend qualify and get certified as an ESA.

Yes, cats can be great emotional support animals! This is also true of any other pet that helps you with a mental health disability or mental health-related challenge. While dogs are primarily considered service animals, an emotional support animal can be many different kinds of animals. An emotional support animal (ESA) doesn’t require any specific training – they simply need to provide emotional support for an emotional or mental disability through their companionship.

The presence of a cat can be calming and help reduce anxiety. Simply having an animal to care for can help life feel more meaningful. Cats can make excellent emotional support animals because of their usually calm demeanor. An emotional support dog can also greatly benefit a person's life, but sometimes dogs are excitable and can cause stress in a person's life. 

If you have a pet cat, it may be worth finding out if they qualify to become your emotional support animal.

So what are emotional support animals in the first place?

Can Cats be Emotional Support Animals?

Cats can indeed be emotional support animals (ESAs). Their affectionate nature and calming presence can provide comfort and companionship to individuals struggling with emotional or psychological issues. While ESAs don't require specific training like service animals, having proper documentation from a mental health professional is crucial for their recognition and benefits.

A great example of how effective a cat can be as an ESA is Megan and their ESA Jolene:

What are Emotional Support Animals?

Emotional support animals are any pet that positively affects a symptom of an individual's mental health disability. An ESA cat or other ESA can be extraordinarily impactful in improving mental health and well-being. An emotional support animal does not have to be specifically trained to help its owner. Just the presence of a support animal offers comfort and feelings of stress relief.

An emotional support animal can positively impact mental health issues or a mental health disability by providing companionship, and unconditional love, and serving as an object of focus for the pet owner.

What Animals Can Be Emotional Support Animals?

Any animal that you’re legally allowed to own as a pet can serve as an emotional support animal. Most commonly, you see emotional support dogs or emotional support cats, but any pet that provides a therapeutic benefit to its owner can be considered an ESA. Mental health professionals recognize the benefits of animals in a person's life, so ESAs aren't limited to only animals like cats and dogs.

Other than cats and dogs, some common types of emotional support animals include:

  • Rabbits
  • Hamsters
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Birds
  • Hedgehogs

Benefits of Having an Emotional Support Cat

A variety of mental illnesses can be significantly improved by an emotional support cat. Here’s how.

  • Reduced Anxiety Cats are known for their ability to improve mood and provide emotional support, which can be particularly beneficial for individuals dealing with anxiety or depression. Concentrating on something other than yourself can have a profoundly positive effect on anxiety because it shifts your attention from excessive rumination and obsessing over the causes of your anxiety to loving and caring for your emotional support animal.
  • Relieve Stress and Depressive Symptoms —The presence of an emotional support cat can lower stress levels and promote relaxation through their soothing presence and calming actions. By providing their owners with a feeling of direction and significance, emotional support cats help their owners cope with the symptoms of depression. 
  • Reduce Loneliness Emotional support cats provide constant companionship, helping to alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation. Since loneliness can lead to a wide range of other problems, it is an especially difficult mental illness to treat. Having a cat or another emotional support animal can help lessen some of the negative effects of being alone.
  • Improve Sleep Quality Your emotional support cat can greatly enhance the quality of your sleep by assisting you in de-stressing and reducing anxiety before bedtime. Some individuals find that placing their ESA on the bed at night helps them go to sleep faster and wake up less during the night. 
  • Improve Exercise and Physical Fitness Interacting with an emotional support cat can have positive effects on physical health, such as lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart disease. Although most cats aren't trained to walk on a leash, many will enjoy walks, whether they are carried or they are on a leash, if you start them off early. You can stay active and have fun even if you just set aside some time to play with your indoor cat while it chases toys.
  • Housing Benefits Having an emotional support cat may qualify individuals for housing accommodations under certain laws, allowing them to live with their pet even in pet-restricted housing.
  • A Host of Other Benefits Pet owners typically know one another and take pleasure in each other's company. Adoration for their furry companions is a common bonding experience for animal lovers, and everyone who owns a pet likes to tell others about their pet’s quirky habits. Additionally, it can brighten your days to know that another being enjoys spending time with you.

Who Qualifies to Have a Cat Certified as an Emotional Support Animal?

To make sure you can have your emotional support cats with you at home and in other places where your mental or emotional symptoms might require them to be with you, you need to qualify for an ESA letter that you can show landlords and others. Some places won't honor an emotional support animal letter as a document proving your medical need for an ESA, but it's good to keep on hand just in case. Below we'll go into how to make sure you qualify for a support animal.

You Need to Have a Mental Health-Related Disability

For a medical professional to write a letter on your behalf you first need to be suffering from some type of mental or emotional health challenge. This can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Panic Attacks
  • Depression
  • Phobias
  • Personality Disorder
  • PTSD
  • ADHD
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • And a host of other potential mental and emotional challenges

Many Americans experience these kinds of challenges (1 in 2 will develop a mental illness or disorder in their lifetime), so you may very well qualify even if you have not ever been formally diagnosed.

Your Cat Needs to Support or Alleviate Symptoms of Your Mental Health Disability

Additionally, to qualify, your ESA needs to support or alleviate symptoms of your disability in some way. Some people may not necessarily be happy with dog ownership and lean more towards cat ownership because cats tend to be less high-energy. If your pet adds stress to your life, it may not be a good choice for an ESA. The benefits of living with a pet are pretty extraordinary, and there are many ways they can help that we did not cover in this article. If you feel that your cat helps you deal with symptoms of mental or emotional issues, it's worth checking to see if they qualify as an ESA.

How to Get an Emotional Support Cat

If you believe your cat could be considered an emotional support animal, how do you begin the process? Follow these three simple steps:

  1. Complete Our Quick Online Assessment
    Taking our quick 3-minute assessment is the easiest way to get started on the path to adopting an emotional support cat. The evaluation will prescreen your unique requirements and suitability for an emotional support cat. You will be able to arrange a phone consultation with a mental health professional who is licensed in your state after completing the assessment.
  1. Connect with a Licensed Mental Health Professional in Your State
    Once you have connected with a mental health professional (LMHP) licensed in your state, they’ll assess your mental health and gather information about your emotional and mental history. To determine whether you would benefit from an ESA in the first place, they must take this action. Although the letter primarily states that an emotional support animal (ESA) can assist a person in coping with a mental health condition and may be deemed a medical necessity to cope, some individuals may argue that a person must meet certain requirements to be eligible for one.
  1. Get Your ESA Letter
    Your LMHP will write you a legal ESA letter once it is evident that you benefit from owning an emotional support cat. With this letter, you can move your cat with you into any type of housing and request that your landlord waive the pet fee. You can also take your cat with you to public locations and even on certain airlines as long as you’ve registered your cat as an ESA.

What Does an ESA Letter Do? 

An ESA letter, issued by a licensed mental health professional, allows individuals with disabilities to request housing accommodations and travel with their emotional support cat in the cabin of an aircraft. This letter serves as documentation of the individual's need for an emotional support animal to alleviate symptoms associated with their condition, ensuring legal protections and entitlements under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA).

What Is Your ESA Letter Legally Required to Have

When getting an ESA letter and certifying your cat as an emotional support animal, make sure you have the proper documentation and that your letter contains all the required information.

An example graphic of an ESA letter with the issuing clinician's name, license number, and state of license written.
For an ESA letter to be legitimate, it must be written by a licensed mental health professional and have their name, license number, and state they are licensed included on the document.

Official Letterhead of Your Mental Health Provider

The letter needs to contain the letterhead of your clinician. Letterhead is just a fancy way of saying paper with a design on it that represents the provider’s business. It is a formal way of indicating that the letter came from the provider and isn’t a forgery.

Statement About Your Disability and ESA Qualification

The letter must contain a statement that the clinician attests that, based on the information you provided in a live conversation, they have determined that you have a mental disability and would benefit from having an ESA under the Fair Housing Act or American with Disabilities Act.

License and Contact Information for Your Clinician

The laws allow a landlord or airline to contact the clinician to verify that you have consulted with a professional, so the letter must also include their medical license and contact information.

That allows a landlord to verify that the clinician's license is in good standing and lets them contact the clinician directly to verify the information in the ESA letter.

Does My Emotional Support Cat Need Additional Identification? 

No, additional identification such as certificates, registration, or ID cards are not necessary for emotional support cats. An ESA letter is the only documentation required to prove the cat's status as an emotional support animal.

Where Can You Go With Your Emotional Support Cat?

While service animals can legally go just about anywhere in public, emotional support animals do not have the same legal protection. So, where can your emotional support cat go with you?


Emotional support animals are required by law to be allowed in any residence – regardless of whether that place typically allows pets or not. As long as you submit your ESA letter, your landlord must make reasonable accommodations for your ESA, imposing no fees or species or breed restrictions. Your ESA should also be allowed in any common areas within your housing complex. They are also allowed to live with you in university dorms, though they are rarely allowed in classrooms – it just depends on the campus.

Flights with Select Airlines

Unfortunately, due to some recent policy changes from the U.S. Department of Transportation, only some airlines allow ESAs. Domestic airlines are still required to accommodate service animals, which can fly for free on any flight. If your ESA must travel with you, they will likely need to fly with you as any regular pet would.

Some Hotels

As there is no law protecting an ESA’s right to public access, hotels are not required to allow emotional support animals. However, it may be worth asking the hotel before you book if they will accommodate your support animal. Otherwise, it may be best to find a pet-friendly hotel to stay at.

Some Public Places

Other public places, such as restaurants and stores, have no obligation to allow your ESA to enter. This usually includes workplaces, as well.

However, it doesn’t hurt to ask, and some places may choose to accommodate your emotional support animal if you simply show your ESA letter. And when it comes to your place of work, it’s all up to your employer.

Emotional Support Cats vs. Service Animals

An emotional support cat is a cat that provides a calming presence and helps a person with a mental or emotional disability to cope with their symptoms. Technically, they require no special training – simply their companionship provides therapeutic benefits for the owner.

Unfortunately, emotional support cats are only legally required to be allowed in any place of residence. All other public places have the right to refuse ESAs if they choose to.

At this time, only dogs and sometimes miniature horses are recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as service animals. A service animal is specially trained to perform at least one task that specifically aids the owner in living with their disability – physical or mental.

It is unfortunate that cats are not legally recognized as service animals. However, cats can be highly trainable – more than many people realize. They can, in fact, be trained to perform many tasks often assigned to regular service animals.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Difference Between Support Animals and Service Animals

The big difference is that service animals are held to a higher standard of training. Service animals must be dogs that have been trained to behave well in public and with other animals and they have been individually trained to perform specific tasks that help individuals with a psychological or physical disability manage their lives better. The rights of service animals are protected under federal laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Fair Housing Act (FHA), and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA).

Can Cats Be Service Animals? 

No, cats are typically not recognized as service animals. While dogs are commonly trained for service tasks, such as guiding individuals with visual impairments, cats do not undergo the same type of training and are not considered service animals in most cases.

How do you register a cat as an emotional support animal?

There is no official “registry” for emotional support animals. The only way to make your cat an official ESA is to obtain a legitimate ESA letter that certifies it as a support animal for you.

To make sure your ESA letter is legitimate, you must have a live consultation with a mental health professional licensed in your state. The letter they write must contain all the legal requirements, including the clinician’s letterhead, license number, contact information, and statement of your qualification for an ESA.

Also, an ESA does not need to wear any special tag or vest to be recognized as your support animal. All you should need is a valid ESA letter.

How to qualify for an emotional support cat?

You must have a qualifying mental health condition as determined by a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) in a live consultation. The LMPH must also determine that your pet is an essential part of your treatment, in that it helps to reduce some of the symptoms of your condition.

Are cats good emotional support animals?

Yes, absolutely. Cats can provide a calming presence that helps alleviate symptoms of anxiety, depression, and many other mental health issues. Cats have been proven to reduce stress and blood pressure levels for their owners, as well as lower depression, feelings of loneliness, and anxiety. The act of simply petting their animal can help a person feel more calm and relaxed.

Can a landlord refuse an emotional support cat?

No. As long as you submit your ESA letter, your landlord must make reasonable accommodations for your emotional support cat to live with you. They also cannot impose any pet fees or age or breed restrictions.

The only way that a landlord can legally refuse an ESA is if that animal poses a threat to others or if the accommodation request is unreasonable in some way. Whether you’ve got an emotional support animal or a service animal, your landlord must accept your letter as a statement from a medical professional of your medical need for your pet.

Can you have more than one emotional support cat? 

Yes, it is possible to have more than one emotional support cat if a licensed mental health professional determines that multiple animals are necessary for providing adequate emotional support.

Can emotional support cats go on flights? 

Yes, emotional support cats can accompany their owners on flights, provided that the owner has an ESA letter and follows the airline's specific policies and procedures for traveling with an emotional support animal.

Meet the author:
Pettable Staff

Pettable is the legitimate option for authentic ESA Letters prescribed by real Licensed Mental Health Professionals. In addition to helping people acquire a diagnosis for an emotional support animals, Pettable also provides psychiatric service dog training programs, as well as training programs for puppies and adult dogs.

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