As a cat lover, you already understand the benefits of having a companion pet. If you struggle with mental health issues like anxiety or depression, however, your cat could be more than just a pet – he could be a source of emotional support.
Emotional support animals (ESAs) provide comfort and companionship that can help alleviate the symptoms of certain conditions, but they are very different from service animals.
If you’re thinking about registering your cat as an emotional support animal, there are several things you need to know. First and foremost, you’ll need a doctor or mental health professional to write you an ESA letter. If you don’t have a doctor or can’t get an appointment, you may be able to get an ESA letter online.
We’ve done the research to find out what qualifications are necessary to obtain an ESA letter and to determine what makes an ESA letter legal and legitimate.
Our top pick for the best online ESA provider is CertaPet ESA.
With over 7,500 satisfied customers, CertaPet is one of the most trusted suppliers of both ESA letters and psychiatric service dog (PSD) letters. They offer free pre-screening and match you with a licensed mental health professional in your state to complete your appointment and get your ESA letter.
Before we get into the details of what goes into getting an ESA letter, let’s take a look at our top picks for the best online ESA letter providers.
At a Glance: Best ESA Letter Providers
In the comparison table below, we’ve highlighted some of the important features of each option. You’ll find more detailed information about each one later in the article.
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 6 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 6 picks for the best ESA letter providers:
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.