Register Emotional Support Cat
What is an Emotional Support Cat?
An emotional support cat can help tremendously in making life easier for a person with a mental or emotional disability, including making travel and living on one’s own possible where it may otherwise not be. In order to understand the value of an emotional support cat, it helps to first be clear on the definition of an emotional support animal.
Emotional Support Animals
As distinct from a service animal, which performs specific tasks for a physically disabled individual, an emotional support animal provides support through general companionship and affection to a person with a mental or emotional disability. Emotional support animals have certain rights not granted to pets, although not as many rights as service animals.
Specifically, emotional support animals can accompany you on most airplanes without you being charged any pet-related travel fees.
Moreover, your emotional support animal can join you in the passenger cabin where pets (or pets of your emotional support animal’s size) are ordinarily required to ride in the cargo compartment. Additionally, emotional support animals are allowed to reside with you in most forms of housing where pets (or those of your emotional support animal’s species or breed) are prohibited, and again, without you incurring an additional pet fee or deposit.
Emotional support animals are not allowed to enter any other facility to which the public has access where pets are ordinarily prohibited. That includes any store, restaurant, theater, taxi, train, bus, park, beach, motel, library, zoo or other publicly-accessible area that’s not an airport, airplane or residential property where you live or seek residence with your emotional support cat. That is not to say, however, that the proprietor of any such establishment may not elect to allow your emotional support animal entry; they are merely not required to do so.
Because an emotional support animal does not need training like a service animal does, a cat can make a perfect emotional support animal. Cats, in fact, are second only to dogs as the most popular species of emotional support animals.
Why Cats Make Excellent Emotional Support Animals
Felines are particularly well-suited to being emotional support animals for a number of reasons. Cats have a natural knack for reading body language and can therefore tell when the people they care for need some extra love and affection, which they are delighted to give. Likewise, they can sense when you just need some space to be alone for a while, and will gladly do so. The calm, playful and content temperament cats are generally known for also make them great companions, particularly for people lacking a sense of companionship and a calm, content, playful influence in their lives. The small size of cats makes them easy to carry and transport around with you. They take up very little space and require very little in terms of day-to-day caring and maintenance.
Rights of Emotional Support Cats
Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), people with disabilities are granted certain rights regarding emotional support cats and other animals that people without disabilities do not have regarding their pets. The rights granted to people with mental and emotional disabilities regarding emotional support cats and other animals are fewer and more restricted, however, than those granted to people with physical disabilities in regards to service animals, extending primarily to matters of air travel and housing.
The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) permits a person to bring an emotional support cat to sit with him or her in the passenger cabin of an airplane with no pet fees charged. Airlines are required by law to make accommodations for those emotional support cats as well. Within the bounds of this law and the ADA, however, airlines are also permitted to impose certain restrictions on travel with an emotional support animal on their flights.
Travel Restrictions of Emotional Support Cats
Airlines may prohibit emotional support cats from certain international flights or any flights lasting for eight hours or longer. Airlines may also require that an emotional support cat be placed in an approved carrier and placed under the seat in front of the passenger during takeoffs and landings and during times of turbulence or taxiing between the airport and runway.
Airlines may also require you to present additional documentation besides your emotional support animal letter to board its planes. This documentation may include up-to-date vaccination records and health records to confirm the cat doesn’t have any conditions that would make it unsafe for the animal to travel. It may also include a statement of responsibility from you saying the cat is capable of being behaved and quiet during long periods of confinement, movement and around crowds, and that you take full accountability for all the cat’s actions during travel.
Airlines will often demand all required emotional support animal documentation, including the ESA letter, be provided at least 48 hours before your first flight is scheduled to take off.
Additionally, certain breeds of cats may be prohibited by an airline based on health and safety concerns for the cat regarding air travel. These include snub-nosed and short-skull breeds of cats, or what are also known as brachycephalic breeds. These breeds could have respiratory difficulties and trouble breathing during flights. Airlines may also opt to ban breeds that have presented prior problems with aggression to staff, passengers or even the animal’s owner on previous flights. Check with the airline you plan to travel in advance of your flight to make sure your specific breed of cat will be permitted on the flight with you as your emotional support cat.
Airlines cannot require your emotional support cat to wear a special vest or ID tag like a service animal may be required to wear, but it can be wise to do so nevertheless and it can help to better identify your cat to airport and airline staff and other passengers as an emotional support animal and not just a pet. Fortunately, these are some of the benefits that come with registering your emotional support cat.
An airline must not impose unreasonable restrictions, however, on your rights to travel with an emotional support cat. If you feel your rights to do so are being unreasonable violated, reach out immediately to the US Department of Transportation (DOT).
Thanks to the Fair Housing Act (FHA), individuals with a mental or emotional disability are permitted to move into a residential property that ordinarily prohibits cats with an emotional support cat. Moreover, they cannot be charged a pet deposit or pet fee to let their emotional support cat live with them. In addition, property managers must make reasonable accommodations for those animals. Even if a property normally allows only cats of certain breeds to take residence, the property may not refuse an emotional support cat of any other breed to take residence.
Exceptions to Housing Rights for Emotional Support Cats
Owners of certain properties are not required to permit emotional support cats in those properties. Properties where emotional support cats may be legally prohibited from taking residence with you are:
- Rental spaces containing four or fewer units in one of which the owner resides
- Single-family houses sold or rented by the owner without a real estate broker’s aid
- Private housing run by a private club or religious organization in which residence is restricted to club or organization members only
If you believe your rights to housing as an emotional support cat owner are being violated, get in touch with the U.S. Department of Housing (HUD).
Responsibilities of Emotional Support Cat Owners
While individuals authorized to have an emotional support cat have certain travel and housing rights, they also have certain responsibilities to the other people they travel and live with. An emotional support cat must not cause a disturbance to other passengers, residents or staff members. It must not behave aggressively to any individual or animal, including yourself, and it must not behave destructively to property, to itself or to you, the owner.
If you try to bring your emotional support cat into a publicly-accessible establishment other than an airport/airplane or residential property where you seek or possess housing, the people responsible for that establishment have the right to ask you a couple of questions, namely:
- Do you need the cat because of a disability? – You may not, however, be asked what kind of disability.
- What tasks or activities does the cat help you perform? – This question distinguishes a service animal which performs or helps perform specific tasks or activities, from an emotional support animal, which does not do so, but rather provides general support.
Best Breeds of Emotional Support Cats
Some of the breeds of cat that make the best emotional support cats include:
A smart, quiet breed, the Russian Blue is as low-maintenance and easy to care for as it is highly affectionate and loving.
Not only beloved for its tail, a rare commodity among cats, Manx are also known for being playful, gentle and affectionate.
Not known for their cuddling prowess, Bengals are nonetheless smart, athletic and attentive cats, if a bit independent of mind.
Not very independently-minded, these cats are particularly well-suited to companionship. They’re also relatively quiet, even among cat breeds, suiting them well to being emotional support animals. Other qualities of the American Bobtail that make them great as pets and emotional support cats alike are their loyalty and affectionateness.
Incredibly friendly cats, ragdolls often follow people around or sit and lay with, near and even on top of them seeking companionship. They are easygoing and mild-mannered and get along well with children and other pets. They are also smart and trainable to the point that you can even teach them tricks. Endlessly affectionate, ragdolls love to be picked up and cuddled, even going limp like their namesakes when held.
For a larger breed of emotional support cat, a Maine coon is one to consider. The breed is known for its intelligence, active natures and high trainability. They can develop bonds with more than one person, making them a good cat for families or for individuals living with others. They are also a particularly empathetic breed, able to tune-in well to their owner’s emotions and needs. Maine coons can be affectionate not just with their owners but with children and other pets as well.
While Siamese cats are reputed to be independently minded and sometimes loud or demanding, they are also among the most loyal breeds of cats. They bond particularly closely with one or two people, making them an ideal companion for a person in need of one. They are a playful breed with boundless energy and have ranked consistently among the most affectionate cat breeds.
One of the most popular breeds of cats as pets and emotional support cats alike year after year, the American Shorthair is known for its even-keeled temperament and peaceable disposition. American Shorthairs are also known to be highly-intelligent and to get along well with (or at least behave themselves around) other pets and children.
Persians also make for affectionate, loyal and well-behaved feline companions. They may be prohibited, however, from flying on certain airlines or flights for being a brachycephalic breed. If you’re not planning on taking your emotional support cat on a plane with you, however, then a Persian could be a prime candidate for your emotional support cat. Other brachycephalic breeds of cats, incidentally, are Burmese and Himalayan cats.
Emotional Support Cat Registration
While you don’t need to register your emotional support cat to have one, travel with one and live with one in so-called “pet-free” housing, emotional support cat registration can certainly help make all that a whole lot easier.
How to Register Cat as Emotional Support Animal
To register cat as emotional support animal, simply sign up at Certifymypet. Once you fill out and submit the intake form, a doctor will call you shortly thereafter to set up a consultation one-on-one over live video-conference to make sure you meet all the qualifications for an emotional support animal and, assuming you do, to write you your ESA letter. You can use this ESA letter for one year from when it was dated, presenting it to any airline on which you wish to travel with your emotional support cat and to any landlord or other housing administrator of a property in which you wish to live with your emotional support cat.
Sample of Letter for Emotional Support Animal
Once your emotional support cat registration, also known as emotional support cat certification, is complete, you will receive a package full of useful and handy tools for traveling and taking housing more easily with your emotional support animal.
Remember, while emotional support cat certification may not be required, it can be an excellent idea for making all your travel and housing experiences now and in the future easier for you and your emotional support cat. With certification comes official-looking identification and documentation presenting you as the owner of an emotional support animal and your cat as that animal. It also gets you listed in the Certifymypet database of ESA owners and their animals, which you can then call into use when an airline or housing worker is requiring you to provide more verification of you and your cat’s ESA qualifications than that which you’ve already provided.