Asking yourself what kind of pet you should get takes on a whole new meaning when thinking about an emotional support animal (ESA). These animals must have the traits you’re looking for in a companion and for support. Cats and dogs are the most popular animals people have as pets, but how do they stack up as emotional support animals? Here’s what you need to know.
What are emotional support animals?
If you have a pet, you know how much happiness and comfort they can bring you. For people with mental or emotional illnesses and disabilities, an emotional support animal provides therapeutic benefits through companionship and support.
People with conditions such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD are among those who may benefit from having an emotional support animal in their lives. It’s important to understand that an ESA isn’t a service animal. While they are a part of many people’s medical treatment plans, they are not covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. They are simply animal companions that go the extra mile to support you when you’re in need.
Emotional support animals don’t need to be specifically trained as service animals are, so that means they’re not protected under the same laws as service animals. Your ESA is not allowed to have access to public places such as movie theaters, restaurants, and hospitals.
Your ESA may not be protected the same way a service animal is, but they do have rights under the Air Carrier Access Act and the Fair Housing Amendment Act. That means they are allowed access to homes you rent, including apartments, and on airplanes as long as they’re well behaved and can follow basic commands. Just make sure to have your ESA letter before you attempt to seek rights for you and your ESA.
ESA cat or ESA dog?
Cat versus dog – it’s the age-old battle! Which makes a better ESA? That’s really up to you. Here are a few of the challenges and the benefits cats and dogs present as emotional support animals.
The point of an ESA is to provide support and companionship. Cats are great ESAs because they bond well with their caregivers and are just the right size to snuggle. As far as being roommates in concerned, cats are relatively low-maintenance animals that don’t take up much space. They’re clean, non-intrusive, and quiet – except when it’s mealtime. And when it comes to personality, many cats have it in spades.
Cats are often seen as elusive, but they can provide the same support, compassion, and love as any other ESA. If you’re not a “cat person,” then an ESA cat may not be the right choice for you. But if you do love cats, then you know their love can run just as deep as a dog’s. Cats don’t require walks, either, which may be a bonus for some ESA owners.
Cats also have something that dogs don’t – they purr. In fact, research has shown that the frequency of a cat’s purr has several benefits to the health of their owners. It can:
- Lower stress – Stroking your purring cat helps to calm your nerves and reduce stress.
- Lower risk of heart attacks – Research has found that cat owners have a 40% lower risk of heart attack than non-cat owners.
- Reduce blood pressure – Hearing a cat’s purr and interacting with a cat helps to lower your blood pressure.
- Good vibrations – The vibrations emitted by a purr can help reduce swelling and heal infection.
See? Cats really are amazing little animals. An ESA cat is an excellent choice for those in need of support.
Of course, cats aren’t the only pets that can make a great companion and ESA. Dogs are the most popular choice for pets and for emotional support animals. And why wouldn’t they be?
Dogs are smart, seem to have an intuitive sense for what you need and how you’re feeling, and are a little bit more reliable in the affection department than cats. Plus, you can’t find an animal more loyal to you than a dog – or more protective.
In fact, owning an ESA dog has some great benefits for your overall health and wellbeing. An ESA dog can:
- Get you moving – Dogs need to be walked, so they force you to get up and get some exercise on a regular basis.
- Improve your heart health – Simply touching a dog can help to lower your blood pressure.
- Help you connect – Dogs force you to be social by getting you out of the house and interacting with other owners.
- Boost your mood – Studies have found that dogs reduce tension and boost the feel-good chemicals in your brain that help you feel happy.
- Be a friend – One of the best things about dogs is that they feel like a true friend and companion, which helps alleviate feelings of anxiety and depression.
The only downside to dogs as your choice for an ESA is that they’re not as independent as a cat. They simply require more work – but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
You can’t go wrong with the choice of an ESA cat or ESA dog as your emotional support animal. What’s important is that it’s an animal you feel a connection with, so they can offer you the companionship and support you need.