Does My Cat Qualify as a Companion Animal?

Separation anxiety is very real. Between people, between pets, between people and their pets. Wouldn’t it be great if you could take your beloved cat everywhere?

companion cats photo
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The definition of a companion animal is “a dog, cat, or other pet that provides health benefits to a person”.

Companion animals may help relieve stress or serve a more active role, as do guide dogs for blind persons and dogs trained to detect telephone or doorbell sounds for deaf persons or seizures in epileptic persons and signal for help.”
Sometimes the term “companion animal” is interchangeable with “service animal” or “emotional support animal”.

While dogs are more typically thought to fit the bill as service animals to individuals whose disabilities involve blindness, deafness, or confinement to a wheelchair, there are companies which offer to train cats for the same role.

However, according to federal law, cats are not recognized to be service animals.

cats with owners photo
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An emotional support animal, as a concept, is a different breed.  Not all disabilities are visible, after all, and just because yours isn’t doesn’t mean you couldn’t benefit from a companion animal, this time functioning as your faithful emotional support animal.

There’s a reason dogs have a reputation for being much more trainable than cats, but emotional support animals require no special training.

A dog, a cat, and other species could be considered emotional support animals, as their role comes from providing therapeutic comfort to their human by their companionship alone.

cats with owners photo
Photo by QuinnDombrowski|cc

Not all the same protections that extend to service animals extend to emotional support animals. A service animal may go everywhere their disabled owner goes.

It is against the law to bar these animals from entering any public place, such as state and local government buildings, public places of business, and public transportation.

Your emotional support animal’s rights are limited to being allowed as an exception to a building with a “no pets policy”, and being allowed to fly with you on an airplane. The animal would be permitted to ride in the airplane cabin with you, free of its carrier.

cats with owners photo
Photo by Aoshi_88|cc

Registering your furry friend as an emotional support animal involves obtaining a special letter, either for housing or flying.

In order to secure either of these letters, documentation from a verifiable mental health professional must be submitted.

They must attest to the fact that you have an emotional or psychological disability which substantially limits at least one major life activity, and that the presence of your animal helps to alleviate symptoms of your disability.


A recent Today Show report, however, tackled an uptick in people applying for and being granted a letter for flying with an emotional support animal under fraudulent circumstances.

 These people were merely looking to save a dime by avoiding the fees charged for traveling with pets.

cats with owners photo
Photo by PublicDomainPictures|cc

In the end, there are legitimate reasons why your cat may need to ride with you on a plane, and ways to get him into a building that otherwise wouldn’t allow pets.

However, it is best not to exploit a system designed to make life easier for those with disabilities, whether visible or not so visible.

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