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Lean On Me: Emotional Support Cats


Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the USA (that’s over 43 million people!) experiences mental illness, and mood disorders including major depression are the 3rd most common cause of hospitalization for both American adults and youth.

Those are serious numbers. And sometimes, cats are a serious solution.

Most people, we like to think, have long discovered the benefits of keeping a cuddly kitty nearby – including that natural oxytocin release (“the love hormone”) that gives you the warm & fuzzies. Even watching cat videos online has shown to be beneficial to our wellbeing. Now, those who suffer from mental illnesses like anxiety, depression, phobias and PTSD could qualify for a pet that helps to alleviate and manage their often debilitating symptoms. These cats (and other animals) are designated as Emotional Support Animals, or ESAs.

It’s important to distinguish that ESAs are not service animals, and are not given the same legal authority to for example, accompany you on flights or bypass no pet housing restrictions without often very rigorous additional documentation and legwork. They do not require the same amount of training as service animals either, but they DO require being run through the same thorough process of checks and balances by licensed professionals to be designated with the title, and must be deemed to be an integral part of a your treatment plan.

Our feline friends are ideal for this task. Cats are docile, affectionate, and intelligent animals intrinsically bonded with humans and skilled in soothing and calming us to reduce distress. Cats are also vivacious, comedic animals with unique personalities that can bring entertainment and laughter to a room where it’s needed.

Some other reported benefits of emotional support cats include:

  • lowering blood pressure and regulating the heart rate
  • bettering stress management and coping techniques
  • boosting self-esteem and activity levels
  • increasing sense of purpose and feelings of safety
  • strengthening the immune system

Be well. Hug a kitty today!

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2 Comments

  • Connie Dantley

    I WISH I COULD GET MY 8 YEAR OLD FURBABY CERTIFIED AS MY ESA. HE’S BEEN WITH ME THROUGH SOME VERY HARD TIMES AND IS STILL MY VERY BEST FRIEND. HE KNOWS WHEN I’M NOT “QUITE RIGHT” AND WILL NOT LEAVE ME.

  • michelle little

    I rescued my cat at 6 weeks of age; she’s now 8 years old. I say I rescued her, but really, it’s totally the other way around. She’s been with me thru the toughest of times, and gave me a reason to live when I could see no other. She’s taught me about being self-less instead of selfishly thinking only of myself and wants (i.e. spend the last of my money of litter and cat food instead of booze and drugs) and always gave me a reason to want to come home to her. Now, more then ever, she’s providing me with the will to survive, as I’ve recently been diagnosed with a malignant tumor on my esophagus; waiting for test results to see if the cancer has spread elsewhere. When I had to stay in the hospital for a brief stint, she let me know when I got home how much I was missed and adored. She never fails to stretch out across my chest, paws wrapped around my neck, head tucked in beneath my chin, gently but loudly purring, when I come home from a much dreaded test or meeting with oncologists. I’m so happy to hear of this ESA designation; I’m going to see if I can arrange to have it applied to her.

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