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Lean On Me: Emotional Support Cats

By: Jessica Linnay

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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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