Can a Cat Be a Service Animal?

Your pet could be an asset to your mental health. How? By registering it and receiving up to date legal info, of course! When registering your pet, the first crucial factor to consider is: What is the definition of a service animal vs other types of support animals? 

There are three varying types of support animals. You can group each pet into one of these types based on the services they perform or their objectives in terms of special training and daily function.

The three types of support animals are therapy pets, emotional support animals, and service animals. Service animals undergo training to perform the most responsibilities.

So, can a cat qualify as any of these three support types?

Can Cats Be Service Animals?

The short answer is no. But before you feel disappointed, know that there are some ways in which felines can be like service animals. 

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not consider any creature besides a dog or a miniature horse to be official service animals. While felines may serve as emotional support for their owner or volunteer in the hospital as a therapy pet, the ADA does not recognize them as service animals. 

However, this lack of official recognition does not mean that cats cannot fulfill a crucial role. Felines can qualify as emotional support animals or therapy pets. . This distinction is vital to remember as you continue your research regarding service animals.

So, for the long answer to the question of can cats be service animals, the issue is a little more complicated. Cats are easily trainable, just like dogs. For people with disabilities, illness, anxiety, or incapacitating conditions, a cat can perform many of the same duties as service animals. 

You also can certify felines as an ESA. This therapist certification gives the owner permissions in private spaces, like when renting an apartment. 

The ESA designation is a crucial element of exercising your right to accessible and affordable support for your condition without discrimination. Even if your pet isn’t a service animal and is instead an ESA, registering can provide you with a variety of informational benefits and a therapeutic diagnosis from a therapist can secure your standing.

What Can Service Cats Do?

Because the ADA only deems dogs and miniature horses as official service animals, the term “service cat” is incorrect. However, it doesn’t mean that cats can’t perform a role in assisting those with emotional disabilities or mental illnesses.

A feline companion can serve any of the following roles for people with disabilities:

  • Emotional Support Animal (ESA)
  • Therapy Animal
    Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT)
    – Animal-Assisted Activities Therapy (AAAT)

These roles differ in terms of what the cat can do for you. 

Emotional Support Animals serve the role of companionship and comfort. They are usually a constant companion, rather than a pet that stays at home. 

ESAs do not need to undergo training to perform tricks or carry out specific tasks for their owners. They only need to be well-behaved in public and of calm temperament. If you have PTSD, anxiety, or another mental illness or trauma-induced disability, an ESA can be an excellent source of support.

There are regulations for ESAs, and they exist to protect the pet and the owner’s rights. These regulations also mean that you must register the feline as an ESA to protect your rights as an ESA owner. You must also obtain a letter stating the ESA registration status.


Therapy animals differ from ESAs in one substantial way: they are visitors rather than permanent companions. They do not live with the people they support. 

These working pets accompany a mental health professional to hospitals, schools, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes. They bring love and affection to those who may feel lonely or scared due to loss, sickness, disability, or uncertainty. 

The benefit of using a cat rather than a dog for these therapy programs is that they are incredibly attuned and responsive to people’s body language.

Therapy cats perform their duties in two types of programs: Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) and Animal-Assisted Activities Therapy (AAAT).

  • In AAT, people hold, pet, and play with the pets as part of their physical therapy. This interaction promotes the redevelopment of motor control skills. People in these programs are usually recovering from an injury or procedure. 
  • In AAAT, the visiting companions provide general emotional support. Often, they support people in nursing homes or other facilities.

Therapy cats are working cats. They do not have many of the rights that ESAs and ESA owners have per federal law.

How Do I Make My Cat a Service Animal?

You can’t register your cat as a service pet, according to the ADA. However, you can set it up to help you as another type of support animal. That said, not just any cat can fulfil many of the duties necessary for a support pet. There are a few crucial things that your feline must be able to handle to qualify as an ESA or therapy pet.

Train Your Pet

First of all, due to the nature of ESAs in public places, your cat must stay at home in your apartment providing emotional support. Since flight regulations are constantly changing we recommend you check in with your airline to determine if your cat can fly in the cabin. 

Your cat must also be able to keep calm in stressful conditions or locations. An unruly or wild cat can end up causing more anxiety than it alleviates. They should also have some training to behave and follow the necessary commands. 

Finally, they must be in excellent health and consume no raw foods.

Know Your Rights

Service animals tend to have the most protections under federal law and the ADA. However, the categorical distinction doesn’t mean that you don’t have a right to other types of support animals! 

Part of qualifying your cat as a support animal involves understanding the regulations that surround your ownership. For your sake and your pet’s, it’s crucial to know the federal laws and how they entitle you to specific rights.

Two federal acts protect your rights as an ESA owner: 

  • The Air Carrier Access Act (ACA). The Air Carrier Access Act states that you can bring the animal on commercial flights if you have obtained an ESA letter for your cat. This protection can be a gamechanger for those that experience anxiety or PTSD symptoms while traveling. There is no extra charge for bringing the ESA aboard. However, airlines have begun to change their tune around ESA’s and have rules on a case by case basis.
  • The Fair Housing Act (FHA). The FHA regards your rights as a renter. It entitles ESA owners to live in a property without paying a pet deposit. Also, ESA owners have the right to move into an apartment with their pet, even if the property does not otherwise allow non-ESA pets.

If you want to ensure accommodations for your support pet and protection of your rights, be sure to register your cat as an ESA. With the ESA letter, you and your cat have the entitlements guaranteed by federal law.


Although your feline can’t be an official service animal, it can serve other roles. A cat can be a wonderful support animal for anyone coping with trauma, mental illness, disability, sickness, or loneliness. 

If you wish to explore the possibility of registering your cat as an ESA, contact a real professional. ESA Registration has everything you need to ensure the protection of your rights as an ESA owner.

Registering an ESA is the best way to protect your rights and your feline’s, too, but receiving legal updates and having access to therapists around the clock. Start the process today by checking out our resources. Does your cat have what it takes to be an emotional support cat? Find out and get registered today at ESA Registration.