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What is an emotional support cat or emotional support animal?

Updated: Dec 21, 2023

An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is a domesticated animal (e.g., cat, dog, rabbit) that can provide valuable therapeutic benefits, such as emotional support, comfort, and companionship, to individuals with mental health disabilities. It's important to note that an emotional support animal is distinct from a service dog.


While emotional support animals are primarily associated with aiding individuals with mental health disorders, we believe they can also be beneficial to individuals with other disabilities. As a result, we have decided to broaden the definition of our program. It's worth considering that some individuals may need a service dog instead of an emotional support cat.


In Massachusetts, cats don’t require registration or certification to serve as emotional support animals. Some individuals may request an emotional support animal (ESA) letter from their own clinician for housing purposes.


Unlike service dogs, emotional support animals do not wear vests. It's important to note that ESAs are generally not allowed in public places like cafes, grocery stores, or shops unless the establishment explicitly permits pets. Subjecting a cat to a public environment with other people can cause significant stress to the animal. Cats should be kept indoors, (away from predators, disease, and traffic) at home except when they need to be transported.


Please be aware that we are unable to assist individuals in obtaining Emotional Support Animal (ESA) letters from their clinicians. We are not involved in the verification process of an individual's need for an ESA letter. It is essential to discuss this matter directly with a clinician with whom you have an ongoing relationship.


While an ESA letter grants you the privilege of having a cat in your residence, it's important to consider the concerns of your landlord or property manager regarding potential property damage and the impact of your cat ownership on other tenants. It would be beneficial to inquire about the landlord/property manager’s specific concerns regarding your cat. You can assure them that you will take responsibility for the cat by addressing potential issues, such as:


1. Although a low percentage of cats spray, if your cat does, you are committed to resolving the issue by promptly seeking veterinary care, ensuring that your cat is spayed or neutered, and taking appropriate measures to prevent spraying.


2. If your cat scratches carpets, you will actively work on resolving the problem by regularly clipping your cat's nails, providing scratching pads and posts, and implementing other effective measures. (or see video)


3. You will maintain a clean environment in the apartment and prevent odors by scooping litter from the litter box daily and grooming your cat regularly. Any issues related to the cat not using the litter box (or see video) will be promptly addressed.


4. In the event that you are away, you will make appropriate arrangements for someone to care for your cat.


By addressing these concerns and demonstrating your commitment to responsible cat ownership, you can help alleviate some worries your landlord or property manager may have.

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