Is there such a thing as a service cat?
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the termservice animals refers only to dogs and miniature horses specifically trained to perform an action for a person with a disability. These animals lead a person with visual impairments, pull a wheelchair, or alert a deaf person to certain sounds. Since they aren't pets, working animals can go where other domestic creatures cannot.
While cats can’t lead a visually impaired person through a crowded city street, they can serve as emotional support animals (ESAs) or therapy animals. In these roles, cats bring joy every day into hospitals, assisted living facilities, and correctional institutions.
What’s an emotional support animal?
Any animal who helps mitigate the effects of depression, anxiety, PTSD, or other emotional distress can become an ESA. These animals don’t have the same public access rights as guide dogs. But ESAs do get to travel in airline cabins and live with their humans in no-pet housing spaces.
If you believe an ESA cat could help you or a loved one, contact your doctor or mental health provider for more information.
What’s a therapy cat?
Trained therapy cats provide affection and comfort to people needing physical or psychological therapy. Organizations like Love on a Leash or Pet Partners can certify stable, good-natured cats as therapy animals. Once certified, a therapy cat visits libraries, schools, nursing homes, prisons, and hospitals—anywhere they’re invited to spread the love. Cats have proven themselves especially effective at calming and reassuringveterans suffering from PTSD andpeople with autism.
Listening to a child read a book, encouraging a stroke victim to toss a toy, and cuddling with an Alzheimer’s patient are all in a day’s work. Calm, confident cats who relish meeting new people often make great cadets for therapy cat programs.
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