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Rachel Jenkins

What Kind of Pets Make the Best ESA

Thinking about making your pet an ESA? Congratulations! You’re officially on the right track to begin strengthening your mental health, naturally. But wait—have you thought any further ahead than that? If not, then don’t stress. Because we have the ultimate guide for you, on which pets make the best ESAs ever. This guide (and this one, too) will take you through everything you need to know about the traits, personalities and temperament of the pets that are hands down the best ESAs, to support you in caring for and improving your mental health. 

Emotional Support Animals: Essential Traits

Emotional support animals have a very special and unique job, meaning they must have certain traits and temperaments that allow them to do their job effectively. If you are on the hunt to find the perfect pet to have by your side when you need support, then it’s your job to ensure you choose the correct one. ESAs will be exposed to many different situations, strangers and locations, therefore must be extremely sociable, trainable and well-behaved animals. Let’s look at the essential traits of an emotional support animal.

Good Manners

Animals that are acting as ESAs must have good ‘manners’ around other people, and other pets. This will ensure that they are safe to others and stay safe themselves.  As with all pets that are around a wide variety of people each day, it’s important that they are kept under the control of their owners and understand the basics of ‘good’ pet behavior.

Comfortable Being Touched

This is not an absolute must, as most people will ask before petting your animal. However, it can be a useful trait in an ESA, as some people will not check before attempting to do so, and you don’t want any accidents! Having a pet that is comfortable being touched is the most convenient option, as it means you will not have to worry if or when other people want to pat your pet.

Social Skills

All potential ESAs should be extremely well socialized with other people and pets, as being an ESA means encountering new and potentially scary situations all the time! The more well socialized your pet is, the less chance of them freaking them out due to an unfamiliar place or person.

Disposition

Pets that may be looking at fulfilling the ESA role need to be friendly, adaptable and confident to make them successful. If an animal is fearful, anxious or aggressive, then they are probably not the right choice for an ESA.

Dogs as Emotional Support Animals 

One of the most popular choices for ESAs are man’s best friend—dogs. Dogs have many advantages as ESAs which make them a great choice for those who want an all around good choice for their companion animal. Dogs are trainable, get along with most humans, and can even help their human with certain tasks, like interrupting panic attacks. Dogs are also extremely adaptable which means if they are started young, they are happy to travel and accompany their humans in a range of situations, perfect for those with an active lifestyle.

On the downside, depending on the dog, there is the potential for these animals to be aggressive and wary of strangers, not good traits in an ESA. It’s also important to remember that depending on the size, dogs may not be able to fly in the cabin of aircraft, meaning they cannot help their owners with anxiety on planes.

Cats as Emotional Support Animals

Cats offer a slightly different style of emotional support than their canine counterparts, with a more relaxed and independent attitude, which can suit owners in need of support that are after a lower key pet. Cats are happy to cuddle at home, survey their kingdom from on high and every so often, allow their owner to play a game with them. This may suit owners who are keen on an animal to support them and provide them with attention that does not require as much exercise and supervision as a dog. Cats are a great choice for those who want a quiet and undemanding pet to help support their mental health.

Perhaps one of the cons to having a cat as an ESA is the fact that many cats are not quite as flexible as dogs when it comes to travel. Of course there are some cats that are adventurous and travel-friendly, but there are many that much prefer spending time at home, curled up in their favorite armchair! This is something to take into account when choosing a cat as an ESA.

Small Pets as Emotional Support Animals

Another option for an emotional support animal, which is less common, but still chosen by some are pets in the small pet category. This could include hamsters, rabbits, guinea pigs, mice or other small pets that are allowed according to state law. One of the advantages of small pets is the fact that they are compact and don’t take up a great deal of physical space. This makes them somewhat portable, although their enclosures can be bulky.

A disadvantage to having small mammals and rodents acting as your ESA is that due to a number of highly publicized unfortunate incidents, they are no longer allowed on flights, meaning that the Aircraft Carrier Act (ACA) does not apply to this category of pets. If you are someone who travels by air frequently, a cat or a dog is a better choice.