An emotional support animal (ESA) is any domesticated animal that provides comfort and support in the form of companionship and affection for an individual experiencing various emotional and mental conditions. An ESA is not meant to perform tasks for a disabled person, unlike a service animal.
When it comes to choosing an emotional support animal, most people narrow down their options to cats and dogs. Typically, it is dogs, with their puppy-dog eyes and brainlessly loyal glory that make them more common for therapies related to PTSD and other cognitive disorders. Other animals, such as cats, fish and horses are also pretty common. But who is better, dogs or cats? Of course, personal preference and perhaps allergies will greatly contribute to this decision, but there’s more than that to consider.
The advantages of dog therapy for emotional support have been studied and researched extensively. Dogs are found to lower stress levels among females and also enhance oxytocin levels. They are also great in helping socially awkward children become more involved with the society. On the other hand, the evidence about the cognitive benefits that comes from petting or stroking a cat is not as clear as in the case of a dog.
Dogs vs. Cats for Emotional Support
We’ve all heard that dogs are a man’s best friend. And that is definitely true on so many levels. Owning a dog for emotional support will offer you social support, anxiety relief and other numerous health benefits. Studies suggest dogs enhance your health with their special ‘healing’ powers, such as decreased breathing levels and heart rate, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and reduced stress levels, all of which can have a significantly positive effect on both your physical and emotional health.
Even people who are clinically depressed can have a dog as a pet and it greatly help them combat their episodes of depression. Having a pet calls for a routine and urges the owner to stay active, which makes it hard to feel down all the time. On top of that, the sloppy kisses and the clowning around is enough to get anyone in a happy mood.
A dog is a beautiful creation that can sense your emotions and acts accordingly. Furthermore, you can vent to your furry friend for hours and hours without paying fees or getting judged. Even looking at your dog can boost your levels of Oxytocin, a chemical present in the brain that is responsible for making you ‘feel good’.
When it comes to cats for emotional support, studies show that just watching cat videos online can create positive emotions in a person. So, it’s not much of a surprise that opting for a cat as an ESA will offer you numerous benefits too.
First of all, cats have shown to help cope with a loss more quickly, and show fewer signs of physical pain like crying. People who just lost a loved one or suffered a setback in life, talking it out with a being that won’t respond and can’t judge will be of great help. Of course, you can do it with a dog too but for some reason people find it easier with cats because of their calm nature.
Like dogs, cats also help lower anxiety levels, especially because they don’t call for much effort. A study showed that cat owners were 30% less likely to die of a stroke or heart attack as compared to non-cat owners. And lastly, if you have emotional needs but also need to take your allergies into account, opting for a cat is your best bet.
In short, dogs are typically preferred when it comes to satisfying one’s emotional needs but you can find comfort in a cat, depending on your personal preference.
About the Author: Brad Smith is a content writer for Therapy Pet, a company that helps people get the proper documentation to make their pet and official Emotional Support Animal.