Can a Maine Coon be a "service cat" in America?

Technically speaking, a Maine Coon cat or any other domestic cat cannot be a 'service cat' in America because only dogs can fulfil that role under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). That said, the phrase will have different meanings in different countries.

Only dogs can be service animals in the US under the ADA
Only dogs can be service animals in the US under the ADA. Image: MikeB

'Service animal' defined by ADA

But essentially, forgetting for the time being the semantics or phraseology, a service animal is one which performs specific tasks for people with disabilities. The phrase "service animal" is narrower than the phrase" therapy animal". 

Cats can be a therapy animal and so can service animals i.e. dogs but specifically, in the US, only dogs can be a service animal, as mentioned, because under the ADA "service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities."

Service dogs are obviously very highly trained and they can cost as much as $50,000 if you are buying a service dog from a supplier. Or you might train the dog yourself but I suspect that it takes a lot of skill and specialist training to create a dog which passes the requisite standard. You can get bank loans to purchase a service dog but that'll be a big decision.

Maine Coon as therapy animal

A Maine Coon cat, as a therapy animal, can help address emotional issues suffered by the cat's owner such as loneliness, depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD, ADHD and conditions such as dementia, depression, and learning difficulties. 

A Maine Coon cat would, I'm sure, do a great job in helping people who have to live with these conditions. They have an excellent character for the role. Simply by their presence and their interactions with their caregiver they can substantially alleviate the negative emotions which many people have to live with; often young people.

But therapy animals are not trained to carry out specific tasks. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association animal therapy "is a type of animal-assisted intervention in which an animal meeting specific criteria is an integral part of the treatment process. Animal-assisted therapy is provided in a variety of settings, and it may be group or individual in nature."

Also, an emotional support animal (which is another way to describe a therapy animal) is one which provides comfort but not specific tasks or jobs for the owner and therefore they do not qualify as a service animal in America.

Qualifying for therapy animal

Anybody who considers himself to be suffering from emotional or psychological condition can qualify for an emotional support animal.

We should talk with a mental health professional and find out how you qualify. Any animal can be a therapy or emotional support animal. Your existing cat or dog might provide the kind of emotional support that you require.

There are a wide range of animals that can qualify as being therapy animals. Many other species are well suited for the task in addition to cats and dogs. They include horses, miniature horses, donkeys, rabbits, pigs, birds, guinea pigs, llamas and alpacas for instance.

Qualifying for service dog

Might you qualify for a service dog? If you have a physical or mental disability which limits you in one or more ways in your life, you are entitled to a service dog in America under the ADA. You are not required under the act as I understand it, to disclose what your disability is to anyone. This protects your privacy.

It must be perfectly feasible for an existing dog companion of a person with a disability to qualify as a service dog because they have been trained by that person to carry out certain tasks. You may be able to obtain assistance in funding the caretaking of the dog under the ADA.

Do You Qualify for an Emotional Support Animal or Service Animal?

This applies to the US where you can contact US Service Animals through a form and find out your rights and get assistance from a therapy or service animal [link].


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