Pretzel. Ritz. Funyun. Cheeto. Dorito. Those are our five fur babies. Our cats. Frito. If you want to count this outdoor cat that hangs around our house because my husband likes to feed her. We can talk about how he’s become the “Cat Daddy” later. Four of the five of our cats are littermates. 3 boys, 1 girl. Kind of like us. It’s just me in a home full of testosterone. Hurricane Harvey left these little ones at our house one day and they have been family ever since. Their mama wanted to shield them from the storm and dropped them in our carport and never looked back. Literally. We had those little kittens out there for a couple of days, waiting on their mama to come back. She never did. I hope that she ended up being okay as it was a pretty heavy storm.
Dorito is our youngest cat. He is not a littermate of the others, but he looks just like Funyun. He was found wandering the halls of my husband’s unit and he brought him home for us to keep (see, Cat Daddy?).
So, here I am with five cats. And just like having these kids, I didn’t know a lick of what I was doing to care for them. Everything I learned about them I learned online and from other cat parents. I’m sure you’re wondering what does the life story of your four-legged family members have to do with Autism? Well, I’m glad you asked, probably nothing…and probably everything. Let’s continue, shall we?
Our cats serve as Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) to our youngest son on the spectrum, Jojo. Not to be confused with Service Animals, Emotional Support Animals are ASSISTANCE animals, technically, they are not considered pets. They provide emotional support to their owner. These ESAs come with their own set of rights and privileges just as Service Animals, such as the owner(s) not having to pay pet deposits or extra fees for housing and/or transportation (this is for Texas, every state will have its own rules and regulations regarding ESAs). I will probably put more information about ESAs on my Instagram or Facebook. So be on the lookout or shoot me an email and I’ll be more than happy to assist you in any way I can. You can obtain an ESA prescription from a licensed medical professional. We have heard that you must have one from a mental health professional only, and others that have stated can obtain one from any medical professional. I like to be over the top so I got one from both this therapist and his developmental pediatrician. If I were you and I had to choose, I would opt to go with a mental health professional as emotional states is…kind of their jam.
Per the Americans with Disabilities Act, ESAs are not required to be registered or need special training. Primarily they are there to comfort their owners. Because they do not perform specific tasks related to their owner’s disability, they can be restricted from certain public areas. You can get permission to live in no-pet housing and fly with our ESA with the proper documentation (prescription and/or letter documenting necessity). There’s more information on this in the Federal Fair Housing Act.
You can obtain an ESA prescription from a licensed medical professional. I have heard that you must have one from a mental health professional only, and others that have stated you can obtain one from any medical professional. I like to overdo things, so I got one from both this therapist and his developmental pediatrician. If I were you and I had to choose, I would opt to go with a mental health professional as mood and emotional states are…kind of their jam.
We used our ESA letter to obtain housing in a rental that does accept pets but had a maximum of only two per household and required a pet deposit. We were able to bring all five cats and the pet deposit was waived.
Any condition that has been outlined with the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) should be able to try and qualify for an ESA. Conditions such as anxiety, panic attacks, learning disabilities, and more. My son’s therapist’s cites anxiety as his qualifying condition and his developmental pediatrician cites Autism as the qualifying condition.
Each state will have their own state regulations regarding ESAs, so be sure to check what those are.
Oh, before I forget, here is a site for more information on ESAs.
Til next time,