Knowing the difference between an Emotional Support Animal and a Service Animal
An emotional support animal (ESA), or a support animal, is a pet whose presence is deemed by a professional to provide benefits for people who suffer from mental illnesses. Those who qualify have mental health conditions that can disrupt one’s day-to-day life activities and include conditions like anxiety disorder, panic attacks, and clinical depression.
ESAs differ from service animals in that service animals are specifically trained to perform a variety of tasks (i.e., detect seizures before they strike, provide deep pressure therapy, bring medication to their handler.) While it is typical for a dog to be registered as an ESA, that doesn’t necessarily mean that other animals cannot, as there are no rules that specify what an ESA animal should be. This means that, if you have a cat, and you are deemed qualified by a mental health professional—you can register your feline companion as an ESA. However, there are quite a few things that you have to consider before registering your cat as an emotional service animal.
There isn’t an “official” registration for an Emotional Support cat
The only kind of registration that you will need is your ESA letter from a therapist. There is no official register that you are legally required to sign your cat up for. Additionally, an emotional support cat doesn’t have to wear a special vest or tag of any sort, declaring your companion’s status as a support animal.
Beware of scammers
Because the process for registering your cat as an ESA is fairly simple and straightforward and not at all as stringent as registering a service animal, there are many companies taking advantage of this fact and claim that they can “officially certify” your ESA. Without any prior knowledge of ESAs, a pet owner could end up paying money for an illegitimate document or phony certification. Unlike support animals, an ESA is not guaranteed into any venue.
Your ESA is covered under the Fair Housing Act
This act states that your landlord must provide reasonable accommodations to you and your ESA; however, if it imposes any financial or administrative strain on your landlord, your landlord can also reject your ESA through legal proceedings. This is also possible if you have an ESA that is very large (i.e., a horse.)
Housing that isn’t covered by FHA
Rental spaces of four units or less (where the owner is actually living in one of the units), single family homes that are sold/rented by the owner without the use of a broker, and housing that is operated by private clubs and religious organizations that restrict occupancy to their members are not covered by FHA.
Emotional Support Animals and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA)
Your emotional service animal may be able to travel with you inside the airplane cabin but due to significant abuse of this regulation, it is currently under scrutiny and the rules may change. Obtaining a letter from a licensed professional is crucial in having your companion fly with you. Make sure you have the letter dated no later than one year before you use it. Contact your airline a few days before your scheduled flight to make proper arrangements.
Emotional Support Animals and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, emotional support animals are not considered service animals. This is a really important distinction because support animals do not enjoy the same type of access as service animals. Services animals are specifically trained to perform a specific task for their owner and they are not viewed as pets, but workers. Service animals help blind people get around, help those with epilepsy know when a seizure will strike and so much more. Today, the ADA will only consider dogs as service animals and they must undergo the appropriate certification. Cats were previously allowed to be service animals, provided they were trained. Those who have a service cat that was previously certified are usually grandfathered into the program… but cats are no longer allowed to be considered service animals.
More About Service CatsRead About Symie and Raul
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Read more about a real service cat (and hero), Symie!
The holidays are upon us yet again! Do you know what you’re getting for the special cat in your life? If the answer is no, worry not! The Catnip Times is here for you with a gift guide that will help you find the perfect gift for cats and cat lovers alike.
SmartyKat Hot Pursuit
The SmartyKat Hot Pursuit electronic motion cat toy is one of the top rated cat toys on Chewy.com. It imitates the movement of prey in the wild and encourages your cat’s inner hunter, and it’s great for getting your cat active and engaged when you’re busy elsewhere.
With a subscription to KittyShield you are giving the gift of peace of mind. Unexpected predicaments happen to everyone, and that’s where KittyShield comes in. KittyShield is a service that lets you enter the daily routine of your cat(s), including their food preferences/requirements, litter box preferences, and sleep and play habits. Should you ever have an emergency and not make it home when your cats are expecting you, your regular pet sitter (or caregivers you choose) will be notified and can access all of your cat’s information via KittyShield to stop in and care for your cat.
Note: KittyShield will be available starting January 1, 2019. Founding members will get 50% off of their annual membership forever! Sign up here to be on the list to be notified when KittyShield is available!
KONG Botanicals Valerian Mint Crinkle Catnip Toys
Your cat can never have too many small toys to lose (or stash) around the house, right? These KONG Botanicals catnip toys are a cute, festive addition to your cat’s collection. They’re also crinkly inside, which many cats tend to enjoy the sound of while fighting it to the death on their back. They’re also refillable, so you can add more catnip later. May we also suggest Apothecaty Brand Premium Catnip?
Apothecaty Premium Organic Catnip and Premium Catnip Blends
Most cat owners are familiar with catnip. But did you know that catnip can help your cat lead a more enriched life? Feline obesity is on the rise and one way to get your cat moving and excited is with catnip. You say your cat doesn’t respond to catnip? No problem. Nearly 80% of cats respond to silver vine and many will respond to valerian. Apothecaty offers organic catnip and catnip blends. Wanna try? Order a sampler pack so your cat can try out all of the catnip blends and see which variety your cat likes best! And this month, you can get 25% off of your catnip order when you use code 25NOW. Offer valid through December 2018. Proudly grown in the USA.
Merino wool cat cave
You’ll have to use your discretion with this item as some cats have no interest in a bed not made of cardboard, but these handcrafted merino wool cat caves make a great gift for those who will use them. Not only do they provide cozy seclusion that many cats love, they look cool in your home, too!
Custom cat ornaments
These custom cat ornaments are an adorable gift for a fellow cat lover. Just send in a picture of your friend’s cat with your order and you’ll get a 3” – 4” hand cut and stitched cotton ornament featuring their cat. If you want to get it by Christmas be sure to place your order before Dec. 9 due to the ornament being custom and handmade.
For the wine lover, this cat whiskers wine glass is an affordable and entertaining gift (they also sell beer and whiskey glasses). On the stranger side… this book explains how to craft with cat hair – the gobs that fall off of your cat like tumbleweeds can become fun art! Hey, we’ve all got plenty of it to go around, right? May as well get creative with its disposal. And finally, an option that will make them laugh: “I Could Pee on This: And Other Poems by Cats.”
Looking for something else? Try these:
Shop All Chewy’s Cat Deals! (Plus free 1-2 day shipping on orders over $49)
It’s Cypurr Monday! One of our favorite times of the year to stock up and save up to 50% on household staples for your cat! Happy cat, happy life, right? Be sure to take advantage of these deals and you and your cat will be purring…
Favorite Holiday Deals for Cats
Apothecaty Premium Organic Catnip Samplers
Buy One, Get One Free
Cats are picky. These catnip samplers are the purrfect gift for your cat. Samplers include 3 and 4 varieties of premium organic catnip blends including:
Catnip Leaf & Flower Blend
Stalkless (Fine Ground) Catnip
Catnip Leaf & Valerian Blend
Catnip Leaf & Silver Vine Blend – Best for cats that don’t react to catnip. Silver vine is usually enjoyed by cats that aren’t sensitive to catnip.
Treat your kitty to the lickable yumminess he craves with the Inaba Churu Grain-Free Chicken with Cheese Puree Lickable Cat Treat. “Churu churu” means “slurp slurp”-which, in cat language translates as purr-fectly delicious. And he’ll love slurping the creamy treat, made with real, farm-raised chicken and cheese for the protein-packed flavor your pal will be purring for.
Nourish your kitty’s nose-to-tail well-being with the balanced nutrition of the Wellness Complete Health Adult Health Salmon & Salmon Meal Recipe Dry Cat Food. With salmon as the first ingredient and wholesome, fiber-rich grains like barley and rice, it packs plenty of protein to support lean muscle and energy to fuel all those furry adventures.
Say goodbye to mediocre clay pellets and hello to the World’s Best Cat Litter. Made with 100% all-natural scented lavender oil, this super-clumping litter is ideal for multiple cat homes and pet parents who prefer a scented litter. So, you can spare your home from that foul ammonia smell, and cleanup becomes a breeze with this fast-clumping formula!
Your kitty will never lose another ball under the couch with the Petstages Tower of Tracks Cat Toy. With three exciting levels, this interactive toy encourages extended playtime as the colorful balls spin and roll around and around. It’s great for multiple-cat households and independent play because it lets cats enjoy an action-packed afternoon even when you’re not at home.
Your cat can be the kitty king of his castle with The Frisco 57-Inch Cream Cat Tree. The ultimate all-in-one hangout spot for felines, it features platform perches at various heights for a shift in purr-spective. It’s made with larger scratching posts than you’ll find in other standard trees, and that means more durability, whether it’s one kitty or the whole crew moving in!
Biodegradable cat litter is a big market with a lot of options. More and more, cat guardians are trying alternatives to the popular clumping clay litter in favor of something they hope might be safer for cats and better for the environment. As the demand grows for litter alternatives, more biodegradable litter companies are popping up to fill the need.
Let’s take a closer look at an old favorite and compare it to a promising newcomer in the cat litter space—pine vs. coconut cat litter.
Coconut vs. Pine: Does either litter clump?
Some pine litters include clumping agents, but there aren’t any clumping coconut litters right now.
Some pine litter clumps, some do not. Most pine litter is made of non-clumping pellets. These litters work in a similar fashion to coconut litter—you’ll scoop out the solids and stir up the moistened sawdust to absorb odors. Once the litter has reached its absorbency limit, dump out the contents of the entire box and refill.
If you’re set on using a clumping litter, there is clumping pine litter available. Feline Pine Clumping Litter contains a plant-based clumping agent. There are downsides to the clumping formula, though—the small clumping granules often track and scatter.
Right now, there aren’t any clumping coconut litters on the market. Part of the appeal of coconut cat litter is the complete simplicity of its formula (100% coconut husk)—and the addition of a clumping agent would take away from that. The power of coconut cat litter lies in the natural composition of the coconut husks. The coconut acts like a sponge and quickly absorbs any liquids. Scoop out the solids, stir up the liquids, and you’re set.
Coconut vs. Pine: Which litter delivers better odor control?
Pine cat litter offers awesome odor control, while coconut falls behind in this area.
Pine cat litter wins this round, no question. Pine litter does a great job of absorbing and eliminating the odor of both solids and liquids. Even non-clumping pine litter retains effective odor control for a week. Pine litter also has a very pleasant natural scent—it’s reminiscent of strolling through a freshly thinned forest.
If you’d prefer a completely odorless litter, coconut is a good choice. Coconut litter has no odor whatsoever, so if your cat is extremely sensitive to new odors, he/she may like coconut litter. Unfortunately, coconut litter only controls odors for a couple of days. While the coconut does absorb the urine, it doesn’t eliminate the pungent ammonia smell. Either change the litter more frequently than recommended or add an additional litter odor-eliminator to the box.
Coconut vs. Pine: Which litter is better for the environment?
Coconut wins this round by a hair—both are super eco-friendly.
Coconut cat litter is made from the waste product of a booming coconut industry. There’s a lot to love about the production of coconut cat litter. Coconut litter is made from coconut husks—the “junk” left over after processing all of your favorite coconut goodies. It’s a renewable resource, and there’s no killing of coconut palms involved. Coconut cat litter is both biodegradable and compostable. Do your research before composting any cat litter, though—it’s important to remove any solid waste and take precautions to ensure your compost is safe.
Pine cat litter is also biodegradable and made from a renewable resource. If you’re worried that purchasing pine litter is contributing to the destruction of forests, remember—most pine cat litter is sustainably manufactured from wood scrap left over after lumber production. Trees are not being cut down to make your cat’s litter, and this way, nothing is going to waste!
Coconut vs. Pine: Which litter is lighter?
Coconut is lighter than pine, but not by much.
Coconut litter is incredibly light. If you’re like me, you hate lugging around those heavy buckets of clay litter. It’s hard to pour, and if you have any physical restrictions like back or shoulder problems, you’ll appreciate the trend in lightweight litter.
Light cat litter can be just as effective as a heavy one. The litter box is filled up based on volume, not weight. An entire month’s worth of coconut cat litter is only 5 pounds. Even clay litter branded as lightweight weighs in at over 13 pounds for a month’s supply.
Pine cat litter is also much lighter than clay. If you struggle to carry and pour clay litter, pine is another excellent option. A thirty day supply of pine cat litter weighs about 7 pounds.
Coconut vs. Pine: Which litter is less dusty?
Coconut litter wins this round, hands-down.
Coconut cat litter is the only genuinely dust-free litter. The cat litter market is saturated with promises of dust-free litters, but it’s really difficult to find one which actually delivered on that promise. It makes one wonder if dust-free litter as is elusive as unicorns. Mythological creatures aside, coconut cat litter is seriously, absolutely, 100% dust-free. No dust is apparent when pouring it into the litter box or when the cats are scratching around in it.
Pine cat litter, on the other hand, can be a pretty dusty business. Pine litter usually contains a bit of sawdust in the bag. Even pellet litter can get a little crushed up before it makes it to your cat’s litter box. This sawdust can take to the air as the litter is poured into the litter box but it usually settles down once it’s in the box and doesn’t present much of a problem. Feline Pine adds mineral oil to their formulas in order to keep dust down.
While it’s not as dangerous as the crystalline silica dust found in clumping clay litter, pine dust isn’t entirely harmless. Pine contains plicatic acid in its resin—and this acid can irritate your cat’s respiratory system. It’s unlikely that any negative effects will be noticed unless you or your cat suffers from asthma.
Coconut vs. Pine: Which litter is lower-tracking?
Pine cat litter is lower-tracking than coconut thanks to its extra weight.
Pine litter comes in different shapes and sizes, so the amount of tracking and scatter will vary. As a whole, it’s heavier than coconut, so it’s less likely to stick to kitty paws and track around the house. Your cat may still kick the pine litter out of their litter box, but the pellets or granules usually don’t scatter very far. Pine litter isn’t known for sticking to cats’ fur, either.
Coconut litter tracks and scatters. The lightweight attribute of coconut litter is convenient, but it also makes it prone to sticking to cat paws and tracking out of the litter box. The bits of coconut husk never make it too far outside the box, though—unlike some fine-grained clumping clays, the litter usually falls off quickly and doesn’t get stuck in cats’ toes. If you try coconut cat litter, definitely invest in a quality litter mat.
Coconut vs. Pine: Which litter do cats prefer?
Coconut is soft on the paws, and most cats love the texture.
The fine texture of coconut is similar to fluffy, absorbent dirt. Most cats prefer a litter texture close to fine sand or dirt—and coconut litter isn’t far off. Coconut litter is ideal for cats who enjoy digging around before using the toilet.
Pine cat litter is usually made up of larger chunks and compressed pellets. Pine pellets can be hard on cat paws and they’re not very fun to dig in. If your cat is picky about litter texture, try mixing in their old litter with the pine for a smoother transition.
Coconut vs. Pine: Which litter offers better value?
Pine cat litter beats coconut cat litter with its low price.
The price of the leading pine cat litter, Feline Pine Original, on Chewy. One 7-pound bag of Feline Pine can be found for as low as $5.81 on Chewy.com (not including shipping). One bag will last around one month, so that adds up to $1.45/week.
Compare that to CatSpot coconut litter on Amazon.com. A 5-pound bag is available for $17.09. Remember—coconut litter is lighter than pine litter. The 5-pound bag of coconut litter is actually larger than the 7-pound bag of pine! One bag should last approximately one month, so you’ll be paying around $4.27/week.
Both coconut and pine litter are strong contenders in the biodegradable cat litter space.
Now it’s up to you to decide which one is right for you.
If you’re looking for a safe-for-cats, natural, and eco-friendly litter, both coconut and pine litter are excellent choices. They each have their own strengths and weaknesses—it’s time to narrow it down to which features are most valuable to you and your cat.
Remember, not all cats have the same preferences. For some cats, the most important aspect of their litter is texture—others are so crazy about odor control that they’ll refuse to use a once-soiled box. Know your cat, and maybe give both a try!
Eileen Crusta is the co-founder of Wildernesscat and is dedicated to helping cats live happy, healthy, and adventurous lives at their humans’ sides. Visit Wildernesscat for home remedies, radically natural cat nutrition, nature-fueled lifestyle inspiration, and product reviews.
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