If your cat has helped you with day-to-day tasks that are otherwise difficult due to a disability, then you might wonder, can Maine Coons be service animals?
These intelligent cats have proven to be worthy companions for people with disabilities, but does the government recognize this?
Maine Coons cannot become service animals in the United States or the United Kingdom. Only dogs are recognized as service animals or Assistance Dogs, even though many cats can perform tasks just as reliably for their disabled owners. While Maine Coons can be registered as emotional support animals, their rights are becoming more restricted.
Sadly, finding accommodations is becoming more and more difficult for disabled people.
Even though cats can and do provide many of the same services as service dogs, they are not legally recognized in the United States or the United Kingdom.
Still, they are allowed as emotional support animals or therapy cats.
Read on to find out exactly what rights you do (and do not) have when it comes to therapy cats!
Can Maine Coons Be Service Animals?
The Maine Coon is a gentle, friendly cat breed known for getting along well with children, cats, and even dogs.
They are patient and easygoing, but they are also highly intelligent.
Maine Coons can be trained to play fetch, walk on a leash and harness, and even turn on lights or faucets!
Despite the Maine Coon’s capability with a variety of tasks, they are still not recognized as service animals.
In the United States, only dogs are allowed to become service animals. In the United Kingdom, dogs are the only animals trained by ADUK.
Many cats, including Maine Coons, however, can perform the same tasks as service dogs for their disabled owners.
They can be trained to call for emergency help if their owner passes out or falls, retrieve small items like medications, and much more!
While there are some tasks dogs can do that cats cannot, this should not invalidate their ability to become service animals.
After all, while some disabled people require dogs, this is not the case for everyone.
Even though you cannot get your cat registered as an assistance dog or service animal, you can still train your cat to help you around the house.
Sadly, though, you will not have the same rights as those with registered service animals, so you will not be able to bring your cat to the:
- Grocery Store
- Doctor’s Office
- Other Public Spaces
This is a huge problem for disabled people who rely on their cats to help with flashbacks, anxiety attacks, or other serious issues (source 1,2).
What Is A Therapy Cat?
Even though your Maine Coon cannot be registered as a service animal, you may be able to get them registered as a therapy cat or emotional support animal.
So, what is the purpose of a therapy cat?
Therapy cats are specially trained to provide comfort and emotional support to those in need.
Here are some of the tasks that therapy cats can do (source 1):
1. Ease Loneliness
Therapy cats are popular in hospitals and nursing homes, particularly for people who are lonely.
Simply holding a purring cat can help a person feel cared about.
Folks with dementia and Alzheimer’s often respond well to therapy cats.
2. Provide Routine
Cats can encourage people to engage in a routine.
A person suffering from a recent loss or trauma may have a hard time completing day-to-day tasks. Having a cat can be grounding, and can remind a person to care for themselves.
3. Calm Anxiety
Just like dogs, cats can sense emotions in humans and other animals.
Well-trained therapy cats will seek out people who are feeling anxious.
A therapy cat will know to cuddle you during an anxiety attack, helping you ground yourself to the present moment.
4. Combat Depression
While a therapy cat cannot cure mental illness, it can alleviate some difficult symptoms.
People with depression may become listless, lethargic, and emotionally numb. Therapy cats can provide physical contact and a gentle reminder that there is still some good in the world.
5. Low Maintenance
While dogs are high-energy creatures that require several walks a day, most cats are happy indoors and do not require much physical exertion to stay happy.
This makes them ideal companions for elderly people or people with disabilities who do not have the ability or energy to care for a dog.
Why Maine Coons Make Great Therapy Cats
While any cat can have the right temperament to be trained as a therapy cat, Maine Coons are one of the best cat breeds to train as a therapy cat.
Here are the reasons why Maine Coons excel as therapy cats:
Maine Coons are incredibly gentle creatures. They are rarely violent or rough with people or even other animals.
This makes them suitable to work as therapy cats in environments with children and other animals.
Maine Coons are open, friendly cats that warm up quickly to strangers.
A Maine Coon therapy cat is perfect for visiting a hospital or nursing home, as they are often eager to greet new people instead of hiding.
Maine Coons are calm, patient creatures.
While they love attention and affection, they are not demanding or clingy. They also do not mind being held or picked up.
This means they are great for patients who just need someone to hold close for a little while.
Easy To Train
Maine Coons are highly intelligent, but also much less stubborn than most cat breeds.
This makes them one of the easiest cat breeds to train, so they are great at performing tasks and staying focused on their job.
How To Get A Therapy Cat
If you think you or someone you know could benefit from a therapy cat, then this is what you need to do to get one (source 1):
A. Find A Suitable Cat
First, you will need a cat, preferably a young one, who has a gentle, patient temperament.
Cats that work well as therapy cats are usually friendly, open to strangers, and enjoy cuddling.
B. Find A Training Orgaization
There are many organizations that train cats to become therapy cats.
Pet Partners and Love on a Leash are two popular organizations that are known for training therapy cats.
Finally, once you find a suitable organization, you will need to register yourself and your cat for training.
Every organization will have different requirements.
Once you have registered and passed a screening test, then you can begin the training process!
Therapy Cat Training
If you want your cat to become a therapy cat, then you might wonder, can you train a Maine Coon cat?
While this breed is highly intelligent and very trainable, the training process is a bit different for therapy cats.
Whatever organization you choose to go through will provide expert training, so your Maine Coon can become an official therapy cat.
Still, if you want the benefits of a therapy cat without going through the training process, you can train your Maine Coon on your own.
Just keep in mind that your Maine Coon will not be able to volunteer at other locations as a therapy cat unless they are officially licensed as one.
How Much Is A Therapy Cat?
The cost of a therapy cat is all dependent on the cost of training and registration fees.
This is usually $100 or more, but you may need to renew your license every couple of years, as well.
It is not really possible to purchase a cat that has already been trained as a therapy cat; instead, you will need to get a cat and then register it as a therapy cat.
If you are looking to spend as little money as possible, it is best to get a cat from a local shelter.
If you would like a Maine Coon therapy cat, you will need to expect to pay at least $1,500 to $2,000 for the cat alone (source 1).
Can Cats Be Emotional Support Animals?
If you are wondering are cats good for therapy, the answer is yes!
Thankfully, it is recognized enough that cats can become emotional support animals, even if they are not legally recognized as service animals.
Emotional support animals do not have the same rights as service animals.
They are not allowed in buildings that only allow service animals. They are also not allowed on most public transit systems.
However, they are allowed to live in buildings with no pet policies, and owners of emotional support animals do not have to pay pet fees or rent.
Still, the rights of emotional support animals and their owners are being slowly stripped away.
There is a troubling rise in people who believe it is their duty to find people who are “faking” disabilities.
This can make owning an emotional support animal very difficult, as people and even business owners will contest and confront disabled people, especially if they have an invisible disability such as PTSD or fibromyalgia.
Since so many people are focused on rooting out “fakers,” it actually makes existing as a disabled person much harder.
Restrictions on the rights of emotional support animals are done with the pretense of stopping fakers from abusing the law, but it only makes life harder for disabled people.
At one point, all United States airlines were required to allow emotional support animals on planes, free of a pet fee.
Now, the law allows airlines to decide whether or not emotional support animals are allowed on planes, and the answer is almost always no.
Today, only Delta Airlines allows emotional support animals to ride in the cabin, and they still charge a high fee for it.
This huge change occurred because one person brought a peacock aboard a plane.
To get your cat registered as an emotional support animal, you will need a letter from a psychiatrist, therapist, or doctor that explains at least one disability, and the ways that you benefit from having an emotional support animal.
Autistic Girl With Cat Who Paints
In 2014, Iris Grace Halmshaw met a wonderful Maine Coon cat named Thula.
Iris has autism, a neurological condition that changes the way a person views and interacts with the world.
For a person with autism, the world is often much brighter, louder, and more overwhelming.
People with autism tend to communicate differently, and some prefer to communicate without speaking.
Iris loves to communicate with her paintings. However, she was often overwhelmed by other people, sights, and sounds, which made it difficult for her to interact with the world as freely as she wanted to.
Once she developed a close bond with Thula, however, she started to gain more confidence.
Having an animal companion is often life changing for autistic people.
Cats do not demand that you talk to them or make eye contact or physical contact. Maine Coons especially are known to be cuddly, but not demanding.
Once Iris’s friendship with her cat Thula bloomed, her mother noticed that Iris became more comfortable. Thula helped her sleep better, and even helped Iris overcome a fear of water!
If you want to see Iris and Thula in action, check out Youtube Channel ‘Iris Grace’ – here’s a link to their Maine Coon therapy cat autism video.
If you want to learn more about Iris and Thula, the latest news can be found on their website.
Stewie The Maine Coon Cat
Stewie was a gorgeous Maine Coon cat who became famous for his incredible size.
He held the record for the longest cat, measuring an incredible 48.5 inches long!
While he sadly passed away at the age of 8, he lived a long, rich life, and touched many hearts.
Stewie was a certified therapy cat. His owners took him to a senior center in Reno, Nevada, where he became a favorite among the residents.
His owners also advocated for animal welfare at the Nevada Humane Society.
Even though Stewie is known throughout the world for his incredible size, he will always be remembered in his community for his gentle, loving nature and soothing presence (source 1).
Can Cats Be Service Animals In The US?
Cats cannot be service animals in the United States, despite being able to provide many of the same services as service dogs.
Only dogs are allowed to become service animals.
Many people are unable to own dogs due to phobias or allergies.
The Americans with Disabilities Act is a law that provides several protections for disabled people.
Disabled people’s rights are very restricted though, and despite the ADA, some businesses do not comply with these laws.
Best Cat Breeds For Emotional Support
While any cat may have what it takes to become an emotional support animal, some breeds are more likely to have that gentle and loving temperament than others.
Here are five cat breeds that are known for their gentle, affectionate, and emotionally sensitive personalities (source 1):
1. Maine Coon
The Maine Coon is a friendly, loving, and gentle cat breed that gets on especially well with children and other animals.
They are very attuned to their owner’s emotions and like to follow their people around from room to room.
Ragdoll cats are famous for going limp in their owners’ arms, which is how they got their name.
This is not a stress response, though; Ragdolls have incredibly gentle, patient temperaments.
They love to be held and snuggled and are not as active or demanding as many other cat breeds.
The Burmese are a great breed for emotional support if you need a companion that is always by your side.
These cats can be a bit clingy, but they are perfect for anyone who needs a devoted pet.
The Persian is a relaxed, easygoing breed that does not require much playtime or exercise.
They prefer to spend time cuddling with their owners on the couch, so they are a great fit for elderly people.
5. Russian Blue
The Russian Blue is a playful, adorable cat breed.
While they tend to be reserved around strangers, they are very loving and devoted to their owners.
They are also highly sensitive to human emotions and often comfort their owners when they sense they are sad or stressed.
If you are wondering can Maine Coons be service animals, the answer is unfortunately no.
The United States and the United Kingdom do not recognize cats as valid service animals, even if they can perform the same tasks that service dogs do.
However, you can still get your Maine Coon registered as a therapy cat or emotional support animal.
Can A Raccoon Be A Service Animal?
Only dogs can be legally recognized as service animals, so a raccoon cannot be a service animal.