Should cats be considered service animals?


Service dogs are all the rage in the medical field, but what about service cats? According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as of May 15, 2011, “only dogs are recognized as service animals.” The ADA states that service animals are those that have been specifically trained to perform small tasks for individuals with disabilities, including reminding them to take their medicine, pushing an elevator button or retrieving items. They serve individuals with psychiatric, cognitive or mental disabilities.

The ADA also specifically excludes certain animals from being considered service animals. Wild animals such as domesticated primates, farm animals and amphibians are not included as service animals. Emotional support animals that aid in comfort, therapy or friendship are also not considered to be service animals.

This does not mean cats can’t be trained to help someone in their own home. But it does mean they are not allowed to go everywhere a registered service animal can. But why not? There have been cases where cats have saved their owners from a medical emergency. In one situation, the cat saved his owner from a diabetic seizure after only being adopted hours prior. In her statement to Green Bay Press-Gazette, the owner stated that if someone – or in this case, some animal – hadn’t helped her out of the episode, she would not be alive.

Fidge, another heroic cat, detected breast cancer in his owner before she noticed any signs. When the woman went to the doctor, they discovered the breast cancer which was malignant. The cat owner said that Fidge saved her life and that if she had not been diagnosed sooner, she could have died. Pretty Peppa, a rescue cat, saved her owner from hypoglycemic episodes over twenty times.

None of these cats were trained. What would have happened if the individual were to go somewhere alone and didn’t have their cat with them, because it wasn’t allowed? Some may argue that people can notice if someone is having a medical emergency, but that is not always the case. Cats, just like dogs, can often sense a chemical imbalance in the body before humans notice any symptoms. It’s true that cats are known to be fickle, rather rambunctious creatures, but some breeds are trainable.

One fourteen-year-old discovered this after completing a community project in 2008. He had Asperger’s and had a service cat who saved his life. This gave him the idea to train other cats to help those like himself. He noted that not all cats have the personality to be service animals, but some do. Further research on trainable cats has shown that the Abyssinian, Bengal, Savannah and Siamese are just some of the breeds that are the best to train.

Allowing cats to be registered service animals will help many people whose apartment may not allow dogs and for those who might be allergic. Another reason to have a cat as a service animal is that they are quieter, cleaner and easier to take care of than their canine counterparts. With this evidence in mind, let’s give those friendly felines a chance!


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