7 Emotional Support Animals Who Will Be There When You Need Them

These therapeutic pets are some of the best at helping you figure life out, one paw at a time.

Published July 7, 2023
Happy young woman nurturing the friendship with her dog

Emotional support animals provide therapeutic benefits to people dealing with mental or emotional difficulties. If you've ever felt the comfort of a furry shoulder to lean on, you know how powerful ESAs can be. They help reduce stress and anxiety, provide companionship and comfort, and help their people get through what they need to get through. Simply put, these special animals transform lives for the better.

1. Dogs

Of course, dogs lead the pack as the most popular emotional support animals. They're loyal and their ability to provide unconditional love is unmatched. Specific breeds, such as golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, and poodles are popular due to their friendliness and ability to learn quickly. However, any breed can serve as an ESA, as long as they're bonded with their owner.

Need to Know

Emotional support animals, even dogs, are not the same as service animals and don't fall under the same guidelines or legal protections.

2. Cats

woman and cat relaxing in the room

Cats are a close second when it comes to emotional support animals. They make great ESAs with their unique combination of independence and companionship. Cats are generally less demanding than other potential support animals, which can be beneficial for people with busy lifestyles or limited mobility.

However, cats are still deeply empathetic animals, and their touch is therapeutic. Their rhythmic purring and soft fur offer tactile comfort, which can have a calming effect and reduce stress levels. Cats are known for their intuitive nature, and they're often able to sense when their owners are upset or anxious.

3. Birds

Young woman smiling at pet bird indoors

With their vibrant colors and beautiful songs, birds can make wonderful emotional support animals for the right people. Their quirky antics and relatable smarts can help people with feelings of loneliness and depression. Parrots, cockatoos, and cockatiels are popular choices due to their sociable nature and desire for interaction. Birds definitely need a lot of attention, but this can be therapeutic in its own way, too.

Need to Know

Bonding and building trust is an essential part of your relationship with your bird. Over time, you'll build trust and understanding that can help you stay level in your day-to-day activities.

4. Rabbits

Girl holding a rabbit

Rabbits are super sweet, gentle creatures known for their soft fur and comforting presence. They can be a great choice for an emotional support animal, especially for those living in apartments or smaller homes. Their playful nature also offers a pleasant distraction from daily stresses. The Blanc de Hotot is a great rabbit breed to choose. They're social, loving, and enjoy interaction.

5. Hamsters

Despite their small size, hamsters can bring enormous emotional comfort. They are relatively easy to care for and can be a good option for people who may not have the space or time to accommodate larger animals. Watching a hamster burrow or run on a wheel can provide hours of calming entertainment. And, if they're held regularly, they enjoy being petted. Some will even happily lounge on the couch with you after a long day at work.

6. Guinea Pigs

Person petting guinea pig

Guinea pigs are sociable critters who love interaction and playtime. Their curious and friendly nature helps to lift spirits and reduce feelings of loneliness. They're also manageable in size, making them suitable for a variety of living situations. If you live in an apartment, a Guinea pig may be just the ESA for you. They don't have to be taken outside to use the bathroom and they can keep themselves busy when they need to.

Need to Know

Guinea Pigs are highly social, so if you don't plan to spend a significant amount of time with them, we recommend you get two Guinea Pigs so they're able to keep one another company.

7. Miniature Horses

While horses aren't for everyone and require more resources to keep, miniature horses are recognized under the Americans with Disabilities Act as service animals. Miniature horses are exceptional therapy animals, and they can be fantastic ESAs, too

Minis can live for more than 30 years, providing long-term companionship unmatched by other animals, aside from some birds and reptiles. They're intelligent, trainable, and have a calm demeanor that can be incredibly soothing. The U.S. Department of Transportation has even clarified rules saying that miniature horses should be allowed on planes!

Choosing The Right ESA for You

Consider what type of animal will work best for you, how much space you have, and how much time you're able to dedicate to your companion. If you're searching for a loyal pet to be by your side everywhere you go, a golden retriever could be for you. However, if you're searching for an animal that's relatively low maintenance, a Guinea pig or rabbit could be a better option. The most important thing is to find an ESA you can bond with, and both of you will reap the rewards of life together.

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7 Emotional Support Animals Who Will Be There When You Need Them