There's nothing like a furry friend to get you through some of life's most difficult moments.
In May, we recognize National Pet Month and National Mental Health Awareness Month.
Numerous studies have shown the positive effects pets have on humans -- reducing stress, anxiety and depression, as well as improving overall mental health.
For many individuals, having an Emotional Support Animal (ESA), most commonly cats or dogs, can be a very helpful experience.
So what exactly is an ESA and what are the steps in having one? Take a look:
What is an Emotional Support Animal?
An ESA is an animal that helps individuals deal with mental and emotional disabilities.
While ESAs are not trained to perform specific tasks like service animals, they mainly offer support and comfort with their existence.
How do you make your pet an emotional support animal?
The first step of the process is finding the right pet -- which sometimes includes checking out local shelters.
It can oftentimes come with a hefty price tag as the owner has to pay for food, boarding, care, adoption fees and more.
Next, you'll need an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional. The therapist must state your mental health condition and how the pet will help your symptoms.
Individuals must have an emotional support animal letter for housing to qualify their pet as a state-recognized ESA.
Who qualifies to have an Emotional Support Animal?
To qualify for an ESA, an individual must have a psychological condition or a professionally diagnosed mental illness. The licensed therapist must see that your animal provides you with support and comfort.
ESAs are seen to benefit people with anxiety, stress disorder, panic attacks, bipolar disorder, depression and PTSD.
How to make my cat a service animal?
Unfortunately, cats cannot be service animals because they cannot be trained to do a task for a disabled individual.
While cats can be trained to do certain tasks, it's not to the depth that a service animal is required to be.
Cats, however, can be ESAs under Federal Law.