Cats As Service Animals

Service CatDogs are the most well-recognized animals that serve as human helpers and disability and guide animals. But other animals can be trained as service animals too.

Miniature horses are becoming accepted as “mobility alternatives” for the visually impaired. Cats are also trained to be service animals.

Pat Gonser, founder of Pets and People: Companions in Therapy & Service, started doing therapy work with one of her cats in the 1990s. She says that many people do not like dogs, but they need a service animal. These people can use a service cat instead. These service felines are able to alert when there is imminent danger. To alert you, the cat may paw at you or sit on your chest.

Since there is no organization that trains service cats, Pets and People provides help for people that want to train their own cats. Gonser says that starting with a kitten is best. Using clicker training, a cat can be taught to alert the arrival of a seizure. Cats, just like dogs, have an innate sense of when seizures are coming. Kittens can also be taught to use a telephone when the owner is unable to call for help.

From newsday.com:

Some skeptics think cats are not inclined to such selflessness. “Certainly, some cats might circle around and really make it obvious to whoever else is there that there was a problem because they can sense the fluctuations in the energy,” says feline behavior consultant Carole Wilbourn of Manhattan. “But I don’t know that they could be trained to do it on command, because you know what cats are like.”

Gayle Knowlton, 49, of Tucson, Ariz., trained her first service cat more than a decade ago. Her most current one is Pushette Pudie - named for her less-than-shy demeanor - who Knowlton rescued at four days old from a drainage ditch during a downpour.

“I suffer from severe anxiety and panic attacks, and I have seizures because of it,” explains Knowlton, who didn’t want a service dog because, at the time, she was a vendor at cat shows, and the species shock would have been too much for her customers. When Pushette detects an impending seizure, “she becomes extremely guarded and won’t let anyone near us, and she strokes my face and gets me to focus directly on her.” This can often avert a seizure, Knowlton adds, because the interaction lowers her blood pressure.

37 Responses to “Cats As Service Animals”

  1. mittens says:

    apparently to my cats i AM the service animal and i don’t much like the tacky green vest they make me wear.

    oppressors.

  2. Bridgett says:

    Cats are great therapy no matter what. Purr therapy!

  3. beth says:

    where can i find out more ??? I am house bound, and i have seizures, i have tried to get a dog, but the list is soo long.
    i have 6 cats, and sometimes everyone of them are sitting on me, its when i am going to get sick . please tell us more about this

  4. Diane says:

    Thank you. My cat KitKat has been a great help to me. How can I get her license in WI as a service animal just to me right now. Any help from you would be appricated. Right now KitKat has his paws on my fingers so I can type. ALso, can a goat or a Kangoo be a service animal?

  5. Amber says:

    how do i certifiy my cat?

  6. MatthewG says:

    I have an unregistered service animal. I Have a sleeping disorder that sometimes causes me to suddenly stop breathing in my sleep. After disgnosis I realized my cat was waking me up in the middle of the night when I stopped breathin. Needless to say, she has much more nice stuff in the bedroom to convince her to stick around in there durring her off time.

  7. MatthewG says:

    I have an unregistered service animal. I Have a sleeping disorder that sometimes causes me to suddenly stop breathing in my sleep. After disgnosis I realized my cat was waking me up in the middle of the night when I stopped breathin. Needless to say, she has much more nice stuff in the bedroom to convince her to stick around in there durring her off time.

    Matthew

  8. Kendra says:

    I realize the vests look a little tacky on the cats but does anyone know where to get a vest for my cat?

  9. Laura Kwiatkowski says:

    I already have a cat he is a Tabby 3 years old. I would like to know if there is any way I can train him to be a service animal? I live in an apartment suitable for wheelchairs owned under HUD. I have epilepsy and cerebral palsy. Scooter already knows how to open the door as he is able to jump and pull on the level of the door, he is just not trained to do the tasks that other service animals can do. Please let me know if there’s anything you can do? I reside in Las Vegas Nevada

  10. Kaylee says:

    Hmm, that vest does look kind of bad. They make ones that fit a little nicer.
    I work with a service dog, and I’d love to see more service cats (true ones, not fakers). I’m currently helping my friend get her hearing alert cat into our college, and it’s a struggle. Our disability rep. thinks anyone with a service animal is just pretending to have a problem. Grr.
    As far as how to train (for Laura K), it sounds like you are on the right track. The tasks needed for a service animal vary from person to person. Your cat can’t do the same tasks as my friend’s cat, however that doesn’t mean that either cat is more of a service animal. I’m a service animal trainer, and I’m pretty well versed in all the rules and laws regarding them. If you want, you could email me to talk about how to train your cat. I’m quite far from Las Vegas, but I could offer tips on how to train certain tasks and how to go about starting to bring your cat in public.
    If you want to talk, my email is twittermouse33@gmail.com

  11. Kelly Lee Parsons says:

    I have a half Turkish Van, half Norwegian Forest Cat named Kimo who is a certified service animal. Glad to see someone else with a feline service animal writing about it. If you want to take a poll, see pics of the cat, & read about Kimo on my blog site, see the “Disability & Service Animals” section at the following blog address:
    http://community.writersmarket.com/Kelly1971
    I shall answer Kendra’s question of where to get a vest for a cat & Beth’s question of where to find out more about cats as service animals, & Diane’s question of where to get a cat certified, by asking you to see the Service Animal Registry of America’s web site. That should help you with all of the aforementioned questions’ answers. Keep finding & making reasons to smile.

  12. Terrymc says:

    I have just moved to Las Vegas and live in a small studio apt.I use to live in California,
    and i have heard that some laws regarding training service animals are different here in Vegas then in California.I’m disabled and want to become a basic obedence as well as service animal trainer legally,the only problem is I don’t know where to go to find out the laws and regulations for becomeing a animal trainer here in vegas.does any 1 know where I can go to find out? I use to run a support and information group in california for people who wanted to be correctly educated about service animals and the laws regarding them.I would educate the public and businessesabout service animals and the differentr types of animals used.I had trained 2 of my own sd’s actually 1 was a sd and the other was a sdit.at that time I lived in a house with lots of room so now i’m looking for a animal that can do well in a small apartment to become my new sdit.I want to also start a group possibly ,like the 1 I had done in California out here now in Las Vegas but I have to take 1 step at a time.I would appreciate any help in finding the info I need to answer my ideas that i want to do here in Vegas.I also hope to dontae my time once I’m a legal certified trainer to others who want a service animal that are wanting to train there own animal or a rescued animal as a service animal.I ‘ve heard that since I am in a electric wheel chair that I would not be allowed here in Vegas to become a animal trainer personally I think that would be discrimnative but the person that told me this is just a friend not some1 knowledgable regarding the Vegas laws and requirement in becomeing a animal behavoralist or animal trainer.Thank you for your time and any help that may be given,sincerely Terry

  13. DeOnna Ganske says:

    I began having active “gran mal” seizures back in early June 2008. My daughter began having siezures at 1 month old, she is now 7. We always thought it strange that our big black house cat slept on her head some nights. But when I started having active drop down seizures he bagan staying on my head. If i had a spell in the middle of the night he would wake my husband up by pushing on his face with either the pad of his feet (no claws) or his cold nose. We recently learned that Mercury Poisoning was a huge part in the siezures but i stil have some and if the cat is on me and refuses to move…I had best stay in bed and wait it out…it hasnt failed yet .If i make him move and i get up i usually hit the floor within a few seconds.I would like any info anyone has. Thanks…my email is deonnganske@yahoo.com

  14. Kelly Lee Parsons says:

    Beth,
    Look up the Service Animal Registry of America. They do not provide service animals, but they can show you how to get one of your own animals certified, if they show certain talents that help you reguarding your disabilities. It depends on what disabilities you have & what the animal can do to help. E-mail me at KLPCreations@aol.com for more information. I have a feline who is now in retirement, but served for many years as a service animal, registered through the Service Animal Registry of America. If you are not serious, please do not waste my time. If you truely are in need of information, I can help. I look forward to hearing from you.
    Kelly

  15. Kelly Lee Parsons says:

    Diane,
    Glad that KitKat is helpful to you. I’d have to understand more about what the cat does to help you with daily living in reguard to the disability you have, in order to answer your questions about getting the cat certified in WI. E-mail me at KLPCreations@aol.com at your convenience. Federal service animal laws, like those in the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) superseed state laws, so again, I’d need to know specifically more about your questions to be able to answer them. Looking forward to hearing from you. What would a goat or a kangaroo be able to do as a service animal to help it’s disabled handler? I’m not sure if your question is serious or joking. Lots of different kinds of animals are service animals. To answer you in part, well, no, I’ve never seen those animals as service animals. But that doesn’t mean they don’t or will never exist … who the heck knows? Who are you & I to judge? I’d have never beleived that a cat could be a successful service animal until Kimo came into my life!
    Kelly

  16. Kelly Lee Parsons says:

    Amber, MatthewG, & Kendra,
    The Service Animal Registry of America can provide lots of great information on how to get your animal certified as a service animal, even if it is not a dog. If you have been using an animal as a service animal for some time, great! You’ve got a jump start on many of the rest of those out there looking for a working animal to certify. Definitely seek out the aforementioned web site & get the cat certified! No, it is not law to have an animal certified as a service animal. However, I can tell you from experience, you’ll NEED some sort of ID & certification, especially if you have a service animal that is NOT a dog. You’d be surprised at how many business owners, cops, hotel owners, airlines, bus drivers, & such are ignorent about service animals & hassle will ensue if you do not have something to show as proof … although it is not legally necessary to have service animals certified … it just helps out if there are legal issues, or if someone denies you access into a place based on the presence of your service animal. Be thoughtful, careful, & have clean, pest free service animals who always listen & behave appropriately in public, according to ADA & state laws. Good luck. The Service Animal Registry of America is also a great place to get disability & service animal gear.
    Kelly

  17. Mary says:

    How do I get my cat certified ? I have noticed my kitten sits near me when I am in pain or when my breathing acts up.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Can these cats travel with their owners on public transportation such as trains or planes and if so do they need to be in crates due to the fact that they are service animals I would think not. I am emotionally disabled myself so of course this is of great interest to me. Thank you.

  19. fred says:

    i just want my service cat to be registered/acknowledged as such, so i can travel to hawaii with him.
    how do i do that? is there a way? i trained him myself with my partner’s help.
    thanks!

  20. Shonti says:

    I have a friend who has a service cat. I have never heard of such a thing, but she says if you start with a kitten they can be taught to respond and give assistance. I am now a believer. Though with all the cats that I personally have owned it goes the other way — as far as they have been concerned I am there to service them.

  21. Sasha says:

    I am a student at JY Joyner Elementary School. I was reading your website about service cats. Before I read it I thought there were service cats but a lot of people don’t think so.

    I would be so grateful if you would answer a few questions of mine.

    Why do you think there are no organizations for service cats even now they can sense when there owner will have a heart attack or some thing?

    Is it rely true that you can train a kitten to use the telephone when there owner is in danger?

    How do you use a cat as a therapy treatment?

    Why do cats just sit or paw at there owners chest when therein danger or do they do other things?

    Is it hard to train a service cat to provide a service?

    Also, at an average how long dose it take to train a service cat?

    Any other information would be appreciated.

  22. Belinda says:

    I have had Tourette Syndrome all my life, accompanied with OCD. I have always been a cat person and they help me relax, one of the most important things about dealing with Tourette’s. Now I have develoed other health issues that will probably leave me homebound a good deal of the time. I have friends with cats, but they are very much stand offish. I finally went to the local pet store to see if one would really help me significantly. I walked around with one for about a half an hour and the relief I got was amazing. Could you give me more information about going about getting one certified so I could take it with me everywhere?

  23. Shonti says:

    I have a friend who has a service cat. However this cat has been harassed by neighbors and is now afaid of humans. Is there anything that can be done to ease this cats response to humans? Thank you, Shonti

  24. Tiki says:

    I suffer from panic attacks and anxiety.. recently I adopted a tabby kitten named Tiki. She is so attentive and dependent on me, it really helps me to cope with my anxiety. I haven’t had a panic attack since I’ve had her and I have even been able to discontinue my anxiety medication and am coping with out it. I get very nervous traveling and I would like to be able to bring her with me so that I will stay calm, do you think she would be able to be registered as a service animal?

  25. Deanne says:

    Thank you so much for who ever made this website! I am trying to find out what I have and it has come up that I might need a service animal. My parents didn’t think there was a cat service animal but thanks to you we do know. I am much more of a cat person. Thank you.

  26. elleanor says:

    1 where do you get a jacket like this green one?

    And do service dogs where a differant color one?

    my cat detects my seizures all the time and stays with me and she is purrfect company

    2 where do I get papers to say she is a service animal?

  27. elleanor says:

    can yu tell me where can I get a green coat like this one for my cat she detects my seizures
    I have epilepsy and blind in one eye and I have hearing loss
    Im thinking of getting a dog also to compliment my cat who detects my seizures

  28. Steve says:

    Please help me find a vest for my service/therapy cat.

  29. thewhiskersfoundation says:

    You do not need to pay money to certify a cat as a service animal. There are a lot of scams out there. The ADA forbids a business for asking for certifications. Once you’ve identified an animal as a service animal, they may only inquire what service a cat is trained for. Cats can be trained to detect seizures and alert you to them. They can also hear noises that a hearing-impaired person may not and alert you to them. They may be trained to pick up small objects for you. They may also be trained to assist with psychiatric disabilites such as depression or panic, although be aware that classifying an animal as a “therapy animal” does not mean that its status is protected by the ADA. It must be trained spefically to assist with disabilities such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, autism, anxiety, schizophrenia, etc. A landlord or a motel may not charge a deposit for a service animal, although you are liable if they cause damage. If they give you trouble, they can be sued in federal court. If you want to avoid controversy, and the scams which want to charge you money to “certify” an animal, just get a note from your doctor that the animal is important to assist you in managing your disability. It is illegal for a business to ask what your disability is.

  30. Tammy says:

    Is there any other way to have a service/companion/therapy cat licensed as a service cat besides going to a doctor? My daughter’s father left several years ago and I had recently rescued a older cat well the cat sure made a difference in my daughters life. I was wanting to get her as a service cat but her doc. didn’t feel it was necessary and refused to help out in any way. Do you have any suggestions? Lost in Spokane

  31. chuck says:

    My cat regards me as a service animal.

  32. amanda-beth says:

    we all want to know were to get them certified and were to get the vest. I know my cat’s a seizure alert cat he taught himself i did nothing he started alerting me when he was 5 months old. such a natural. I would like to get him certifyied and if thats not posible at least get him vest becuase i plan on attending 2010 twinless twin confrence and really would feel better with him their to alert just in case.

  33. Cathrine says:

    I would really like to find out more about this. I have panic attacks that cause sezuries and I would really like to get a service cat to help me out with alerts and treatment. The site mentioned help with traning, how does that work?

  34. Heather says:

    I have seizures and two of my cats have been hanging around me a lot lately…I was wondering why and looked this up…I guess it makes sense…I have seizures every day and now I know why they are attached to my hip!

  35. Angela Wasserman says:

    I want to know what I need to know what I can do to make my 8-wk old kitty into a service cat? she is very sweet keeps me from being depressed.I suffer from depression and my cat knows I need her.

    thanks… Her name is Molly a cute little Domestic long haired Tabby…

  36. Judith S says:

    I am the proud owner of a service cat, She helps me when i fly for business, People are amazed that she will just sit quietly on my lap and not move for three hours and she is not asleep. I adore her and after 41 flights, she’s getting a well deserved rest at home off duty.

  37. Liz says:

    Hi there,
    I just want to share this with anyone who is a sceptic of service cats!
    My cat has not been trained, vested or any special training. But I have been care taking for a gentleman who had a brain tumor. He loved cats. So I decided to take my, approximately 4 yr. oldcat, to his home. I was a live in for 5/24’s. The cat was not necessarily overly loving to him, but definitely aware of the situation surrounding him. This last Wednesday, the cat kept going to my client and pushing on his hand. Usually he would just lay by Frank. But he started pushing on his hand as it dangled from his side. I noticed this and kept watching closely. Frank was losing the use of his arm. We started working harder to keep it moving, it didn’t, but worsened. Then that evening I received a Help call from Frank. What was strange is that before the calls started, my cat kept coming up and down the stairs. Kept coming up and pawing me, 2 AM. I ran downstairs to Frank’s side. The cat jumped on the bed and was rubbing up against him as to be trying to sit him up. I did so. At this time, Frank sat up and began to vomit massive blood. The cat went in the hallway and paced up and down. We contacted hospice and followed instructions. He took meds and became relaxed and discontinued vomiting. Went to sleep, in propt up position. Woke in the AM, ate breakfast and seemed better. He would doze in and out. When the cat sensed him starting to doze, he would whine at me, go back and push Franks hand. It was at the end of my shift,
    the cat had just walked into the crate, normally I had to push him in. He layed down. When driving towards home he laid there, normally up pacing and whining. This time he just gave little meow’s. Frank died five minutes after I left. I look back at everything the cat did and I know he knew. Now looking into making him a service cat.


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