The best emotional support animal breeds can provide us with comfort, safety and companionship during those times in our lives when we may be struggling with emotional or mental health challenges, such as anxiety, stress or depression.
Offering a wide range of therapeutic benefits, animals can help improve our health, mood and quality of life through their soothing presence. Wonderful for helping us to emotionally regulate and for boosting our mood, whether you choose one of the best dogs for emotional support or go with a more unique choice (such as a pig or goat), know that having an animal around can enrich your life in so many ways.
Feeding, grooming, exercising and just generally caring for an animal can provide you with a sense of purpose, and in return, animals are wonderful, non-judgemental listeners who are always ready to offer love and affection with no strings attached. To help you find the right emotional support animal for you, we've rounded up all of the best candidates — and a few may just surprise you!
32 of the best emotional support animal breeds
When it comes to the best emotional support cat breeds, the Persian is often top of the list, and if you've ever met one, you'll understand why. Incredibly sweet-natured and calm, their gentle demeanor has a soothing effect that can help ease stress and anxiety. They also have a super soft coat and are one of the most affectionate cat breeds, meaning they're always up for a good cuddle and love to be pet.
2. Golden Retriever
Highly compassionate and very gentle, Golden Retrievers make wonderful emotional support dogs, which is why they're so often trained to be service pups. They have a knack for intuiting what someone is feeling and never fail to offer a comforting and compassionate presence. And if you have a Golden Retriever and are looking for practical tips for training your dog on your own, you'll be delighted to learn that this breed is highly trainable thanks to their patient and eager-to-please nature — two more reasons why they make great emotional support dogs!
While they take more time to train than dogs, ponies make wonderful service animals thanks to their sensitive and intuitive natures. Ponies have very calm temperaments, good manners and are highly focused, which means they're not easily distracted when on the job. Since they have a genuine love of people, ponies are well-suited to being hugged and petted and are used in a variety of ways, from providing comfort to those with a terminal illness to supporting people with learning disabilities.
Docile little kitties who adore human company, the Ragdoll is one of the gentlest and kindest cat breeds, which makes them well suited to providing emotional support. They are never happier than when a lap becomes vacant and they can jump up for a snooze and a good cuddle, so they're particularly good for people who struggle with feelings of loneliness and isolation. If you're thinking of adopting a Ragdoll, be sure to read a vet's guide to brushing long-haired cats as these little sweethearts require some serious grooming!
5. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Take one look into a Cavie's eyes and we dare you not to fall completely head over heels in love with them. One of the gentlest and most affectionate of all the dog breeds, Cavie's are total sweethearts who form strong bonds with people and crave constant companionship. Highly attuned to their owner's emotions, this breed is known for being very empathetic and they're often called the 'comforter spaniel' because they're never one to turn down a cuddle.
While dogs, cats and horses have typically ruled the roost when it comes to emotional support animals, bunnies have started hopping into the mix of late to provide their own special kind of emotional support to those in need. Rabbits are incredibly gentle, quiet and clean, not to mention very receptive to training — all attributes that make for a great therapy animal. Rabbits respond well to gentle pets, which can have a regulating effect on our emotional state, and have a soothing presence, which in itself is calming to be around. It may be useful to go over a guide to rabbit care if you're thinking of welcoming one of these sweethearts into your home.
7. Exotic Shorthair
Renowned for its friendly and affectionate nature, the Exotic Shorthair is easy going and adores human attention. Extremely gentle in their interactions with people and with a natural love of being cuddled, they have super soft coats that are lovely to pet and they'll happily lap up as much stroking as they can get. Quiet and warmhearted, they're dependent cats who hate being left alone, making them a wonderful companion for someone who wants a feline friend by their side 24/7.
8. Labrador Retriever
Well known for their friendly, happy-go-lucky natures, the Labrador Retriever has long been a popular choice when it comes to picking out an emotional support animal. They are very easy to train, get on beautifully with people of all ages, and are incredibly calm and patient. Labs are a fantastic choice for anyone looking for a kind and companionable housemate, although it's worth pointing out that they are enthusiastic athletes so they'll need a daily walk and some time spent playing with the best dog toys.
9. Guinea Pig
Guinea Pigs have attentive and loving natures which means they're very effective at providing emotional support. Sweet and docile, they may be small but they have a huge capacity for love and affection and watching them run back and forth in their cage can be very relaxing in and of itself. When properly socialized from a young age they can be very social and friendly, and happy to be held, brushed and played with. Easy to house and care for, Guinea Pigs will purr when you pet them (which has a soothing effect on the nervous system) and when kept healthy, they'll live for five to seven years.
10. Scottish Fold
Gentle and affectionate cats who thrive on human interaction, the Scottish Fold has a sweet and easygoing temperament and becomes very attached to its chosen human. Loyal, intelligent and calm, this breed adores attention but they're not demanding of it, and they can be energetic, so learning how to play with a cat is a great way to both keep them fit and healthy and strengthen the bond the two of you share.
Corgi's are active dogs who are best suited to owners who'd like an emotional support pup to accompany them on walks and other day to day activities in the outside world. Happy, playful and easygoing, watching your Corgi zip about on their short legs is bound to bring a smile to your face and because they're a herding breed, they have a strong instinct to protect their owner. A clever and affectionate dog with just the right amount of boldness, the Corgi's good nature and endless high spirits make them a joy to have around.
There's a reason horses are still used in the police force and that's because they're highly trainable — a trait that has made them extremely popular as emotional support animals. But the benefits to using horses doesn't stop there, with these larger than life creatures offering a set of unique traits that are highly therapeutic. Horses have a peaceful presence and are keen observers, sensitive to people's movements and emotions. Grooming and feeding them can have a soothing effect on the nervous system and when trained to provide emotional support, they are calm, consistent and non-reactive.
If you don't mind one very chatty little cat being a part of your family, then the Siamese is a wonderful choice when it comes to picking a loving and devoted companion. They bond incredibly strongly and deeply with just one person, which is why they're so often recommended as emotional support cats. Siamese are wonderful for providing plenty of conversation and affection, and they tend to have a very long lifespan — living for up to 20 years in many cases.
14. Great Pyrenees
If you find repetitive movements like brushing hair to be calming, then the Great Pyrenees is a dog breed well worth considering. They require a significant amount of grooming to keep their thick and luxurious coats looking their best, and they're also very mellow dogs with a gentle presence that's relaxing to have around. Plus, they're not particularly active, so if you prefer a leisurely daily stroll as opposed to endless rounds of fetch, the Great Pyrenees is a fantastic choice.
Donkey's are known for being very stoic animals and they tend to offer people a great deal of stability and steadiness, which can be very helpful during times when your inner world may be experiencing a lot of turbulence. They tend to install a sense of comfort in those that come into contact with them and they enjoy petting and cuddling.
16. Maine Coon
The gentle giant of the cat world, the massive Maine Coon is very receptive to training and known for being able to read its owners moods. They are friendly and affectionate cats who like to be where their people are, and grooming them (something you'll need to do a lot with all that fur!) can be a very relaxing and stress-relieving experience. Loving, social and amiable, the Maine Coon has a really delightful temperament that makes them wonderful additions to any home.
One of the sweetest and most gentle of all the dog breeds, once you've bonded with the adorable Maltese you're guaranteed to have made a friend for life. Highly portable due to their small size, these adaptable little pups love to be cuddled and held, which is why they make such great emotional support animals. They're very charming, lovey-dovey, low-shedding and respond well to training, and because they're not rambunctious, they're ideal if you enjoy a slower pace of life.
While a goat may not be the first animal that springs to mind when you think about emotional support, they have a number of surprising qualities that make them well suited to the job. Not only are goats very social and intelligent creatures, when trained as therapy animals, they're also calm, gentle, and always up for a cuddle — something that can be very helpful for lowering stress levels in the body and enhancing mood.
Famous for their missing tail, the Manx is a gentle kitty with a playful nature and because they tend to form a particularly strong bond with just one person, they're ideal for individuals who live alone. Fiercely loyal to their special person, they remain devoted companions for life and because they're quite vocal, they're wonderful for providing a bit of conversation throughout the day.
20. Yorkshire Terrier
The Yorkshire Terrier is extremely good at reading people and can pick up on how their owner is feeling from moment to moment. Because they're so portable, spunky and confident, they're a particularly wonderful choice for people who struggle with social anxiety as they can help you navigate situations that may make you feel uncomfortable. They're very loyal and have a strong protective streak too, which can make you feel comforted and supported when you're out and about.
21. American Staffordshire Terrier
When you think of an American Staffordshire Terrier, the first thing that may come to mind is the bad rap they've had over the years — but know that their reputation for being aggressive is completely undeserved. AmStaffs are incredibly good-natured dogs that are super affectionate, confident and loyal, and more and more of them are being trained as emotional support dogs for those very reasons. Up for anything, this easy-going pup makes for a truly devoted companion.
22. Russian Blue
The ultimate cool, calm and collected kitty, the Russian Blue has a very soothing presence and tends to maintain their unruffled demeanour no matter what might be going on around them. Since they have such stable, quiet and affectionate temperaments, they're great for providing emotional support. They're also very low-maintenance and undemanding, so they won't overwhelm you with their needs.
If you want a small dog with a big heart that will make you laugh, the charming Pug is utterly irresistible. They have a real knack for lifting spirits thanks to their clown-like antics and they adore companionship, so if you want a playful and affectionate dog who's keen to be by your side as much as possible, the Pug is well worth considering. Just a note that because they're so devoted to their people, anxiety in dogs is a real issue with this breed if they're left alone for any stretch of time, so if you do plan to welcome one into your family, just ensure there's always someone around to keep them company.
Alpacas are close relatives of Llamas and they have a reputation for being intelligent, non-judgemental and highly curious. Since they're also incredibly gentle, they can quickly create a very safe and non-threatening environment for anyone struggling with stress, anxiety or depression. Calm, friendly and with a humorous appearance that immediately makes you feel at ease, they relate well to people's emotions and their super soft fleeces are very therapeutic to stroke.
Meet a Sphynx and the first thing you're going to notice is their complete lack of hair, but get beyond that and what you'll find is a friendly, gentle and sweet-natured little feline whose preference is to remain glued to their chosen human 24/7! An affectionate cat who loves to cuddle, the Sphynx makes for a loyal and loving companion for anyone in need of a little extra support.
First things first, Poodles are very high energy dogs, so if you decide to choose this breed as your emotional support animal, you'll want to ensure you have plenty of time and energy to give them the mental and physical stimulation they need to thrive. If you feel you can tick that box, the Poodle is a breed well worth considering. Lovey-dovey, eager to please and super intelligent, they're very easy dogs to be around — plus, they can be quite goofy, so if you want a pup that really lifts your spirits, the Poodle could well be it.
You may be wondering if ferrets can make good emotional support animals and the answer is a resounding yes! While most of us would think of a whole range of other animals before we thought of a ferret, the truth is, ferrets have an infectious energy that can brighten up anyones day. They tend to be very friendly, social, quiet and personable little creatures and they love to nuzzle into the arms of their owner. Attentive animals that bond deeply with their human, ferrets have inherent traits that make them wonderful companions.
Smart cats that learn quickly, the Bengal has an active nature and a fun-loving personality that does wonders for boosting your mood. They adore playing games (we recommend investing in one of the best cat puzzle feeders for extra mental enrichment) and are always up for an outdoor adventure, so if you love hiking in nature and are looking for a little buddy to accompany you, the Bengal is the breed for you.
Many owners of Chihuahuas view their dogs like small children and it's not hard to see why — these pint-sized pups have an air of vulnerability about them that makes us want to take care of them, which is why they can be such a fantastic choice of companion. In return, they are known for being very loyal and loving and tend to cling to their people, which is great if you're looking for a devoted fur friend who's always up for a snuggle.
A sheep may not be the most conventional choice when it comes to an emotional support animal, but they make a surprisingly wonderful candidate. Sheep are capable of recognising human faces and reading emotions, and they love interacting with people. They also tend to be quiet, calm and very intelligent, which means you can train them to perform certain tasks.
31. American Bobtail
American Bobtails have a personality that falls somewhere between a dog and a cat, with a love of playing games, doing puzzles and learning new tricks. They are outstanding with children and highly adaptable, making them well suited to almost any living situation. Their adaptability is also what makes them such wonderful emotional support animals as they tend to adjust their demeanour to suit their owner — if you're a playful person, for example, they'll tend to be more energetic, whereas quieter humans will bring out their calm and docile side.
A gorgeous cat with silky soft fur that makes them well suited to a snuggle session on the couch, the Ragamuffin adores being petted, cuddled, held or cozied up on a nice warm lap. They are big, lovable fluff balls with a super affectionate and friendly nature, although just be aware that this intelligent and patient kitty is known for liking the lazy life, so you may need to encourage them to play to ensure they get the daily activity they need to stay healthy.
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Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.