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Are you struggling with a cat whose behavioural problems make you think you might need professional help?
Whether they call themselves a cat therapist, a cat behaviourist or even a ‘cat whisperer’, there are people available who can help you to better understand your cat’s behavioural issues, and find a way to deal with them.
Why Your Cat Might Need Help
You may think you have a ‘problem cat’ if he exhibits behavioural issues like aggression, anxiety, inappropriate toileting or over-grooming, but there’s usually an underlying reason for the way he behaves, and you just need to take the time to find out what it is.
It’s possible to modify your cat’s behaviour yourself using your knowledge of cats, and the countless cat behaviour books and websites out there for you to browse including our own cat behaviour articles, which discuss common cat behavioural issues and hints and tips on how to remedy them. Sometimes though, no matter what you do, you can’t seem to fix your cat’s problems – that’s when you could consider enlisting the help of a professional cat therapist.
Where to Find a Cat Behaviourist
The first stop in your search for a cat therapist should be your vet, so you can rule out any medical issues that might be causing the problem behaviour first. Once that step is complete, your vet should be able to refer you to a cat behaviourist who can help. If the unlikely event that your vet can’t recommend a suitable professional, you can find recommendations via friends, family or professional associations online.
What to Look For in a Cat Behaviourist
You’re looking for someone who’s fully qualified in feline behaviour, because after all, anyone can set himself or herself up as a cat therapist, and it doesn’t mean that they’re going to be able to help you. In fact, they might even do more harm than good if they don’t have the appropriate training and experience. You’re placing your precious kitty in their hands, so make sure that you feel comfortable with them. Discuss their professional background, their successes with problem behaviours in cats and how they work to make sure that they’re the right fit for you and your cat.
What Will a Session With a Cat Behaviourist Involve?
As well as spending time with your cat to observe him and his behaviours, a cat therapist will usually want to talk to you about his personality and behaviour both past and present and any changes in his environment. They may ask questions that don’t seem relevant to the problem you’re having, but they need to get the full picture, and something that you don’t think is relevant may actually be the key to solving the issue! After finding out at as much about your cat as possible, they’ll be able to offer suggestions on what you can do to correct the problem behaviour. Think of it like a treatment plan – a step-by-step guide and possibly a hands-on demonstration of what you need to do and possibly change to help him with his behavioural problems.
Have you consulted with a cat behaviourist to solve your cat’s behavioural problems?
Top image: Orias1978 via Flickr
Annette @PetsAreFound says
Yes, @Isagold was eating our timber furniture when left alone… Thanks to the wonderful Dr Jo Righetti we overcame the problem with a change in diet and a more favourable option for something to chew on when we’re around. It’s worked out so well that Isa now indicates to us when the temptation is lurking, so we can get a chew and spend time with her when she needs it. And, Yes, she is spoilt 😉
Hope this helps,
My girl came to me a biter but we’ve worked on that and her other crazy kitteny behavior. She’s becoming very snugly and much calmer. However we did have one vet suggest therapy when she went berserk there – and did so again for her shots recently. I think there’s a smell that sets her off because she can be around other animals no problem but twice at the vet (but not always) she’s just bananas. I’d like to identify it so we can avoid crazy town visits and she can just be admired for the gorgeousness that she is.
Aimable Cats says
My current vet is a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (and is quoted on their front page) and a Certified Feline Behavior Consultant. I first took Parker to see her when Parker was having trouble realizing that inside cats don’t play with their humans at 2:30 am. She gave me some suggestions (such as play with Parker before bed) that have helped Parker in her transition from farm feral to house/apartment cat. (The vet also does behavioral consults for pets who usually see other vets, and the vet techs have also received additional training.)
So.. if your behaviorist has legitimate certification, then you have a decent chance of getting help.
Jean Dion says
I’m living with a semi-angry cat at the moment, likely caused by dementia, arthritis pain or both. I’m so glad that you mentioned that these guys need the help of a veterinarian, too. Someone just meeting my Eamon on a bad day might assume that he’s just a nasty guy, while in reality, he’s cranky because of his health. Getting to the bottom of those issues can sometimes resolve a lot of problems, and if not, then a therapist is a good way to go, for sure.
This is really helpful information. We wish more people knew about cat behaviorists; sometimes we think some kitties wouldn’t end up in the shelter had their humans only known….
Excellent post. Involving a cat behaviorist is a great idea when your cat has problem behaviors that you just can’t figure out. Sometimes it takes a second (or third) pair of well-trained eyes to see the real causes of the problem behaviors. It would be great to see people using cat behaviorists rather than just assuming they have a “bad cat” and tossing them aside.
Piranha Banana says
I never knew there was such a thing as an angry cat until I met my aunt’s cat who stayed a few days while we were on vacation. It did low growls at us if we even looked in its direction and would attack anyone who walked by, full nails out. Never seen anything like it. My aunt did not have a carrier so we brought it home in a dog carrier the thing crawled out of the soft carrier like a story out of a National Lampoon’s movie, it attacked our heads – while driving in the expressway. We had to stop four times to ‘catch it out of the car, swaddle and restrain it from attacking. On the day it was to leave, we had to throw a thick blanket over it and swaddle it again. We also bought our aunt a hard shell cat carrier. Never again. Ever. Never. And yes, we’ve had cats before – and had one at the time. This one was just over the top.
Golden Woofs: Sugar says
Many (cat owners) call themselves as pet behaviorist so it is important to get references. Our freind’s cat need a behaviorist and made a difference. Great information.
Rosa @ Cat Lady Confidential says
This is great information! Here in Portugal I’ve never heard of cat therapists or behaviorists. The pet industry is quite small here and more focused on dogs.
Fur Everywhere says
You’re right – anyone can call themselves a cat behaviorist, so it’s important to get references and check out their professional background. A lot of my friends come to me for advice on their kitties, for instance, but I am not a vet or a cat behaviorist, and I always qualify any advice I give them. I remind them to check with their vet first to make sure it’s not a medical issue, and if it’s not, I recommend they seek out a behavioral consultation wit a professional. I never want to give anyone bad advice that might inadvertently do more harm than good for their kitties.
Susan and the gang from Life with Dogs and Cats says
We’ve had behavior issues with our cats and worked with a vet who is also a behaviorist. So far, so good, though right now we’re working on an “outside the box” issue. Hoping it gets better!
The Island Cats says
Yep, we’ve seen a behaviorist or what we like to call a kitty shrink. 🙂
Harvey Button says
This can be a serious business and I know cats benefit from therapy, as people do,
Lola The Rescued Cat says
When I first moved here Lexy and I didn’t get along AT ALL! Mommy thought she would have to call someone to help, but we were able to come to an agreement before it got to that. We are glad there are behaviorists to help humans and their kitties.
Such an important topic, even though ‘cat therapist’ might sound a bit kooky to some. Cats can experience anxiety disorders and other issues just like humans can, and seeking help from a qualified professional can be life saving. I would recommend a veterinary behaviourist, because if appropriate they can combine behavioural modification with medications.