By Aurus Sy
Published: 07/01/2022, edited: 07/22/2022
These days, it’s relatively easy to find a dog trainer, but what if your furbaby is of the feline species? Is there such a thing as a cat trainer?
While there are still only a handful of cat trainers compared to dog trainers, they are out there. Cat trainers, more commonly known as cat behaviorists, work closely with cats and their guardians to resolve feline behavior problems. If your kitty is eliminating outside their litter box, suffering from anxiety, or having other issues, don’t fret—a cat trainer or cat behaviorist can help with tips, strategies and lots of useful information about why cats do the strange things they do. Read on to find out what a cat behaviorist does and what a typical day might look like for them!
A cat behaviorist is a professional who helps cat parents understand or resolve unwanted or challenging behaviors. Issues that cat behaviorists commonly deal with include:
Cat trainers primarily work with clients in a one-on-one setting. In addition to making house calls, a lot of cat behaviorists also offer consultations virtually. The latter is a great option for cat parents who live in rural areas or are unable to find a cat trainer locally.
A cat behaviorist can answer all the questions about your cat's weird habits or destructive tendencies, and can often spot problems in communication or an incorrect house set-up that can be easily resolved. Often, a behaviorist will recommend mild environmental changes, bonding exercises and games, and communication tips to make life with a feline easier. They'll also be able to tell if anxiety or fear is creating hostility or other issues and can recommend ways to help your cat feel safe.
While there are no qualification requirements to become a cat behaviorist, it’s a good idea to find someone who has the right qualifications, as well as the experience working professionally with cats. Look for a cat behaviorist who has been certified by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC), the Animal Behavior Institute (ABI), Animal Behavior College (ABC), or a similar organization.
To become a certified cat trainer, an individual typically has to complete a written curriculum along with a set amount of hands-on training. A cat training and behavior program on average takes around six to eight months to complete. The resulting certification demonstrates their knowledge of cat training, behavior, care, first aid, and nutrition, among other topics.
What's an average day for a cat behaviorist look like? Let's take a look!
In-home consultations are usually limited to the city where the cat behaviorist resides and its surrounding areas, though some may travel beyond for an additional fee. During the visit, the behaviorist will assess the cat’s behavior and environment, and then provide a customized action plan which usually include bonding exercises, specific environmental changes based on the issue, and sometimes targeted training. Follow-up consultations and email support may be included as well. The length of a session or program varies depending on the problem, progress, and service options offered by the behaviorist.
Virtual consultations are similar to in-home consultations. The only difference is that instead of visiting the client at home, the cat behaviorist talks to them via video call. They may ask the cat parent to send photos, videos, and floor plans prior to their appointment, or even videos of the offending behavior. During the call, they’ll ask questions about the cat and their behavior to better understand the issue. They will then offer personalized advice and may also send an email summary on the same day.
More popular and established cat trainers may have a team helping them market their business, but many handle their own marketing. This may include running ads in cat magazines, going to cat events and seminars to hand out their flyers or business cards, keeping a presence on social media, or networking with their local veterinarians, shelters, boarders and other pet businesses to find clients.
Several cat behaviorists do pro bono work for animal shelters, cat rescues, and cat advocacy organizations, whether it’s acting as the feline behavior expert, fostering cats with special needs, or serving on the advisory board. Often, shelter and rescue cats need to learn how to live in a home or with a human pack, especially when they may have spent a lot of time on the streets, and working with a behaviorist can get them relaxed and ready for their furever home.
Cats are often misunderstood, and unlike dogs, their habits tend to be a bit wilder, such as clawing furniture or marking their territory in your living room. Some cat trainers are contributors or columnists for cat magazines and websites, writing articles on cat behavior, training, health, and other topics to help pet parents and animal workers learn why cats do the things they do and how they see the world. Some cat trainers are also published authors with multiple books under their belt. These cat advocates can sometimes open up a person's perspective and turn what looks like a vindictive behavior into a natural, instinctive one, thereby making it easier to find a happy home.
Some cat behaviorists may share their expertise on different cat behavior topics through webinars, lectures, and media appearances for animal professionals in several kinds of disciplines. They may train shelter staff and volunteers, or even speak at animal welfare conferences and pet expos.
Cat training is an unconventional profession that a lot of people still haven’t heard of, but these cat behaviorists are bringing it into the mainstream and inspiring more cat lovers to take this unusual career path.
Got a love of cats, a ton of patience and a drive to help our feline pals? You may just have what it takes to become a cat behaviorist! While a passion for kitties is definitely a prerequisite, you'll also need to get the right training and lots of experience. Try volunteering at a shelter or cat rescue to see how you like being around many different kinds of cats and their oddball behaviors. Being an advocate for cats is no small feat, but it can make a difference in lives of so many who are only a behavioral change away from their furever family.
Are you a cat behaviorist who wants to help cat parents understand their furbabies better? Sign up to offer your cat training services through Wag! today!
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