When your cat is displaying a behavior problem it’s a very stressful situation for the entire family. The human family members are impacted by whatever issue the family cat is going through. I’ve seen cases where the cat’s behavior problem has caused serious tension between spouses. Cat parents can be brought to tears over the frustration of not knowing where to turn for help when kitty veers from the norm.
When it comes to being a professional in the cat behavior field, just because some people have had cats all their life or they were told they have a “way” with cats doesn’t make them cat behavior experts. It’s also not a quick road to fame and fortune. Being a cat behavior expert involves lots of time, dedication and sacrifice. Yes, television has made cat behavior consulting seem like the trendy thing to do but REAL problems aren’t solved in an hour. I know because I have a show on Animal Planet UK and I know how much follow-up some cases require. In my daily behavior business, my consultations include lengthy follow-up.
Behavior problems range from the little pesky issues that annoy the family to the serious ones that can end up being a death sentence for the cat. When cat parents decide it’s time to call in a professional, the choice they make may create a happy ending or it may escalate the problem. Whenever I do public education seminars I always stress that when families look for professional cat behavior help, they must do their homework and look beyond the flashy websites and self-aggrandizing advertisements to make sure the person hired is truly a cat behavior expert.
When you look at a behavior expert, evaluate their qualifications beyond any too-good-to-be-true claims or website testimonials (many are false), and make sure you get a sense of their ethics, integrity and honesty. The latter three points are certainly harder to access but as I’ve watched this profession become increasingly popular, I see some people exaggerating their experience and credentials. Too many behavior “experts” are also claiming they can read cats and communicate on a special level with them. Sadly, it’s the cats who suffer because cat parents put their trust in people who are more interested in becoming famous and not in professionally doing the job for which they were hired.
If you are a professional in this field, please help keep the standards high and remember the goal is to make life better for cats. Remember, we are giving a voice to the animals who can’t speak. We are also often the last resort for cat parents. That’s a big responsibility and how you conduct yourself reflects on everyone in this profession. It’s also very important that you act professionally toward your peers. Sadly, I’ve seen and been the victim of discrediting, lying and plagiarism. When I began my career in 1982 it was a quiet, lonely field. I watched as it grew and was happy to see more opportunities for cats to be helped but now I’m getting more calls from clients who have already been to horrible behavior consultants, so-called whisperers and communicators and are now trying to undue the damage.
If you’re a cat parent, do your homework before hiring someone to help you with your cat’s behavior. Start with your veterinarian and get a qualified referral. Because the field of animal behavior is unregulated, there will be many opportunities for you to be taken advantage of. In the hands of an ethical, qualified professional though, you may have the opportunity to have the relationship with your cat you’ve always wanted.