If you like cats and Facebook, there are plenty of groups to meet your needs for advice, enrichment, and training. This week I’m posting about the cat groups I belong to in a three-part series. The first category is that of advice.
Helping Cats with Behavioral Issues: Hosted by Cheryl Melton, this closed group boasts over 3,000 members. After being involved with cat rescue for years, Melton found herself acting as a “Dear Abby of the cat world” and decided to start a Facebook group to discuss feline issues with a small group of friends. “It just blew up,” Melton said, “and there are now people in the group from all over the world.” To keep up, Melton occasionally adds more administrators and moderators.
Pinned to the top of the group is an inviting post by Melton that says, “Welcome to our little group! This is a group started by cat lovers and the needs for help to those cat lovers dealing with kitty situations…. It’s always good to have a variety of options because cats are like people, the thing that works on one, may not on another!” Melton adds the caution that no one in the group is a veterinarian, so members should always seek medical advice from appropriate medical personnel for their cat(s)’ issues.
“I love it when members come back and post their success stories!” said Melton. “They tried the advice they received, and it worked! That makes me so happy to have started the group!” On the flip side, Melton hates “when people are rude or make others feel less for what they have shared. I also hate the enablers who want to go on and on about how they are afraid to post because of all the negativity. A lot of these people don’t get that even with the one main item in common (cats), three thousand strangers are not all going to get along.” According to Melton, the three most common issues to arise in the group are: cats peeing outside of the litter box, whether to declaw, and how to enrich the life of indoor cats.
Feline Behavior Solutions Group: Hosted by Marci Koski, this closed group has over 1,000 members. Koski is a professional cat behavior consultant who helps people and animal shelters with cat behavior problems. Or, as she jokingly put it, “I help cats with their people problems.” She started Feline Behavior Solutions Group to provide education for cat guardians before problems arise. Koski explained, “I’ve found that most cat behavior issues stem from cats not getting their needs met in one way or another. When I work with my own clients one-on-one it’s usually because a behavior has developed into a habit, and had the guardians known more about cats, they might have been able to avoid problems.” Koski said that she has also learned from the group’s members, each of whom offer different perspectives and experiences.
Since the group’s start, Koski has encountered many wonderful stories of cat owners who have worked with their cat to overcome problems, such as that of a woman whose cat “was really fearful when she first got him, and the relationship she has with him has completely changed; she’s been a real inspiration for many group members.”
Feline Behavior Solutions Group has been around for almost two years. As with other group hosts, Koski has also experienced the problem of having such a large and active group that she could no longer moderate it by herself, which prompted her to add two moderators. For Koski, running her own cat behavior group has been both interesting and frustrating. “It is a lot of work and there are a lot of personalities involved, but it is very rewarding when you see how a group of people comes together to support each other and solve problems. It’s all about making the lives of cats and their people better, and I think we do that!”
Fearless Felines’ Behaviour and Training: Hosted by Sheena Neil and Maria Patink, the closed group has 700 members. Patink is a veterinarian with a passion for animal behavior. While she found several dog groups that supported research-based training methods, she was disappointed to not find the same for cat groups. Patink shared her woes with a friend and skilled dog trainer. “She recommended I start a feline group that would maintain high standards of research-based information being given, and stay strictly as a research-based resource for feline behavior and enrichment,” Patink said. “I asked her to help me, as I was fairly new to administration of a Facebook group. She agreed, and Fearless was born!”
Pinned to the top of the group is an administrative post that says, “Welcome. The purpose of this group is to discuss training, behavior modification, and enrichment. The method we use to train our pets is positive reinforcement.” Members are cautioned to avoid questions about cat heath and medical advice, which should only be directed to their veterinarians.
Fearless Felines’ Behaviour and Training has been around for two years. Patink shared, “The most notable moments are the times a member posts with an update that demonstrates successes managing or modifying behavior using the information given to them by the group.”
Force-Free Feline: Hosted by Denise Griffin and three other administrators, the closed group has over 2,500 members. Force-Free Feline has been around for about three years and regards itself as a sister group to Beyond Cesar Millan. The discussions on cat behavior focus on punishment-free solutions to common behavior problems with cats and on training cats.
I joined the above four groups about a year ago. Since joining, I have answered questions about cat food, litter, hairball remedies, puzzle feeders, and incentives. I’ve also offered advice on how to introduce a new cat, acclimate a cat to grooming, prevent door dashing, stop fighting between cats, and train a cat. Members have responded to my questions about increasing my bond with our cat Cinder, helping our cat Bootsie lose weight, determining which of our three cats was peeing outside of the litter box, engaging our foster kittens when they’re alone, and finding the best cat books. Three of the groups provide additional resources through uploaded or reproduced articles; Helping Cats with Behavioral Issues boasts almost 200! I always post my questions to all four groups because, as Melton said, “The thing that works on one may not on another” and so “It’s always good to have a variety of options!”