For the past few years, my goal has been to people the knowledge and tools to give their pets better lives. I thought I could accomplish this solely through my writing, but life has a funny way of leading us down unexpected roads. The more I interacted as a blogger with cat owners, the more I discovered how much I loved problem-solving their cats’ behavior issues. This led me to decide to take a more hands-on approach to helping owners and their cats by launching a local cat behavior consultant business.
This past winter I took my first two steps towards becoming a cat behavior consultant. I enrolled in a Cat Behavior and Retention course. Then I applied the knowledge I learned by volunteering my services for a local cat shelter and an online cat behavior group. I enjoyed the elation of helping to restore peace to a few homes. For example, one owner had a kitten that liked to play bite. We talked about using redirects but also developing appropriate ways to play. Another owner had a kitten who kept chewing furniture, and I recommended cat chew treats. Then there was the owner whose cat woke him up late at night. We talked about ignoring the cat. Because the owner is away a lot during the day, I also suggested providing the cat with a puzzle toy.
This spring I took two more steps. I enrolled in a Cat Elimination course. At the end of the month, I’ll apply the knowledge I learned by holding a cat seminar on litter box issues. With the aid of a PowerPoint presentation, I’ll talk about the three main behavioral reasons that cats hate their litter boxes: the setup, the environment, and tension between with other pets. In addition, I’ll provide handouts. At the end of the PowerPoint presentation, participants will have the opportunity to share their cats’ litter box struggles. My hope is that this seminar will be the first of several cat behavior seminars on a variety of topics.
In the fall I’ll take a much bigger step towards becoming a cat behavior consultant. As a recipient of the Rebecca Parks Scholarship offered by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, I’ll be taking a 12-week course called Animal Behavior Consulting Principles & Practice. There will be weekly group mentor meetings via video conference, and a multi-week functional assessment assignment. The course will immerse me in facets of animal behavior consulting that I currently lack such as a science foundation. The course will also connect me with numerous experts in the field.
I don’t know if my cat behavior consultant business will go anywhere. Do enough cat owners in Lincoln struggle with cat behavior? Will these owners pay a consultant for help? I have a lot of unanswered questions.
At the same time, I know that the behavior issues are one of the most common reasons cats are surrendered and/or returned to shelters. The statistics of cats euthanized in Omaha and Lincoln stagger me: In 2017, 2,680 of 4,150 cats taken in by Omaha’s Nebraska Humane Society were euthanized; In 2016, 500 of 1,600 cats taken in by the Capital Humane Society (Lincoln) were euthanized. That’s a euthanasia rate of almost 60 percent.
Yet with all of these cats being surrendered and euthanized, many as a result of behavior problems, there are no certified cat consulting businesses in Omaha or Lincoln. Or anywhere in Nebraska, for that matter. Isn’t it time for local cat owners to have an alternative to surrendering their cats?
My cat consulting business is still in its infancy. To follow my progress, keep checking back on Lincoln Pet Culture for additional articles. In addition, I’ll be adding information about my services under the menu heading Allison Helps Cats. If you live in Nebraska, and are struggling with a cat problem, please contact me.