As the COVID-19 pandemic spread throughout the United States over the past few months, more and more pet business owners have begun offering resources online, myself included. In doing so, I have three things in mind. One, some cat owners have faced loss of income, and therefore are restricting themselves to essentials. Two, many who are working from home with cats underfoot and are looking for ways to keep them occupied. Three, most cat owners are feeling the impact of being isolated due to social distancing. In this article, I’ll cover a few ways that I’ve adjusted my cat behavior consulting and training business to meet current needs.
For starters, I’m trying to address the enrichment needs of cats, while also recognizing that money may be tight for their owners. If you click over to Allison Helps Cats and scroll through my posts for the past two months, you’ll see that Monday through Friday I posted links to articles about enrichment, and I posted photos of my cats completing socialization tests from a book called How Smart is Your Dog? You can read the highlights of the latter here. In addition, each Saturday I’m posting an educational video, several of which are listed here. None of these activities will take more than five minutes, and so I encourage you to try them with your cat(s) both during the pandemic and in its aftermath.
This past winter I launched our state’s only kitten kindergarten class, but then had to put it on hold due to social distancing. I thought about converting my curriculum to an online course but then came up with a different plan. Every kitten season, my husband and I foster for our local no-kill cat shelter. When we get our first litter of kittens this year, I’ll post photos and videos online that show how my husband and I are socializing them, along with tips for how you can apply the same ideas to the kittens in your care.
Although video chats aren’t a platform that I’m super comfortable with, I’m getting used to it. I’ve also become to appreciate that this platform allows me to connect with people and/or participate in events that I otherwise wouldn’t due to travel or cost. For that reason, I’ve decided to experiment with it for my own business. This weekend, I held what I hope will be the first of many free informal chats with cat owners. If you missed the first, keep watch at Allison Helps Cats for announcements of future chats. I’ll also be testing video conferencing as a format for holding long-distance consults and online webinars.
Finally, I want to give a shout-out to the Pet Professional Guild. Through its online offerings, I’ve learned how to use videoconferencing tools. In addition, it partnered with DogBiz to offer weekly business contingency sessions, the latter of which has inspired several ideas for me. I’m also now meeting monthly online with other cat behavior consultants to discuss best business practices. Some of the changes to my business that I’ve outlined in this article were inspired by the PPG offerings. Additional changes may come as I continue to adapt to the new normal.
This a strange and stressful time. Grab what moments you can to enjoy the company of your cats. Reach out to other cat owners, as many of us would appreciate the chance to swap stories. And, most of all, stay healthy and safe!