Find an exciting new career as a feline behavior counselor! Some people scoff at the idea of a “cat psychiatrist,” or at the entire notion that the behavior of a cat – especially an older mature cat – could be altered in any way.
But this is simply not the case, and feline behavior counselors have made a positive difference in the lives of many cats – and also in lives of their owners.
Needless to say, this is a career field where a love for felines is a primary prerequisite. Many “cat counselors” feel like they have the best job they could ever find, as they get to spend their days interacting with cats of all types.
Like people, cats can develop emotional and behavioral issues throughout their lives. Some cats are shy, others are socially challenged and don’t interact well with other felines, and some are scared of people. And some cats (sound familiar from one of your own cats?) can be downright neurotic at times.
There are a host of other problem behaviors that feline’s can develop over time, including:
- Inappropriate scratching of furniture and other linens.
- Not going in the litter box.
- Aggressive behavior toward people, or other cats.
- “Spraying” or urine marking around the house.
- Inability to make the transition from an outdoor cat to living indoors full time.
Shelter felines that have been adopted into new homes can have many (or sometimes all) of the above problems. These cats can be particularly challenging, as much of their behavior is influenced by events in their past, and unfortunately sometimes these problems simply can’t be corrected be even the most dedicated feline behavior counselor.
Other cats are simply shy (especially around strangers), other felines, and of course dogs and other pets in the household. Often time spent around these other creatures will lessen the cat’s shyness, but other times (especially with older cats) they never seem to adapt on their own. And so behavior modification is needed to help ease the cat’s fears, and help the animal adjust to it’s environment.
It’s also necessary to be a bit of a detective to work in this career field. Many times cats act differently around strangers (and counselors) then they do when they’re home alone with their owners, so you’ll need to interview the owner to find out exactly what’s going on with his or her feline.
Some feline counselors even set up remote video cameras to record the behavior of cats when they’re in the home alone.
Kittens can also develop a variety of undesired behaviors, as they grow and learn about life in their new home environment. Since they don’t have a way of expressing themselves verbally, and they often act out in strange or unwelcome ways, these kittens can become a source of frustration for their new owners.
These can lead to a break in the bond between animal and owner, and lead to a cycle of even worse feline behaviors down the road.
Training and certification
So how does someone get started, and what experience, education and skills are needed to become a feline behavior counselor?
First, you’ll want to get as much hands-on experience as you can working with a variety of different cats. Experience is the best teacher, as the old saying goes, and you need to learn and recognize a variety of different feline behaviors. Since cats can’t speak and tell us what they’re thinking and feeling, they communicate through their actions and body language.
There are a number of colleges and universities throughout the country that offer courses in animal behavior, and you can even earn a bachelor’s or post-graduate degree in this field if you so choose. Although a formal degree isn’t necessary to find entry level work as a feline behavior counselor.
A good way to get your feet wet, and get that valuable hands-on experience, is to volunteer to work at a rescue shelter or animal shelter in your area. Many of these facilities are in urgent need of volunteers to help with their daily operations, and usually no experience is necessary to get started.
And you’ll be working with shelter cats, which often have the most challenging behavioral problems. This is especially true with those unfortunate animals that have been neglected, or come from abusive households.
There are also a variety of good books on the subject of feline behavior that you can read and study. You might also visit the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (or IAABC for short) website for more information on how to gain entry into this field, and find rewarding and exciting work helping cats and kittens live healthy and happy lives.