Hiring a cat behaviourist can seem like a stretch to deal with a recurring problem involving your cat. In fact, it can seem like a waste of money and a trick to prey on the gullible. It is kind of like considering going to a psychologist yourself, when you believe the issue you struggle with is a silly one. It can seem like a waste of money, time and worse, it may be used against you by those around you.
However, spending time every day resenting the cat for peeing in the wrong place 3 times a day, dealing with a cat that won’t stop meowing at you throughout the night or having your cat attack you on a frequent basis is a serious problem to have. And it usually ends with the cat getting the boot or the owner falling apart - or both. And at best, that cat goes to a shelter where it never gets adopted due to its background, because let’s face it - who is going to want to adopt an animal with those kind of issues?
Meanwhile, your house gets destroyed, you start hating an animal which should bring you joy and you’re exhausted from managing a stupid problem that could probably have been fixed a long time ago. In fact, the faster you address it, the easier it usually is. And it’s not like your cat is happy doing this to you - they’re doing this because they too are suffering.
So let’s look at this option to retain your sanity a little closer.
What is a cat behavioral therapist?
A cat behavioral therapist is someone who has taken the time to study the behaviour and motivations of the feline species. While we certainly don’t know everything just yet about cats, there has been much research into this area which has debunked many old wives tales about our precious fur balls and given us a better idea of how they work and why they do things. And it is exactly this research and knowledge that a cat behaviourist will use to determine what is causing the problem behaviour and how to negotiate a truce between you and your kitty - and hopefully restore your bond.
How does it work exactly?
Typically, they will come to your house to observe the situation. It can be crucial to see the cat in their natural habitat to observe their body language, your routines together and the set-up of the territory. An even bigger bonus would be to see the behaviour in action - and hopefully the trigger that causes the problem along with it.
After that, they’ll come to a diagnosis and put together a treatment plan for you. What this means is that you’ll likely have to put in 2 to 3 weeks - perhaps longer, depending on how long the issue has been going on - of hard work where you’ll invest time in helping the cat change its behaviour. This may include changing around or adding cat furniture, interactive play time, specific training sessions, ignoring some really annoying behaviour and removing certain objects from your home that appear to trigger the problem behaviour.
Some problems will be simpler and easier to fix, of course. And some changes may be permanent. If no solution can be found - or the solution does not work for the owner - the final advice might be relocation to a more suited home. Throughout all of this, they’ll follow up on you, checking on progress and adjusting the treatment plan where needed to get you where you want to go. They’ll be there for you every step of the way.
What will it cost you?
Like any consultant, they will charge you for their time, expertise and the house call. Expect it to cost you at least 100 to 150 dollars - depending on where you live - to get the original diagnosis and treatment plan, along with the follow-up of that plan. Depending on the complexity of the issue and the duration of treatment, it can be more but that will be discussed along the way.
Are there any cheaper alternatives?
There are many good tips out there on the internet that work to solve small issues. For some of the more common, expected problems, there are even step-by-step guides out there - like for instance how to handle introducing cats to each other. And these can work well when followed properly. However, if you find that the problem remains, you probably have put the tricks together in the wrong way. It doesn’t mean the advice was wrong, it just means you need some help to put it together in a way that will work.
Which brings me to the option of contracting a cat behaviourist online. Often, this is cheaper because there is no house call to be made - and most common problems can be addressed that way in a satisfying way. The risk of the treatment failing though is higher as the cat therapist might be missing essential information they would normally obtain when visiting the house. Follow-ups are also harder to do due to the fact that you’re not meeting each other face-to-face. This can partly be resolved by videotaping the problem behaviour and using Skype to talk to the client for follow-ups, but it is not the same.
While these are excellent alternatives, you fill find that for truly complex situations you’re better off reaching out to local cat behaviourist who can walk you through all of this with minimal fuss. It takes a certain amount of expertise, insight and knowledge of all the variables in order to resolve situations which are not textbook and intertwined with other problems - especially if they’ve been going on for a long time.
So there is really something to this?
Most issues are easily fixed with the right approach - without you having to lose or hate your feline friend forever. But true enough, it is a relatively new profession. And as with all new fields, it takes time to build up credibility and reputable certifications, so referrals are definitely helpful as are customer reviews and checking into their credentials. Your veterinarian might have some referrals for you or even work together with one, so be sure to start your search there.
Too many cats end up in shelters or get declawed when there is no reason for it. And these solutions are only solutions for the owner - for the cat, they just compound to the problem and their unhappiness.
At the same time, there is no reason tot put up with a living situation that drives you batty. Do both of you a favour and seek the help you deserve. There is nothing worse than having to clean the same spot 3 times a day while watching the urine eat your hard wood floors, nor to see your prized possessions clawed to bits. And do it sooner rather than later - you’ll need your sanity and energy to actually execute the treatment plan and solve this issue instead of treating the symptoms.
Too many people wait until they cannot take anymore, only to find that they do not have the energy - both mentally and physically- nor the patience left to actually put it to use. Don’t be one of ‘em.