Not all experts are certified and some non-certified behavior professionals are excellent at their job. Unfortunately, a vague list of testimonials isn’t a good way to make your decision. If you don’t have a direct referral from your veterinarian, another professional in the animal field, or someone else you trust, the safest route is to choose a veterinary behaviorist, certified cat behavior consultant or a certified applied animal behaviorist.
What to Expect During Your Cat Behavior Consultation
- You should feel comfortable talking with the behavior expert and also be comfortable with the proposed behavior modification plan. In order for behavior modification to be successful, it must be a plan that fits your abilities, schedule and lifestyle. A qualified professional will work with you to establish a customized plan to fit you and your cat. There is no one-size-fits all behavior modification plan.
- The behavior expert should provide an explanation of why the proposed behavior plan is being chosen and the science behind it. Unless the behavior expert is a licensed veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist, no medical diagnosis should be made and no drug recommendations should be given.
- Whether you’re doing an in-home consultation, in-clinic consultation or video consultation, you will need to fill out a detailed behavior and medical history questionnaire. Even if a question on the form doesn’t seem relevant, fill out the form to the best of your abilities to help the behavior professional put all pieces of the puzzle together. You may also be asked to provide pictures or videos to help the behavior professional get a more accurate idea of the behavior being displayed. If you do a virtual consultation, you may be asked to provide a video walk-through of the home setting and maybe even provide a basic floor plan sketch. When I do remote sessions I ask for a floor plan sketch that includes identifying locations of litter boxes, feeding stations, favorite napping areas, each cat’s preferred territory and places where any problems had occurred. I also request a video walk-through and any videos available that captured the behavior problem. Having the videos and the floor plan make a difference in helping me get a feel for what is going on in the home.
- Many behavior professionals provide a written client report to make it easier for you to remember all the steps involved in the behavior plan. It’s also a good idea for you to take notes during the session or even record the consultation (ask the behavior professional for permission before recording).
- There should be a scheduled follow-up with the behavior professional. Some experts may have an additional fee for follow-up appointments but you should be able to contact them with any questions or concerns.
- The behavior expert may send a follow-up report to your cat’s veterinarian to place in the records. This report will also help the veterinarian to follow up on progress made when your cat returns for an exam.
Remember to communicate with the behavior professional. I know it’s easy to get busy and forget to follow up on things but if the behaviorist asks for a follow-up call in a particular time-frame, put it on your calendar so you don’t skip it. This phone call or email is important so the behaviorist can make sure you are following the instructions correctly and the cat is responding well.
Compliance is important. The plan provided to you is given for a reason and it requires you to do the daily work needed to help your cat through the behavior problem. Behavior experts don’t have a magic wand that they can wave over your cat to instantly correct an unwanted behavior. Behavior modification requires consistent sessions of you working with your cat. The daily requirement isn’t time consuming but it is important to be consistent and follow through with the homework given to you. The cat can’t do the behavior work by himself; he needs you to guide him and create an environment where he can succeed.
If you have a question about your cat’s behavior, you can find information in the articles on our website as well as in Pam’s books. If you have a question regarding your cat’s health, please contact your veterinarian. This article is not intended as a replacement for your cat’s veterinary care.