If your cat has been acting strangely, or you’ve noticed a change in their behaviour such as hiding more, or playing less, you might be wondering if it’s time to call in the help of a cat behaviourist. It’s important to see your vet first though, because sometimes an injury or medical problem can cause cats to behave differently. Your vet will be able to rule out anything medical before recommending you see a behaviourist.
Even if you think your cat seems healthy, remember that cats are the masters of hiding pain, illness and stress. Behaviourists can help with a wide range of unwanted behaviours, such as toileting in the house, aggressive-type behaviour, overgrooming and scratching furniture. It’s important to find out and address the underlying cause for the behaviour as well as the emotions involved and that’s what behaviourists do!
If you’re looking for a cat behaviour specialist, what you actually need is a qualified cat behaviourist with the right skills and accreditations. If your vet recommends you see a behaviourist for your cat, they may help you find one as behaviourists work on referral from your vet.
Sadly, anyone can use the title ‘behaviourist’ even without any qualifications or experience and they may cause more harm than good. This is why it is important to find someone who is recognised by a professional body and has the right up-to-date knowledge, skills and ability to help your cat.
We would always recommend using a qualified behaviourist who is a member of the Animal Behaviour and Training Council (ABTC), as they will meet higher standards and keep to a code of conduct. You can search for behaviourists near you on the ABTC website.
All owners want the best for their pet, so we’ve put together our top tips for choosing a behaviourist.
The cost of a cat behaviourist will depend on where you are, whether you have a consultation online or in-person and of course the behaviourist themselves. Many behaviourists will offer packages which usually include things like a consultation, report and a tailor-made plan for your pet moving forward. Remember, they are specially trained to help your pet in the best ways possible and if you follow their advice you can get lasting results (and create a happier environment for your cat!).
If you’re worried about cost, check your cat’s insurance policy as this may cover the cost of a behaviourist. Alternatively, speak to your behaviourist and see if they offer remote consultations, which may cost less than an in-person meeting.
Your first consultation with your behaviourist will be to go through your cat’s unusual behaviour as well as gaining a history of your cat’s life. This might be in person, so the behaviourist can see the behaviour first-hand and meet your cat, or remotely. It’s helpful to film your cat’s behaviour and showing this to the behaviourist. However if your cat is showing aggressive-type behaviour, discuss with your behaviourist first as human health and safety is paramount.
They’ll ask you lots of questions from kittenhood onwards and try to get to the bottom of why your cat’s behaviour has changed. To help, you might want to start making notes before you meet with them so you can make sure you cover everything!
After, your behaviourist will write up a report and come up with a behaviour modification plan for your cat. During this time, it’s helpful to keep in regular contact so that they can make any changes needed to the plan.
A behaviourist can professionally assess your cat and figure out why they might be acting differently to usual. They will also put tailor-made plans in place to help make your cat happier again and can really help your pet.
There are some basic things you can do at home, though, to help your cat stay happy and stress-free. These include:
If you adopt a cat from Cats Protection, we will provide six months of support from our qualified behaviourists to help your cat settle in.