Behavior Modification for Cats

October 2014 by Sara L. Bennett, DVM, MS, DACVB

Audience: Executive Leadership, Foster Caregivers, Public, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers, Veterinary Team

Video Length: 77 minutes

Getting a leopard to change his spots sometimes seems easier than getting a domestic cat to change her behavior. Fortunately, the science of feline behavior modification has come a long way in recent years, leaving animal shelters, rescue groups, fosters and adopters with plenty of new tools to help cats become happier and well-adjusted companions.

In a free Maddie's InstituteSM webcast, Dr. Sara L. Bennett, a board certified veterinary behavior specialist who enjoys working with problem behaviors in shelter animals, will present a review of the behavior modification techniques that have been demonstrated to change feline behavior, with specific examples and recommendations for appropriate situations for the use of each approach.

Attendees will learn:

  • Definitions of different types of learning, such as habituation, classical conditioning and operant conditioning.
  • Definitions and examples of the four quadrants of operant conditioning
  • Definitions and applications of counter-conditioning, response substitution and systematic desensitization.
  • How to put together a basic behavior modification plan, including important management steps needed to ensure success
  • Welfare implications of different behavior modification techniques will be also be discussed.


Behavior Modification for Cats in Shelters and Foster Homes is part of an ongoing series of educational programs from Maddie's Institute, the academic division of Maddie's Fund®, providing the most innovative animal welfare information to shelter staff, veterinarians, rescue groups and community members to increase the lifesaving of homeless dogs and cats community-wide.

This course has been pre-approved for Certified Animal Welfare Administrator continuing education credits.

About Sara L. Bennett, DVM, MS, DACVB

Dr. Bennett received her DVM degree in 2006 from Purdue University. She spent 3 years as an associate veterinarian in general practice in Evansville, IN before returning to Purdue to complete a residency in Animal Behavior and Masters of Science. She obtained certification as a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists in 2012.

Dr. Bennett addresses a variety of behavior problems and behavioral disorders including aggression, inappropriate elimination, compulsive disorder, fears and phobias and behavior problems associated with aging across a wide range of species. She particularly enjoys addressing problem behavior in shelter animals, helping to make these pets more adoptable, strengthen the budding human-animal bond and to keep these animals in their new homes.

Dr. Bennett can be found outside the clinic spending time with her husband, dogs, cats, horse or practicing yoga.

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