Finding Professional Behavioral Help for Cats

August 2019

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

"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur," Red Adair

These days behavioral advice can be only an internet search away, but how do you know you are getting the best advice for your specific situation by a qualified expert?

It is most helpful to talk to your veterinarian first, as many behavior problems can have underlying medical reasons and should be ruled out first. Once a health issue has been ruled out for the behavior problem, you could look for a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (DACVB), a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB) or an Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (ACAAB) with a special interest in cats.

It can seem confusing, but it is not all that complicated. It is very similar to human medicine. The top educated professionals are veterinarians who have specialized training in subjects such as psychology, psychopharmacology and applied behavior; those are the Diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (DACVB). The next tier of expertise includes Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists. They will be able to asses, but not diagnose, your cat's behavior problems. In some cases, this is a good option. Many behavior problems stem from normal behaviors such as meowing, scratching, biting, digging, chewing, or even escaping. Another option is a veterinarian (DVM); some have special interest and training in feline medicine or behavior and should be consulted for any medical and behavioral questions.

Regardless of who you choose, make sure to learn about their areas of expertise, background and experience before seeking their advice. Keep in mind pet store employees are well-intentioned, but usually are not trained to assess your pet's specific medical or behavioral needs.

This document created by the San Francisco SPCA with a grant from Maddie's Fund®.

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