Typical cat behavior - creative commons image
Is there a cat behaviorist in the UK? If there is do we care? That sounds a bit off hand but I am not sure whether cat behaviorists are any use.
I don't think looking after a cat is that complicated and if a cat does have a "behavior problem" we should look at what we are doing, thinking and creating first before we bring in an "expert". A lot of so called cat behavior problems are going to be normal behavior that we don't like, which makes it a human behavior problem actually...!
But I shouldn't be so cynical. I can see that sometimes there may be occasions when a cat behaviorist may be useful if only to tell us what we are doing wrong!
The International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) currently (July 2010) lists Nina Bondarenko, BA, CABC-SAC but she is not a cat behaviorist. Her specialism is dogs. She is the only animal behaviorist listed by this organisation in the UK.
The USA is a different scene entirely. For example, in Florida there are three cat behaviorists according to the IAABC. They have a useful search facility on their site. The link that I had is now broken sorry (19-Aug-2010).
As far as I can see the IAABC don't explain what cat or animal behaviorists do. Maybe it is obvious but I would like to be told in detail nonetheless. I will presume that they provide consultancy services to rectify cat behavior that is considered abnormal and detrimental to cat and cat caretaker. The techniques must use retraining the cat and I hope that at all times it is training by positive reinforcement and not punishment and fear. There are still many people, even so called experts, who think that it is acceptable to punish a cat for doing something that we don't like.
The Animal Behavior Society is concerned with the the study of animal behaviour rather than providing means to change it. I would have thought that they do not provide animal behaviorist.
Another organisation concerned with animal behavior is the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB). The ACVB "promotes the welfare of animals and the human-animal bond using positive, evidence-based methods." They make an interesting statement about the veterinary pharmaceutical firm Merial. They strongly disapprove of this company's relationship with a specific dog trainer to promote their products Heartgard and Frontline. They say this trainer (unnamed) uses incorrect and damaging techniques that employs "fear and intimidation". Well, good for the ACVB. I won't get in to this too much but it is no surprise to me that a drug company is apparently behaving badly; they do tend to lack a decent level of morality and probity. Maybe the company's directors need some behavioral training!
I'll speculate. Take one cat keeper and his or her cat. There is a perceived cat behavior problem. I would bet my last dollar that there is at least a 50% chance of the problem being a human education problem not a cat behavior problem. The answer is to ensure that people who keep cats are fully au fait and in tune with the concepts of cat caretaking - very many are not. People have distorted expectations.
I would have thought that a cat behaviorist was the next to last thing to consider (the last thing being drug treatment, i.e. tranquillisers) after exploring all the obvious avenues first such as the environment under which the cat lives, illness, pain, multi-cat household issues, stress and our behavior and so on. All the boxes need to be ticked off before we get to trying to alter a cat's behavior through the use of a cat behaviorist. All these things are commonsense issues.
If searching for a cat behaviorist, commonsense also dictates that we should check that they are certified in some way, ask questions and perhaps obtain references. People messing around with our cat's mentality can cause damage and make things worse unless the consultant is skilled and sympathetic.
I have used the American spelling of "behaviorist" as this is the keyword and Americans are this site's most frequent visitors.