Pet psychologists can be useful in developing effective techniques for treating cat behavior problems. They are experts on animal behavior, especially as it applies to an animal in captivity. This includes not only understanding cat behavior, but also behavior patterns between cats, and between cats and humans (the human animal bond).
By and large, and first and foremost, they are animal behavior specialists. They may or may not be a veterinarian who specializes in animal behavior problems. They often have gone through a program of study at an animal behavior college or university.
In the alternative, they may be a human psychologist who has a special interest in, and experience with, the study of animal behavior. Or, they may be any combination of these, such as an animal behaviorist with a degree in psychology.
In any case, they may have additional skills such as animal training experience. Animal trainers gain in-depth knowledge of animal behavior from an up close and very practical view point.
Most behavior problems in cats can be corrected by following a few simple rules. With a little work and a little understanding, you and your cat can agree on what is acceptable behavior.
For those times when a behavior problem is extreme or excessive, an expert may be needed to sort things out and get you and your cat on the right track.
Note: Some cat behaviors (such as litter box problems) can be caused or magnified by a medical condition. Please consult with your veterinarian when assessing the source of your cat's behavior problem in order to rule out a disease or disorder.
You need a psychologist for your cat for the same reasons you might need a human psychologist: to assist you in understanding and overcoming a behavior pattern that you want to change, but haven't been able to. Only in this case, the undesired behavior pattern is in your cat.
Or is it?
Pet psychologists are like insurance policies: you hope you never have to use one. For some of us, seeking help for a behavioral problem in ourselves is admitting weakness, or worse, failure. The last thing we want, when we are troubled by a bad behavior pattern in our cat, is to admit defeat.
As cat owners and care givers, many of us view ourselves as our pet's parent, and in many ways, we are. We are surrogate parents to our feline children, who never really quite grow up to be fully independent. As such, we see our cats as something of an extension of ourselves.
We also feel an enormous sense of responsibility to ensure the health and welfare of our cats. So it is easy to see why we take some responsibility, perhaps subconsciously, for our cat's behavior.
For these reasons, it is sometimes difficult for us to correct a cat behavior problem on our own. We are simply too close to the problem. In many cases, we have actually become a part of the problem. On some level, we seem to know that we are caught in this dance of bad behavior that we can't control. This leads to anxiety for you and your cat, as well as more bad behavior.
They act as an impartial third party, and give us perspective on the situation. They can also help us to understand our cat's motivations for their behavior, and prescribe techniques for behavior modification. These techniques will leverage your cat's natural tendencies and needs, to provide the ideal solution.
Since they understand both human and cat behavior, pet psychologists can help us to separate ourselves from the problem.
It is estimated that more than 30 percent of households in the United States have cats, and many of those are multi-cat homes. As more and more people treat their pets as true family members, these relationships become more complex. As a result, we need a reliable and fair way to deal with behavioral issues and personality conflicts between housemates, be they human, animal, or both.
Pet psychologists fill that need by being in a unique position. They understand and can evaluate the motivations behind both human and animal behavior, paving the way for compromise. They open up solution possibilities that we might not have come up with on our own, with the end result being a happier home.
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